Tag Literacy & Distributed Classification Systems

If I could produce the same quality of work as Ulises seems to do on such a regular basis then I’d be, um, Ulises probably… either his latest offering, Tag Literacy, is well worth a look.

A few select quotes:

“Decisions regarding how to classify things which used to be undertaken by humans in collectivity are now carried out by humans individually, while the code aggregates and represents those decisions.”

“Folksonomies… do not require consensus as much as they measure the consensus already established around the use of certain words. In other words, folksonomies assume consensus without involving humans in the process.”

“I merely want to call attention to this different way in which we are defining and constructing sociality —a sociality that is the result of code doing things to the resources of detached individuals.”

Of particular interest to tagaholics will probably be part II ‘Guidelines for Generating Tags’ in which Ulises outlines among other things, what makes a good tag. However, for me the most interesting point of this article is his take on the ‘why would people bother using tags when we have Google’ issue that Lindon & I have been rattling on about for a bit:

“In short, Google yields search results that represent attention allocated by computers, while DCSs yield search results that represent attention allocated by humans. The former method (computer attention) is cheap, and hence ideal for indexing large amounts of information quickly; the latter method (human attention) is not so cheap, and not so quick, but it can yield more socially valuable information because it means a human being has made the association between a resource and a particular tag.”

Which is a very good point… why, for example, do I notice a tendency to use Wikipedia instead of Google for general knowledge queries… can the same be said of tags? Having said that though, are we not tagging as we type?

I’m not sure. I think that perhaps the most important aspect that’s missing here is the consideration of the tagger (rather than the user of the tags). Granted tagging might yield better results, but why would I tag when I am already busy enough writing what I’m writing and letting Google do it’s stuff with this.

I think wikipedia works because of the significant community that has formed around it. Tagging doesn’t have that same capacity… unless, that is, you have a community of people dedicated to tagging everything else, wikipedia-style, for the results that Ulises talks about here.

But still thinking about this, an interesting article…