Friday, August 31, 2007

Impress Your Professor: Tag! You're it

While I was perusing through the archives of the ASIS&T Bulletin, I came across an article about a subject that has come up a number of times recently. Apparently our Chair found this story first - but I'm going to attack it from a slightly different angle.

FaceTag: Integrating Bottom-up and Top-down Classification in a Social Tagging System discusses the pros and cons of folksonomy or "consensus" tagging. These are the tags that users add to their blogs and websites like Flickr.

is a program that combines the fluidity of folksonomy tagging with the more structured and cohesive aspects imposed hierarchical tagging. In the article, the authors state:
Usability studies show that information seekers in domains with a large number of objects prefer that related items be in meaningful groups to enable them to quickly understand relationships and thus decide how to proceed.
Essentially, users want a mental map of not only where they've been, but also a path to the roads not taken - just in case they want to make a U-turn. Facetag is structured in a way that allows users to have a multi-dimensional view of their searches. It's a hybrid system that combines the fluidity and casual nature of folksonomy tagging with the structure and relevance rankings of the more academic Boolean or catalog search.

While this new program seems to work well for digital resources, the article reminded me of another attempt of combining consensus tagging with a more structured catalog. The Danbury, CT public library system has recently incorporated LibraryThing into their online catalog. Users can also add their own tags and information to the items in the catalog.

The question that keeps popping up in my head is this: What does this mean for the catalog? Is adding the user driven folksonomy tag to the catalog a good thing or does it complicate the search process since their is no imposed structure and oversight?

I'm interested to hear what you all think.


Meg Lulofs said...

I myself worry that I'll be reading some article about tagging in 5 years, thinking wistfully of my undergrad days and the dawn and Facebook, and then wondering why librarians still care. Not sure people care enough about libraries to take the time to tag the catalog. Database mind mapping... that would impress me.

Nora Daly said...

Oh yea, that's always the fear, especially with the swift advancement of technology. But I figure that's the process you have to go through to always get to the next step....we might be laughing at Facebook in a few years but having acknowledged might lead to database mind mapping! heh. I also think people like to have their opinions count for something, so in terms of getting people to tag the catalog, I think it could be successful (like with if it's marketed the right way.