Starting the year off right

2016 will be better than 2015. My year ended with a busted foot, bedbugs, losing a good chunk of my possessions, and the sudden and unexpected death of my beloved cat, Wilshire Boulevard. Here she is in a photo I call “Capitalism”. A black-and-white cat draped over the back of an ugly couch. The drapes are hung backwards.Maybe I should properly eulogize her on this blog.

2016 began with a squirrel falling through our skylight. Soon after, a new school year started in the concrete turkey, and it’s kicked off well for me. I’m working on a big web redesign project, exercising the best parts of my brain, in order to make the awesomeness of where I work more visible and discoverable. I’m also working up an article on the violence that Library of Congress cartographic classification & cataloguing rules obscure for a presentation at a Toronto staff library conference this summer.

On the school front, I’ve only got four!more!years! in the MI program as a part-time student, and am happy to be enrolled in Managing Audiovisual Material with Brock Silversides of UTL’s Media Commons, who is letting me write a dream assignment on Ken Burns’ Baseball. I’m taking a data analytics course too, in which I hope to create some geographically-enabled visualizations of American political sentiment with textual data mined from Republican campaign transcripts (sigh).

I am also continuing a research collaboration with Jane Schmidt into the recent rise of Little Free Libraries® in Toronto, a “community-building” project that has raised some eyebrows with us. Stay tuned for more, and keep your fingers crossed that I never see a bedbug ever again in my life.

If I was actually a decent blogger

I’d hope to be half as good as my buddy Netanel Ganin, a cataloguer whose compassionate critical politics shone through in his postings to typically pedantic and argumentative professional listservs I subscribe to. I stumbled across him on Twitter a few months after his name caught my eye, and was happy to see he is also a tuxedo cat parent. Anyways, his blog I Never Metadata I Didn’t Like documents his explorations and critiques of cataloguing and metadata standards, with a wonderful sense of humour. Note that he created an authority record for his cat.

INF2186: Wait, more meowtadata

One last note! While we’re on the topic of cats and metadata, I wholeheartedly suggest following @HistoricalCats on Twitter. It’s an bot that tweets cat-related metadata records harvested by the Digital Public Library of America from various digital collections. Cute historic photos abound, though occasionally the “cat” keyword turns up some less-than-happy cats-in-science materials. Check out the DPLA’s application profile, a derivative of the Europeana Data Model.

image: “Bull dog pushing six kittens in a wheel-barrel, ca.1930”

INF2186: And one last note on meowtadata

This last week was rather stressful, with the strike and final assignments and lousy Smarch weather and all. I booked the week off work a while back with the intention of staying home and writing my final paper on cartographic cataloguing and critical human geographIMG_6559y, but I ended up dividing my time between union-related activities and self-care for my burnout brain. Part of that self-care involved discovering the best and most relaxing mobile game I’ve come across in a while (possibly ever): ねこあつめ (Neko Atsume), now just referred to as “the cat game” with the friends and colleagues whom I have enlisted into downloading it. The point of the game is to entice cats to come to your garden by arranging different toys in it.

Like I described in my post on graphic design and metadata, reviewing and understanding the properties of objects is critical for any kind of print or interactive design project, including video games. Since the various preferences and characteristics of our cat friends are important to attracting them back to the garden, these various properties are stored in a “cat notebook”, in which you can review autocompiled notes about the cats you have met.IMG_6601

Forgive my rough understanding of this “meowtadata” screen, as I have lost most of my Japanese language skills. Here we meet an adorable tortoiseshell cat named Sabigara-san, whom I photographed hanging out in a cardboard box on one visit. She has a “wild” personality, has brought me 180 fish (the currency of the game) (never mind – I’m not sure what this translates to) and has visited the garden eight times. Her three favourite things in the garden are the cardboard box, a paper bag, and the two-level cat tower. I have taken several photos of her, which are accessible from this screen. After several days of playing this game, cats have started to give me gifts – though this little fuzzybutt has yet to do so, any present received would be linked from this screen as well. One bit of meowtadata that does not appear here but on is displayed on the main cat notebook screen (where all cats are shown) is the last time each one visited the garden, stored in YYYY/DD/MM format. This piece of information lets me know that the mysterious Baseball Cat, dressed in uniform and ready to play, has only visited my garden when I am asleep. 🙁

Despite the fact that much of the data exposed through cats’ visits to the garden was pre-engineered by the game’s programmers, we still see some static (cat characteristics) and dynamic (toy preference) properties captured as they come to play, as well as a simple model for multimedia storage and linked data (through the photo albums and gifts – gift:Hairbrush isGivenBy cat:KuroNeko-chan!). Metadata (or meowtadata) is everywhere!

As I end on this light-hearted feline note, this blogging exercise prompted some interesting self-reflection on metadata, a realm I have spent a considerable amount of time working in over the last six years. It simultaneously helped me understand the work I do in the library better, and really served to expand my vision of what metadata is and where it manifests, in everyday objects and systems like photolab envelopes and adorable cat games. (This capstone project also made me finally do something with the domain I registered over five years ago…!)