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There have been many discussions and debates around the use of natural language versus approved, published subject terms to assist users in information retrieval. Social networking provides users with the ability to add their own terminology in the form of user created tags.
The process of users adding their own keyword terms is commonly called ‘social tagging’ and creates additional access points for online content such as cataloguing records, images, reviews, blog postings, and bookmarks. These tags allow users to search for and retrieve content that is categorised by common-use, natural language terms and phrases. Tags can be applied by the author at the time the content is created or later by others accessing the content depending on the availability of a tagging function.
To understand the terms folksonomy and taxonomy I turn to Vuorikari’s 2007 report Folksonomies, Social Bookmarking and Tagging: State-of-the-art which provides the following explanation “A folksonomy is most notably distinguished from a taxonomy in that the authors of the tagging system are often the main users, and sometimes originators of the content, to which the tags are applied. This differs from the classical library setting where professional librarians are in charge of cataloguing, i.e. adding metadata and keywords, but are not the main users of the cataloguing system, nor originators of the content.”
Social tagging through sites such as LibraryThing provides another layer of useful information that can be incorporated into library catalogues with the advent of LibraryThing for Libraries. It’s great to see traditional and formal accessibility being complemented by current and informal tags that users can create themselves to assist their information retrieval.
For those interested in the application of taxonomies and folksonomies in the wider context have a listen to this podcast featuring Stephanie Lemieux who is in the business of working with taxonomies to create intuitive search experiences for users.
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