Folksonomy: Tagging w/o the Mess

There are many people who are worried about the idea of users (visitors to websites) placing tags on items for categorization.  It seems to me that people who are against any person (especially those they deem to be uneducated) creating tags or categories to place internet items are not wholly off base.  There could be a possibility that mis-educated, undereducated, or uneducated people would create a myriad of tags making it impossible for other users to utilize tag features to locate items on the internet.  They complain that it would be some sort of digital anarchy.

Recently, I have been increasingly using tags to organize websites using delicious.  This program allows me to locate a website, store the site, and tag it for future use.  For the most part I try to put as many tags on an item as I can. Basically, when I tag I am trying to forecast any and all keywords that can be associated with the item.  For instance, if I am tagging the website for the Imperial War Museum, I would create tags such as “primary sources, archive, museum, research, UK, war, imperialism” and so on.  This way, in the future, when I want to access the site, I can type in any one of the mentioned tags and be able to locate the source.

Why can’t the same thing be applied to items in a digital archive or a museum’s online collection.  I guess a lot of people will complain that typical, everyday users are not capable of creating meaningful tags.  But, honestly, meaningful to whom?  The purpose of museums (online, digital,or analog) is to store items and create access for the public.  Why would a museum want to spend exorbitant amounts of money to collect and store information, only to hide it.  I say let people tag and see what happens.

The great thing about technology is that museums can monitor tags that people put on items and use add the relevant terms to the items tag database.  This process is identified by the term folksonomy which is where the end-user places their own tags on items and the best or most relevant tags become apart of the colloquial language to identify items.  You know, let the “folks” label items.  They are ultimately the end-user, so why not make it accessible.  I feel that this is just another way of making information accessible and relevant to everyone.  It’s the future, nay it is the present.  Museums: Don’t be left behind.

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