Metadata and Mobile: A fight for the right to tell stories (PART I)
Written by Elena Toffalori
METADATA AND MOBILE: A FIGHT FOR THE RIGHT TO TELL STORIES (PART I)
Anyone who owns a smartphone or tablet with a good quality camera knows how the number of daily taken photos can rapidly get off the ground. Nothing is easier than snapping a picture and sharing it with friends, or just having all your media (pictures, videos, audio recordings and more) stored on your device, or backed up to your favorite cloud service. And that’s awesome. But the media overflow can lead to losing track of your files, and your memories.
When was that picture taken? What does that video show? And how do I make sure an Instagram pic is preserved in the best of ways?
Also, from a more specific digital asset management perspective, mobile devices produce and store a variety of contextual data or metadata relative to our media, such as creation date / time, make and model of the camera used, or geo-location. They may not be immediately visible or easily accessible, but for most devices they are there, which means they can be retrieved and used.
As of January 2015, almost 4% of all upstream mobile traffic is made up by uploads to YouTube, and average 70M photos are being shared daily on Instagram, and that’s just two (ok, two pretty influential ones) of the many available apps for online media sharing. Impressive, right?
On the other hand we have very little control over those same media and metadata, both before and after we’ve shared them with the world:
- It’s easy to lose track of the ‘original’ media (read: full available resolution and quality, all original associated data), because mobile devices can store several copies for each file between thumbnails, edited versions, and previews. It’s usually there, in a folder. But accessing it might not be trivial.
- Although it’s often not clearly specified, the picture or video we share through services like email, facebook or youtube – let alone Instagram or other media editing apps – is NOT the ‘digital original’ or its copy, but rather a heavily compressed, web-optimized version of it, stripped of most metadata. Once again, we end up with multiple copies of the same file and a not-so-clear idea of their relationship.
- Some of the original contextual data or metadata are lost while editing or sharing media. photo-1.jpg anyone?
- Adding narrative – such as a title or description – to digital media in general is a lot more difficult than it should be. That is, unless you get a specific mobile app to let you embed metadata, or you share it – along with a caption – on Facebook, Twitter and so on.
- Lastly, many devices don’t have any specific application that lets you capture and store audio files.
Being aware of these problems is already a huge step forward – the next level is becoming aware of how our device works, how it stores files and assigns filenames.. and setting up healthy archival practices for our media.
Examples of apps that let you read and write EXIF (technical metadata) and IPTC (narrative or contextual metadata) to your images are Photogene for iOS, EagleEye and PhotoMap for Android. Associating narrative content to video and audio files is even less common.
The CoDA staff tried to keep these and other questions in mind when we started working on our mobile application for Mukurtu CMS, Mukurtu Mobile. We wanted to empower users to make the most out of their mobile devices. Next week we will be posting about how we tackled these problems while developing a mobile app for Mukurtu CMS users, Mukurtu Mobile. Stay tuned!