On Metadata: Performing Arts Materials In Our Digital World

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This paper is intended to describe the development of the Global Performing Arts Database (GloPAD) system for performing arts materials, in particular to describe for non-information technology people the metadata structure on which this system is based and how this structuring relates to the study of performing arts. After a brief introduction to the workings of the database system, this paper discusses the crucial information structures for the study of performing arts histories, focusing in particular on how to describe performance productions, pieces that are performed, and the functions of people within the performing arts. The Global Performing Arts Database (GloPAD) is an online, multilingual system that collects and offers for display digital media and their descriptive information. While the database itself is a complex arrangement of tables and rows of numbers and text and relations among them, the real power of the system lies in the interfaces that allow information to be entered or extracted from that arrangement of data tables. The main power of these interfaces is that they allow many people to write and read on the same collection of items and their information. There are two main interfaces for GloPAD: an "Editors' Interface" that allows a group of editors to add and edit information and to upload digital files such as photos or video, and a "Public Interface" that displays the items and their related information. Both of these interfaces are Web-accessible. Structurally the heart of the GloPAD system is the Editors' Interface, for it is the environment that allows the collaborative addition and revision of information and it defines the records that can be created by editors. The event of performance is the core around which other information is built. The performance moment (which may be represented by the tenth of a second required to click a camera, or the 30 minutes of a video recording) is the momentary act of performance caught in the artifact object (digital object). The subject for GloPAD is the performing art history that is related to the artifact.
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Along with the paper file in PDF format are a number of tab-delimited text files that contain the current contents of certain performing arts vocabulary lists in the database. These are the lists of functions, performing arts roles, sections of performance, types of significant components in the performing arts, and types of pieces. Each file is prefaced with a short explanation of the use of the list in the database system.
Creating an Open Access Paradigm for Scholarly Publishing, a project funded by Atlantic Philanthropies
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performing arts; theatre; metadata; databases; Internet access
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