what does it mean to be “meta” about something?

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The title. I never understood that expression… can someone help?

Edit: auto correct on ‘someone’

In: 1694

Meta means “of itself” but is often used to mean “self-referential”

So meta-gaming for example is looking at a game from outside and trying to abuse the mechanics, instead of just making organic decisions. You’re not playibg the game itself, you’re playing the systems behind it.

When used casually, it is like a recursive program, it calls itself. So, a book about a book would be ‘meta’.

Some people will refer to it for something like…some people will know who the bad guy is in art and film in the first 15 minutes. You ask, how do you know? They respond, “We have been introduced to X number of characters, we know for sure it can’t be these people, we haven’t been introduced to anyone else and doing so after this point would be a deus ex machina, therefore the bad guy has to be *this* character.” That would be meta, you are using more information to whittle down the bad guy than the characters get (the police can’t finger the murderer based on who we know at the end of Act I) but, you aren’t a character in the movie/book/tv show so you can do whatever you want.

“To be meta” is to “to be self referential”. Within writing, this might take the form of character being acknowledging they are in a story. Metadata is another example, being data about your data. If we have 15,000 records of sales information, the sales info is the data, and having 15,000 records is part of the data ABOUT the data.

Another example often used is “The meta of a game”, which refers to the game played outside and above the game itself. This can be things like what equipment is best to bring, or predicting what to expect from an upcoming game based on previous similar games.

This is a comment responding to your question about what “meta” is. It’s a bit obtuse and somewhat poorly worded. By talking about the post itself instead of speaking within it, it should be “meta”.

However, this comment was written in the hopes that the concept of meta narrative is better shown than explained. Whether that works or not is anyone’s guess. Especially not mine.

Expansion upon other comments:

Another example usage of “meta” is a scientific “meta-analysis”. An “analysis” is when you do some experiment and get a bunch of data and figure out some conclusions. A “meta-analysis” is when you look up all the analyses other people have already done, and you analyze all their analyses to find patterns that are too big for one single analysis to spot.

edit: you aren’t supposed to read this first