This week’s reading is mainly about folksonomies and classifications. In Kroski’s article “The Hive Mind: Folksonomies and User-Based Tagging”, the author pointed out the advantages and drawbacks of folksonomies. I listed all these factors as the following:

Advantage Drawback
Folksonomies are inclusive Folksonomies have no synonym control
Folksonomies are current Folksonomies have a lack of precision
Folksonomies offer discovery Folksonomies lack hierarchy
Folksonomies are non-binary Folksonomies have a “basic level” problem
Folksonomies are democratic and self-moderating Folksonomies have a lack of recall
Folksonomies follow “desire lines” Folksonomies are susceptible to “gaming”
Folksonomies offer insight into user behavior
Folksonomies engender community
Folksonomies offer a low cost alternative
Folksonomies offer usability
Folksonomies is futile

Kroski gave further discussion about all these pros and cons in the article and the factor I am most interested in is “hierarchy”. This factor is also discussed in all other readings in different formats, such as subject heading or hierarchical structure. Quintatelli mentioned that folksnomies are a flat space of keywords and it is hard to think of real people crafting complex structures of tags to describe their objects (posts, photos, etc) or objects from other sites. In my point of view, most people using tagging are not experts in the library field who could setup the hierarchical structure properly and choose the correct subject heading. They just randomly pick up the word they think best describing the content. Therefore, it brought up the next issue, how to form a good hierarchical structure or choose suitable subject headings. Our librarians, as information professionals, and millions users who never had or had little trainings in information sciences, could possibly work together and make “folksnomies” better. Carol Ou discussed some ideas in the article “White-Paperish Thing (about distributed classification)” and “folksonomy? ethnoclassfication? libraries? wha?”. Ou said “providing authorized subject headings does represent a bibliographic ideal, however, and one that is intended to aid user search. To this end, catalogers have been guided by principles outlining a certain preferred specificity in the use of subject headings.” and “we figured patrons would want to participate because their participation in classifying these electronic journals would allow us to dynamically generate lists of journals that might be relevant to their own work.” Liz Lawley said “Describing things well is hard, and often context-specific.” So it is possible to tie librarians and patrons together and construct a better hierarchical structure and choose suitable subject headings. In Sam H. Kome’s paper, the author pointed out that today’s subject enthusiasts’ classification efforts indicate that users in a collaborative computing environment can create valuable metadata. If librarians use their expertise, and join in these subject enthusiasts, it is possible that current folksnomies could become a valuable electronic thesaurus in the future.


2 Responses to “Folksnomies”

  1. Daka Says:

    iI think you make a good point about skills. To date – most of the organizing of content has been left to the librarians/indexers/info. architects. Development and application of controlled vocabs/taxonomies is indeed a very complex process. The ‘average person’ does not know what goes into that (and I suspect – nor do they care). The bottom line is findability and retrieval. Users will tag with what’s easiest for them to remember – I guess there is a good chance others use the same term to remember – and I guess that what the ‘social aspect’ is about. Maybe in this case it’s not so much about skill?

  2. amanda Says:

    Great post Qingyi. Love the table – very handy!

    I agree with Daka – you raise a good point about the “skill” involved in subject classification. However, when you look at the tagging that goes on for “selfish” purposes (as VanderWal suggests), it probably doesn’t take a lot of skill at all, does it? It’s almost intuitive. Plus context-specific, as Lawley notes.

    It certainly would be interesting to see what a hybrid system looks like (“experts” & regular users) and observe how it develops over time.

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