MySmarTerm 13: Folksonomy

No, it’s not a new trend in music. The term was coined by Thomas Vander Wal, an American information architect, who in 2004 came up with the term by merging “folk” and “taxonomy”. It is also known as collaborative tagging, social classification, social indexing, social tagging, community cataloguing, cataloguing by crowd, social classification and ethnoclassification.

Folksonomy refers to a tagging classification system done by the users themselves, as opposed to tagging done by the developers of online content (such as bloggers) who create their own tags to classify their information. The first platforms to use folksonomy were and Flicker which allow users to add tags to the information. Such types of large folksonomys help , for example, to select preferred terms or extract a controlled vocabulary, as explained by Quintarelli.

J. Trant, from the University of Toronto, wrote a very interesting article entitled “Studying Social Tagging and Folksonomy: A Review and Framework” describing folksonomy as “an informal, organic assemblage of related terminology”. He goes further to say that “We can think of tagging as a process (with a focus on user choice of terminology); of folksonomy as the resulting collective vocabulary (with a focus on knowledge organization); and of social tagging as a socio-technical context within which tagging takes place (with a focus on social computing and networks).

Now, it seems that one of the issues of folksonomy is the lack of consistency, which is obvious given the fact that millions of users pick their very unique tags, so how can this be normalized? Well, according to Shirky this lack of precision is a problem with folksonomic terminology, but he attributes this to user-behaviour, rather than to the nature of folksonomy itself, and predicts that tags will become self-normalizing.

Not to confuse with personomy, although they are related in that the collection of all tags assigned by a user is a personomy while a collection of personomies is a folksonomy. The subject is more complex than what I mention here, of course, but at least you might be interested in reading more. For a simple but thorough reading about folksonomies, I recommend you read the link below called “Folksonomies: power to the people”.

Sources and further reading:

Carmel, David; Uziel, Erel; Guy, Ido; Mass, Yossi, and Roitman, Haggai. Folksonomy-Based Term Extraction for Word Cloud Generation

Glassey, Olivier. When Taxonomy Meets Folksonomy: Towards Hybrid Classification of Knowledge?

Quintarelli, Emanuele. Folksonomies: power to the people

Shirky, Clay, “Folksonomies & Tags: The rise of user-developed classification”.

Trant, J. Studying Social Tagging and Folksonomy: A Review and Framework.

Zdzisław S. Hippe, Juliusz L. Kulikowski, Teresa Mroczek . Human – Computer Systems Interaction: Backgrounds and Applications. Social Tagging Systems.


2 Comments on “MySmarTerm 13: Folksonomy

  1. Very good presentation! As for folksonomies in practice, I’m afraid that it’s not very easy and simple to deal with problems of interoperability when tags are not controlled in some way. That’s why, at least in library systems, we still use the so called controlled indexing languages. But I think we have to think further from the user point of view.

  2. Thanks! Yes, I think this certainly will get more complicated until someone comes up with a way to make it more interoperable.
    Thanks for your feedback!

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