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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2 Responses to “folksonomies…”

  1. amanda Says:

    Hi Neil – you raise an interesting point about tagging within an existing structure. I wonder if we’ll ever get to that stage, or if we’ll just be happy to allow folksonomies and taxonomies to co-exist, side-by-side…? In an OPAC, for example, I don’t see us getting away from using LCSH, so can a flat folksonomy work beside LCSH or would we feel the need to impose a hierarcy or structure upon that folksonomy? I lean to the former, but I’m curious about your opinion.

  2. Jill Says:

    I agree that the flat tagging will never narrow in on the specific information needed the way hierarchical taxonomies would. Perhaps folksonomies will remain on the Internet, or will serve as personal filing systems for accessing the library collection–an individual user’s personal addition to the catalogue

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