Michael Twidale: Procrustean Metadata

Title: Procrustean Metadata: how field options, interfaces and instructions in forms can force people to contort reality for the convenience of databases.
Session Lead: Dr. Michael Twidale
Time: 1 pm – 2 pm, Tuesday, 2021-11-09
Location: Zoom


When we construct databases and many other computer systems we try to be neat and tidy, clear and unambiguous, because that’s what makes computers happy. If we want to generate quantitative data, then our data needs to be quantized so it can be counted. Unfortunately we often have to distort reality to make it fit the needs of tidy sorting and countability. Double unfortunately we often end up distorting people to make them fit into the boxes we create. Other people, of course. Not us, obviously. Maybe we should talk a bit more about this annoying problem that seems to have been around since Ancient Rome. Life is messy, and bureaucrats and computers both hate that. Pointing it out also seems to be frowned upon. People seem to get annoyed at the uncovering of logical flaws and their mismatch with political logic violations.

Readings: [Box-Folder]

“Priority will be given to students of African-American, Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, Native American, Native Hawaiian, and US Pacific Islander (Guam or American Samoa) descent.”
https://dmi.illinois.edu/stuenr/ethsexres/ethsexfa21.xls (just rows 905-918. Esp Col Y Note how few Asian students we have in our MSIM degree)