Thursday, November 23, 2006

Beneath the Metadata: Some Philosophical Problems with Folksonomy

A scholarly paper about choosing to use a foksonomy to organize data ...

"People have been trying to classify and organize information for thousands of years. There are many examples of cataloged items in ancient repositories, including items in the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. Taxonomy arose as an attempt to organize information about plants and animals in the physical world, and Aristotle is often considered the father of classification or taxonomy. In his Categories, he names Substances (nouns) and determines the nine distinctive things that can be said about a particular thing [1]. How we ultimately name something reflects the category to which we assign it. Through the development of categories, one is trying to answer the question, "What is it?"

Taxonomic methodology has also become important in mathematical set theory through discussions of set, class, aggregate, and collection [2]. Neo-Aristotelian realists are as interested today in taxonomy as they are in ontology. Accurate classification is important in most, if not all, disciplines.

In today's networked world of digital information, classification has become very important. One gathers, collects, and shares resources, making the organization of databases and websites crucial. Items that are different or strange can become a barrier to networking [3]. Therefore, with the advent of the Internet, structure and consistency of classification or indexing schemes has taken on a new relevancy.

... The choice to use folksonomy for organizing information on the Internet is not a simple, straightforward decision, but one with important underlying philosophical issues. Although folksonomy advocates are beginning to correct some linguistic and cultural variations when applying tags, inconsistencies within the folksonomic classification scheme will always persist. There are no right or wrong classification terms in a folksonomic world, and the system can break down when applied to databases of journal articles or dissertations. Folksonomists are confusing cataloging structure with personal opinions and subsequent social bookmarking. These are not the same thing, and they need to be separated."    (Continued via D-Lib Magazine)    [Usability Resources]

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