Monday, 25 March 2013

Changing notions of objects

Section 1
    When it comes to physical books, whereas Dublin core metadata principles categorise them under the following 15 basic heads --

  • Title
  • Creator
  • Subject
  • Description
  • Publisher
  • Contributor
  • Date
  • Type
  • Format
  • Identifier
  • Source
  • Language
  • Relation
  • Coverage
  • Rights

and usual library practices categorise them under heads like --

  • Title
  • Creator
  • Subject
  • Publisher
  • Place of publication
  • Date
  • Language
  • Number of pages
  • Classification number

when it comes to more non-technical methods of categorising books, one uses heads like

  • Title
  • Creator
  • Subject
  • Publisher
  • Colour of cover
  • Format of cover (hardback/ paperback)
  • Dimensions (not exact, but adjectives such as big, small, slim, voluminous)
  • Position in stack (beside this object, above this object, etc.)
  • Donor

    From the above hypothesis, it may be concluded that in non-technical methods, the memory of objects is sometimes more important than or as equally important as the specific technical identifiers. When one thinks about digital objects, rather than physical objects, non-technical methods categorise objects under heads like

  • File or Folder
  • File or folder name
  • Subject
  • Storage media (e.g. red pen drive in black bag lying on 3rd shelf of the cupboard)
  • Path in storage media (e.g. one out of the 3 folders in the folder whose shortcut lies in the top right corner of the desktop screen)
  • Type of file (e.g. pdf, jpg)
  • Last modified time

    According to this hypothesis about digital objects, one can say that memory, again, plays an important part in organising and locating objects. Inexact identifiers are privileged over specific, more-technical identifiers. Thus, whereas some sensory identifiers (such as colour of object) are lost in this transition from the physical realm to the digital realm, some sensory identifiers (such as path in storage media) gain more prominence than position on stack in case of physical objects.

Section 2
    In addition to categorising and locating objects, objects also occupy a sentimental role in the lives of their possessors. I am suggesting that whereas it is easier to develop an emotional attachment to physical, tangible objects, it is perhaps less easier to develop an emotional attachment to digital objects. With physical objects, emotional attachment may be due to

a) the contents inside that object – feelings evoked by text or images inside a book, or sound produced by a gramophone record, cassette or CD, or
b) it may be due to feelings evoked by associations of the object – memory of the donor, occasion on which the object was received, circumstances under which the object was received, or
c) the object itself – an object which appeals to the aesthetic senses

With digital objects, emotional attachment, if any, is due to points (a) and sometimes (b) but rarely ever (c). This may be due to the simple fact, that a digital object is not a tangible object and thus its existence as an object in the first place is slightly dicey.
    The loss of attachment to an object because of the object itself is some thing, that I am suggesting, which occurs when one moves from the realm of physical objects to digital objects.

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