Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What is an Image?

It has been almost six months since a group of visual image information professionals launched the Image Consulting Cooperative (http://sites.google.com/site/iminteg/) and inaugurated Imagin’ – a blog (http://imagin-ablog.blogspot.com/). During this time I have frequently reflected about such issues as what is an image, how are images used, are images different in the digital rather than analog format, and why do we care? What’s so important about assisting others in the use and creation of images, visual information, and associated tools? Why is the work of the Image Consulting Cooperative important?

Images have been around for a very long time. We have all encountered Pliny the Elder’s tale from Naturalis Historia of the contest between the ancient painters Zeuxis and Parrhasius to determine which of the two was the greater artist. Zeuxis revealed his painting of grapes which were so realistic that the birds flew down to peck at the fruit. Zeuxis then asked Parrhasius to pull back the curtain to reveal his painting only to discover that the curtain was the painting. Where upon Zeuxis is reported to have said, ‘I have deceived the birds, but Parrhasius has deceived Zeuxis.’

The online Oxford English Dictionary (Draft revision, June 2010; accessed, September 7, 2010) provides us with eleven definitions and many variants of the word “image” including:

· An artificial imitation or representation of something, esp. of a person or the bust of a person

· The aspect, appearance, or form of someone or something; semblance, likeness.

· A visual representation or counterpart of an object or scene, formed through the interaction of rays of light with a mirror, lens, etc., usually by reflection or refraction.

· A thing or (now esp.) person in which the aspect, form, or character of another is reproduced; an exact likeness; a counterpart, copy.

· A mental representation of something (esp. a visible object) created not by direct perception but by memory or imagination; a mental picture or impression; an idea, conception.

· A representation of something to the mind by speech or writing; a vivid or graphic description.

· With of. A thing that stands for or is taken to stand for something else; a symbol, emblem.

· Computing. An exact copy of an entire disk or (less commonly) a file or set of files, usually made for the purposes of backing up data.

W. J. T. Mitchell in his article in the New Literary History, “What is an Image,” (Mitchell 1984, 503-537) constructs a family tree by depicting primary meanings of the word “images” as branches representing different conceptual types--graphic, optical, perceptual, mental, and verbal. Each branch is representative of the type of imagery that informs the discourse of an intellectual discipline. Traditionally, visual resources professionals have concentrated on aspects of graphic or optical images and imagery; they have been specifically involved with the visual surrogate—the photograph of the painting by Zeuxis of grapes. The patrons that we serve, on the other hand, are interested in the image itself—the painting by Zeuxis.

Of course, these typologies are both fluid and change over time. The image of the work becomes a work. The image is the work. Julie F. Codell’s new article, “Second Hand Images: On Art’s Surrogate Means and Media” published in the latest issue of Visual Resources (Codell 2010, 214-225) examines the role of reproductions in the experience and understanding of art. The Museum of Modern Art in New York is currently exhibiting, “The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture 1839 to Today” which illustratess how the photographic image of a sculpture is essential to understanding it and how the sculpture becomes the subject of the photograph. A photographic image may be critical as documentation; however, it does much, much more.

It is this fluidity of definition, function, and purpose particularly during our current period of rapid technological change from the traditional analog to digital formats that makes working with all aspects of images and imaging most compelling.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Metadata for Digital Content (MDC), Developing institution-wide policies and standards at the Library of Congress

Metadata for Digital Content (MDC), Developing institution-wide policies and standards at the Library of Congress
From the site
Metadata for Digital Content (MDC)
Developing institution-wide policies and standards at the Library of Congress

Over the years the Library of Congress' digital projects have generated many digital objects and these objects have been given various levels and types of descriptive metadata. The Library has assembled several use cases that require a more coordinated and standardized approach to the creation and management of this descriptive metadata. A few examples of use cases are:

* Geographic navigation of Library of Congress digital content
* Temporal navigation of Library of Congress digital content
* Exchange video and audio data with external services

Metadata of varying degrees of richness is necessary to support the use cases.

As part of this effort an institution-wide working group was established and is making the following available for use by any interested institutions:

* A master metadata element list with recommendations on best practices for populating the elements to provide more consistency of new metadata creation throughout the institution, support the Library of Congress metadata use cases, and point to areas where metadata remediation of current metadata might be beneficial.

Check it out