Extended eLectronic Metadata Schema (ELMS)



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ELMS (Extended eLectronic Metadata Schema) is the framework developed for The NEXT that provides a common understanding of the highly complex, interactive, digital artifacts held in its collections.

Because The NEXT collects and hosts a wide variety of interactive media pertaining to digital art and writing—the bulk of which it makes freely available for access and download in their original formats or in formats that have been preserved through migration and emulation—our schema both utilizes and extends the Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS) maintained by the Network Development and MARC Standards Office of the Library of Congress. By extending MODS, we attend to the media specificity of the works, an approach to the analysis of digital objects suggested by theorist N. Katherine Hayles in Writing Machines (29-33) and also reflected in taxonomies created by the global, scholarly federation, the Consortium on Electronic Literature (CELL), over a decade ago.

At the heart of ELMS is the contention that visitors accessing a work at The NEXT need to be made aware of the hardware, software, peripheral specifications, and other salient features so that it can be experienced fully. Equally important, visitors with disabilities need to know the physical requirements of a work in order to prepare for the experience via assistive technologies or other methods.

The taxonomies we developed for ELMS 2.0 extended MODS to include Software Dependency(ies), Authoring Platform(s), Hardware Dependency(ies), Peripheral Dependency(ies), Computer Language(s), Digital Quality(ies), Sensory Modality(ies), and Genre(s). Providing this detailed information means, for example, that when visitors access M. D. Coverley's net art piece, Endless Suburbs, they will find information they come to expect, such as publication date, publisher, and language. As important, however, they will learn information specific to its materiality: that it is a hypertext built in HTML and showcased on the web; that it leverages functionality afforded by Java Applets; that it is expressed as fiction and involves sight and sound; and that it requires visitors to navigate the work with a mouse.

ELMS 3.0 has been developed to include controlled vocabulary that attends to the needs of people with disabilities and sensory sensitivities. To accomplish this goal, The NEXT’s staff worked disability justice scholars and artists during a week-long retreat hosted by Triangle SCI at Duke University. A proof of concept of this schema was funded by the Society of American Archivists. In 2024 a proposal was submitted to the National Endowment for the Humanities for support to implement ELMS 3.0 to all of the works in The NEXT.

Applying this detailed ELMS 3.0 framework to over 2300 works currently accessible at The NEXT takes time and patience. We are working methodically through the collections in stages, using analytics to pinpoint works most visited and, then, targeting them for refinement first. But ultimately the goal is to refine the metadata for all works hosted at The NEXT so that this crucial information about them is available to our visitors.