Dr. Lauren Beck and Dr. Michael Cormier collaborate across disciplines to create new web-based metadata app
Dr. Lauren Beck (Modern Languages & Literatures/Visual & Material Culture) and Dr. Michael Cormier (Math & Computer Science) believe in the power of interdisciplinary collaboration — especially on a small campus like Mount Allison. The pair have been working together since 2020 on an app called Metascope, through a shared company they have established named Metafy.
“That cross pollination is important for breaking off into new directions in a field and certainly where I’ve gotten some of my best ideas, when I bridge two areas together in a way that hasn’t been done before,” says Cormier.
Metascope is an app that focuses on scraping and auditing website metadata. Simply put, metadata is data about data — and this app helps review that data to help businesses perform better online. The metadata provides valuable insights into how people search online and information on what is on the page or what is being sold.
“This app provides feedback and quality control on metadata found on a website that may have problematic implications or lead to issues coming up in search results,” says Beck.
Initially, this app was created for small business owners, but through research and testing, they now see opportunities for much larger companies with user-generated content who might need assistance with quality control in their metadata and web presence.
Cormier is looking at the project through a computer science lens and understanding how people use the product on the web, which will inform his work on web accessibility. While Beck is looking at text-image relationships from a humanities perspective, particularly in the area of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
The pair recently received $25,000 from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) through their early-stage commercialization fund for market research, which will allow them to evaluate and test the product.
Both feel this app will help address demand in this area that has gone unsupported for a long time, especially with the shift to more online businesses and activity during the pandemic.
“It is unlikely many will be leaving this online space, even when we return to more normal activity, so we think metadata quality will be an ongoing factor as there is more and more demand for this sort of tool from marketplace providers and small businesses running their own sites,” says Cormier.
Computer science has seen expansion in interdisciplinary collaborations in the last couple of years with new joint majors in Computer Science with Economics, Physics, Geography (geocomputing), and Music, along with Mathematics.
“Bringing together two skillsets like this creates a powerful cohort of university graduates,” says Beck.
Read more about these new programs at mta.ca/programs/cs