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Philosophy at 2:30 am

Thought before collapsing into bed:

Librarians have always been concerned with informational objects that have metadata associated with them that enhance findability…for example, a Book and it’s equivalent Catalog card or MARC record. We’ve layered metadata on top of our physical objects for years. We’re only now in the very recent past began scratching the surface of metadata for digital objects.

When we digitize a book, which is the “object” and which is an instantiation of that object? What is Primary? Where is the Real when you have a physical book and the digital copy both in existence? And what does the metadata describe then? I think Plato may have some answers, maybe.

Or maybe it’s way too late for me to be thinking about this.

One reply on “Philosophy at 2:30 am”

It gets even trickier when the whole notion of abstraction itself (or “digitality”) gets challenged: http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=3381
Personally, on the spectrum of how “real” our representations or manifestations of physical objects are — I side with the cognitive realists.

It’s not that our mental descriptions of things are less real than their physical counterparts – it’s just that they only exist in relationship to a mind. (That was Aristotle’s view too – and I think he one ups Plato on that point!)

After all, if we assume that there do exist patterns in nature that persist in physical form, then it is not exactly a stretch to suppose some sort of “mirroring” or potential layering of these patterns within our brains.

It is this “meta-conversation,” in fact, that makes up the bulk of human experience and our perceptions of the world – whether virtual or physical.

Or, I guess what I am trying to say is: Information is information, no matter how it’s encoded!

Of course, that sounds like a line from the Matrix . . .
(and now, we have returned right back to Plato!)

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