Tags: User Folksonomies

Quick list of links to articles that discuss and attempt to unpack the concept of the Folksonomy.


“’Tags are great because you throw caution to the wind, forget about whittling down everything into a distinct set of categories and instead let folks loose categorizing their own stuff on their own terms’.”[ref]Folksonomies Tap People Power[/ref]

Folksonomies, popularly known as “tagging,” is a distributed, user derived and defined system for classifying and organizing information. From text to photos, users add keywords to items to classify those items along multiple organizational avenues while adding “value” to the text or photo or video.

“’It’s very much people tagging information so that they can come back to it themselves or so that others with the same vocabulary can find it’, said Thomas Vander Wal, the information architect credited with coining the term ‘folksonomy’.”[ref]Folksonomies Tap People Power[/ref]

With particular regard to our blogging endeavors, we will explore tagging as a means for classifying, organizing, and adding value to our blog posts as well as the images and video we may use in our posts and as part of other exploratory and building projects. The process of tagging—creating a personal folksonomy—will hopefully allow us one avenue through which we can better understand metadata and its implications for doing, managing, manipulating, and publishing our research on the web.

“’The job of tags isn’t to organize all the world’s information into tidy categories,’ said Stewart Butterfield, one of Flickr’s co-founders. ‘It’s to add value to the giant piles of data that are already out there’.”[ref]Folksonomies Tap People Power[/ref]


The following articles are highly recommended—but not required—reading.

Marieke, Guy, and Emma Tonkin. “Folksonomies: Tidying up Tags?.” D-Lib Magazine 12(1) (January 2006).
This is a particularly useful and accessible article on tagging and the concept of Folksonomies. The authors examine what makes a folksonomy work and question whether criticisms about tagging being a “sloppy” system—for organizing and accessing information because it lacks a formal system of rules, and is user-derived and asynchronously distributive—is justified.
Terdiman, Daniel. “Folksonomies Tap People Power.” Wired Magazine, February 1, 2005.
Unlike the other articles in this list, this article is light on argument, but is still a good, short introduction to the concept of folksonomies.
Tonkin, Emma. “Folksonomies: The Fall and Rise of Plain-text Tagging.” Ariadne, 47 (April 2006).
Of the three articles listed here, this article is the most difficult to engage with respect to the technical lingo used in the article and some assumptions about the reader’s understanding of what metadata is and how it operates. Nonetheless, this is a good article and worthwhile  in helping us understand metadata via tagging.