Social Tagging

I think most internet users understand the idea of bookmarking (creating a ready link to a site or page you want to visit again), and at least the basic idea of tagging (placing a tag, or hook, in form of a name or word to describe a picture or other form of information). This week I considered some of the more theoretical aspects of what tagging and bookmarking mean, why we do it, and how its useful. In this document Thomas Vander Wal notes the value of tagging is that people use their own words for understanding the information or object which is tagged. In this way, people less categorizing than they are “placing hooks” to retrieve things based on their own understanding of the info or object.

For me, that is a really cool thing to think about.

In my cataloguing course I learned a bit of the history behind the Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress systems of classification. The Dewey Decimal system sought to organize all knowledge into ten main classes, like the subjects Science, History, Language, and Religion. The Library of Congress system, focused on organizing works (books) and arrived at 21 main classes. While these systems are very useful and even necessary to manage collections of physical objects in a way that makes retrieval possible for a general base of users, my experience studying in a multi-disciplinary program often led me to wander all over the library when researching, never finding all I needed in one spot. What this example illustrates is how information can be relevant in various and multiple contexts and how a system designed to serve a general base of users.

Considering the same example while searching for or storing information online, we can see the impact of Web 2.0 through tagging and bookmarking.

In the ASIS&T October/November 2007 Bulletin, Diane Neal says it best: “…folksonomies are created when people tag items online for their own later information retrieval purposes. This makes folksonomy an extremely useful tool for online personal information management, since the tags are coined in the user’s own words, not in the words imposed by the system. The secondary benefit is the social aspect, including the ability of other users to use those tags for search and retrieval of previously undiscovered items and the community created by and centered on users’ tags.”

To experiment with folksonomies this week I used Delicious to search everything “History”. I was then able to add “related tags” on left side bar. I chose the tags “visualization”  and “inspiration” because they seemed the least typical in terms of searches I’d done before.  There were many results but one that I thought was really neat is Curating the City. This site connects cultural and architectural history in Los Angeles through old photographs and postcard images and short descriptions.

Having worked on social history tours in the past, doing research for the Stones project I find Curating the City to be a real source of inspiration in terms of  the integration of the map mashup. I don’t know if I had not had previous experience working on a social history tour I would find the “inspiration” tag relevant to this site. However, this was not top of the list in my search and I selected a site which interested me. Nonetheless this experience shows some of the pros (ability to find really relevant information) and cons (looking through a list for what really catches your eye) of folksonomies, tagging and bookmarking.

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