Stuart Yeates fragt in EDUCAUSE connect, wo denn die Antwort der alten Erschließungs- und Dokumentationspraxis auf die seit zwei/drei Jahren so intensiv diskutierte Folksonomy sei. Überlassen wir dem freien „Tagging“ das Feld der Erschließung? Was ist da eigentlich mit der Metadaten Diskussion?
In the last two-three years a huge amount has been written about tagging and folksonomies, much of it with the bright-eyed enthusiasm of those who haven’t seen the present state of affairs in a broader light; but where is the fight-back from the formal classificationists, who hither-to ruled unchallenged in this area? Have such giants as the Library of Congress and the Dewey Decimal System fallen at the first hurdle?
Tagging is the assigning of arbitrary tags to content by amateurs (typically content creators, editors or readers) and folksonomies are systems built from the ground up using these tags. Tags have no formal meanings and there are no constraints placed upon them. Folksonomies are central to systems such as flickr, del.icio.us and the whole web 2.0 approach.
Formal classifications, such as the the Library of Congress and the Dewey Decimal System are rigorous systems in which trained individuals assign subject categories to content. Each category has a description and is long lived—categories don’t change even when the words used to describe the topic in popular culture change. Thus the LoC still calls cars automobiles, because that’s what they were called when they first entered the system.
So what’s wrong with folksonomies taking over from classification? Well, a great deal. The two approaches generate very different kinds of information spaces which are suitable for different things, and there are things which each provides which the other cannot. Folksonomies are great for dealing with peer-created ephemeral content, creators or consumers can very quickly tag content in ways which is meaningful in the community in which it is created and shared, other consumers in that community (who share the community values and tag meanings) have no problem interpreting the meaning of the tags. Folksonomies fall down, however, when tags are either very loaded, mean widely different things to different communities or to the same community in different contexts.
Examples of situations in which classifications succeed where folksonomies appear to repeatedly fail include:
Differentiation between subject and object (academic studies of art vs artistic studies of academics, for example).
Clear naming of countries, parties and groups involved in armed struggle.
Linking communities of interest across barriers of natural language and (sub-)culture.
Clear naming in the face of meaning change (the reclaiming of the word „queer“, for example)
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