folksonomies…

June 27, 2007

 

From what I’ve gathered from the articles there appears to be no ideal means of organizing information given the “fuzziness” of human cognitive models.  The inherit benefits and flaws to folksonomies and taxonomies were detailed quite well in each of this week’s readings. The article by Quintarelli does a good job at summarizing the flaws of taxonomies in that they work well in classifying a relatively restricted corpus with pre-defined categories, stable and restricted items and clear edges.  In addition to this the already existing classification schemes employed by libraries (Dewey, LOC) are archaic and ethno- linguistically and culturally biased in their conceptualizations, which most of us are most likely familiar with after taking LIS 502. 

I also think that Kroski did a good job at summarizing the benefits of folksonomies: they are inclusive, democratic and self-moderating, follow “desire lines”, offer insight into user behaviour, are a low-cost alternative, and are easy to use. The readings taken together appear to come to the conclusion that the innate flaws of both systems make them equally unsuitable, though Carol Ou in “folksonomy? ethnoclassification? libraries? wha?” sees hope in an ideal “happy middle” between both systems.  

I think the fatal flaw of the straight-forward folksonomy is the absence of hierarchy, which is perhaps the most crucial means by which people organize information, even in their own minds.  In Kome’s article, he goes into significantly greater detail observing that folksonomies assume “equivalence relationships are the norm” and that hierarchies have hyponyms (words used to describe terms in this relationship include “is a”, or “is a kind of”) and meronyms (“part of” relations, where concept A is part of concept B; i.e. “grammar” is a part of “language”.).  Both allow for broadening and narrowing search and browsing actions, which I believe to be crucial in the search process or just in browsing.

In the study of semantics the work of Eleanor Rosch and George Lakoff is interesting when analyzing the problem of information organization.  They developed “Prototype Theory” (wikipedia article on it):

Systems of categories are not objectively “out there” in the world but are rooted in people’s experience. These categories evolve as learned concepts of the world —meaning is not an objective truth, but a subjective construct, learned from experience, and language arises out of the “grounding of our conceptual systems in shared embodiment and bodily experience.

I think our conceptualizations change and develop rapidly, and in so doing, outdate static systems like Dewey and LOC.  However, a flat tagging system created by users does not allow for broader or narrower categories that assist in more controlled searching.  Perhaps a more controlled folksonomy would be ideal, where users could tag but within an already existing hierarchical system. 

     While our own conceptualizations of the world come from our ownThis idea appears to refute both taxonomies and folksonomies, and it is possible the pursuit of an ideal classification scheme is ultimately futile. 

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sb, t & f…

June 21, 2007

One of the more cited problems with social bookmarking is the idea of metanoise, which was brought up in Adam Mathes article, and was also discussed in the presentation and Marco’s blog.  While I agree that this can be a significant problem, as people do have unique conceptualizations of certain topics and items I don’t necessarily see it as the most significant drawback. 

 An article I researched for the presentation by Scott A. Golder and Bernardo A. Huberman (Golder, Scott A., and Huberman, Bernardo A. “Usage patterns of collaborative tagging systems.” Journal of Information Science. Vol. 32, no.2 (2006): 198-206) analyze the issue directly, though not specifically labelling it metanoise.  The study that they undergo examines the nature of traditional taxonomy versus a tagging system, but goes beyond that and analyses collective tagging on Del.icio.us.  It is an excellent study that I highly recommend if you want to know more about the issue.  What they eventually conclude is that social sensmaking in this case pans out as “stable patterns emerge in tag proportions” and that “minority opinions can coexist alongside popular ones without disrupting the consensus choices made by many users.”  I think that their conclusions would hold just as true were a collective tagging system be implemented in a library catalogue or in a large journal database. 

I think the another problem to arise from social bookmarking, not discussed much in the literature, is that it has the potential to exacerbate the already existing problem of poor information literacy among students and the general population.  While it can be annoying to learn the controlled vocabulary of databases, or the subject headings in OPAC or traditional taxonomies, I feel that after learning them you would be better equipped to research information than if there was just a flat tagging system.  It is possible that people will grow accustomed to keyword searching for tags rather than trying to learn specific search techniques.  I’m not arguing that a social bookmarking system not be implemented but I think there are problems to bear in mind.

This week’s presentation by Chritsty, Jess and I can be found here: http://christy1975.livejournal.com/6212.html .

Wikis…

June 13, 2007

I think out of all the social software tools available to librarians the wiki has the most potential in quite a number of applications.  In the readings by Meredith Farkas most of the applications are delinated well: reference, collegial interaction and teamwork, knowledge management (which Angela Kille’s discussed in greater detail) to annotated the library catalogue, being a centre of community information, and acting as a pathfinder (i.e. – subject guides).  I do agree with Jill’s comments that wikis can lead to more work for librarians, I think that overall it allows patrons to contribute in ways that librarians otherwise cannot.  In the instance of a pathfinder, as Farkas points out, librarians cannot necessarily be expected to thoroughly account for all sources of information and allowing students and faculty to input on the subject can improve upon what already exists.  I believe it also provides a cheaper and easier to implement reference service than the vendor provided virtual reference software.  Also, having the reference questions available to be viewed and commented on by all can be encouraging to many afraid or unsure whether or not to ask librarians questions, and to getting a more complete answer to a given question.  Though I don’t want to speak too glowingly about wikis, I believe that they are the best tool available if libraries want to really connect with their patrons.

I completely concur with Qingyi in regards to Wikipedia despite persistent detractors both within and outside the library profession.  Beyond the issues of vandalism, spamming, and overly opinionated people, is the criticism that Wikipedia lacks authority in authorship, being that anyone can edit or add entries, and therefore its content is suspect.  This opinion was exemplified by Stephen Colbert through his ironic alter-ego on the Colbert Report, arguing that Wikipedia followed his personal ideology of “truthiness”, in that it represents a truth by consensus, as opposed to fact.  Wikipedia even has an article that addresses this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_in_popular_culture).  Colbert encouraged people to alter an article in regards to the population of African elephants to prove his point and in addition started a mock-wikipedia as satire:(http://www.wikiality.com/index.php?title=Main_Page).  This criticism is echoed by many professional critics, and we all took reference in our first semester and the use of the site was prohibited and I counted myself among the critics until recently.

I do however agree with its founder Jimmy Wales that despite people’s “pettiness, idiocy, and vulgarity” (Schiff), that ultimately an unobtrusively collaborative effort has yielded as accurate results as can be found in the more reputable publications.  With Wikipedia the people themselves have done a good job at policing vandalism and that controvercial subjects are given a fair and open hearing and in the case of Colbert’s elephants, the vandalism that occured was quickly countered by Wikipedia members.  There are many topics in which there is no one and absolute truth and perceptions of them can be coloured greatly by their currency as the Schiff article pointed out in regards to the recent Israeli invasion of Lebannon.  These debates are covered in talkback sections as are other issues of accuracy and organization that anyone can read and comment on, which is something unavailable in tradtional encyclopedia formats.  Also for most articles one can see all alterations and deletions made to it as well and articles that infrequently or do not cite sources are openly declared at the top of the page.  More well recieved encyclopedia do list their contributors and have each article signed by them, but the idea that a person will look up how to contact a professor at the Sorbonne and contest their point-of-view is unlikely.  As Wales himself described the goal should be accuracy, not authority, and from my perspective even the most “authoritative” opinions can be the most biased.  I’m not argueing that Wikipedia is the best source of information and common sense should prevail and people should obviously cross-check whatever they find with other sources but as a reference source it should not be ignored.

RSS 2…

June 10, 2007

The readings and case studies for this week for the most part re-enforced my perceptions about how libraries can apply RSS feeds.   As exemplified by the case studies on Proquest, EBSCO, and Engineering Village 2 I think that the most practical application is in literature searches of large databases and keeping up with journal releases (Gerry McKiernan).  I agree with Reichardt that grad students and faculty that would be the most interested groups, though I could see myself using this if it were available during my undergrad studies.  I can see people who are doing research intensive work in specific fields looking to RSS feeds to keep up with research and scholarly output.  Unfortunately I don’t see other applications such as keeping up with library acquisitions and events as being as successful on a larger scale.  I think with RSS, and other forms of “social software”, that application has to be tied in with specific information needs of patrons.  Reflecting on what Gerry and Elise have said in regards to “a digest-style reference service”, I do believe that this would be the best approach as I don’t believe that the average person is terribly “keen” on everything a library purchases or is doing.  I think with proper research into a library’s user base, feeds can be specialized on particular topics of interest.