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. 


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  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.