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Folksonomy : a multi-perspective view

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Beneath the Metadata: Some Philosophical Problems with Folksonomy by Elaine Peterson

Nice explanation of the rationale behind the ’soul’ of tagging vs the traditional taxonomy

To quote :

Philosophical relativism appears to be the underlying philosophy behind folksonomies. Because of those underpinnings, it is possible to jettison the limitations of a traditional classification statement such as “A is not B”. In a folksonomy system, “A is relative to B”, because each item’s index terms will depend on the individual user and the tags he or she decides to use. A philosophy of relativism allows folksonomy to draw on many users with various perceptions to classify a document instead of relying on one individual cataloger to set the index terms for that item. Thus, classification terms become relative to each user. Certainly all individuals’ perceptions are influenced by their own experiences and cultures, whereas the professional cataloger, even if trying to be unbiased, has only one viewpoint. Yet to include all viewpoints opens up a classification scheme to the inconsistency that allows a work to be both about A and not about A. There is no question that an individual might have a personal, valid interpretation of a text. That is not the issue. The issue is that adding enough of those individual interpretations through tags can lead to inconsistencies within the classification scheme itself.


Some of the problems with folksonomies can be traced to problems inherent with relativism. The first is that folksonomy tags are not merely “messy”, they can be inaccurate. Because they assume a non-Aristotelian stance, the tags allow contraries to exist. If I tag an article with the subject “white horse” and you tag it “black horse”, that is all right since both can coexist in a folksonomy classification scheme. The problem with relativism is the question: “relative to what?” Each Internet user is bringing to bear on the item a different linguistic and cultural background. Although this is an inherent strength of folksonomies (since it recognizes many valuable individual perspectives), it can also lead to the existence of contraries. A folksonomy advocate might reply that this is not true since the tags are relative to each user. Yet, within the database itself, tagging allows an inconsistency to exist.

and more…

Every solution comes with a new set of problems, every empowerment comes with some form of chaos, stupidity of the crowds tag along with the wisdom of crowds.

Written by anol

November 22nd, 2006 at 5:31 am

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