Metadata vs. Meta-AnythingElseKevin Smith, www.PragmaticEA.com, commented: I am not sure why you have asked about what is meta. You know the word ‘meta’ means “information about” and so to quizzically ask what other meta things exist rather than just metadata is a bit odd. The answer (which I am sure you already know) is, of course, that you can apply the word ‘meta’ to anything you like so long as there is some benefit/reason for doing so. Perhaps you are asking so people begin to talk generally about it? My reply: Many people think they know what meta means, but I find that’s not the case. The relevant definitions for meta- from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary(MWUD) are:
3a: beyond : transcending *metaphysics* … I would avoid this definition because it takes you to neverneverland.
3b: of a higher logical type – in nouns formed from names of disciplines and designating new but related disciplines such as can deal critically with the nature, structure, or behavior of the original ones *metalanguage* *metatheory* *metasystem* … I believe this is the useful definition.There’s much more to meta- than simply “information about”. That usage probably arises from metadata, but meta- does not generalize to other nouns besides “data” in the sense of “information about”. There are at least two things wrong with that line of thinking:
1. It violates the basic definition (3b) of meta-. Any use of meta- must be based on the same noun. So “information about data” is disallowed in defining metadata. Instead you must say “data about data”. Change the noun and all bets are off. (The assumption here of course is you don’t mean “data” and “information” as synonyms. I certainly wouldn’t go there.)
2. It violates my additional rule for defining meta- as follows: You must always use a verb, not just a preposition. Prepositions hide meaning. So instead of “about” I would say “describes”. That way metadata becomes “data that describes other data”. The chosen verb must be intrinsic to the meaning or purpose of the thing – in this case, data. Data always describes – no exceptions, no reasonable dissent. (It should also be an active verb.)Introducing a verb to the core meaning of a meta- forces you to put a semantic stake in the ground. So use of meta- is not at all limited to just “information about”. The MWUD definition does not require that, or even suggest it. http://www.brsolutions.com/