Folksonomies as a Shape Shifting Topography of Self and the Other

October 20, 2006


Del.icio.us Topographies and Tag Clouds An Adobe Photshop image consisting of 5 layered images: my Del.icio.us cloud tag, title layer, google generated 3-D virtual space with branching rivers as metaphors for organically emerging rhizomic pathways,

a miniaturized image of Vancouver, BC’s skyline, the del.icio.us tag cloud image (my first since I began to use this free social bookmarking tech tool) and an altered topographical map of a site where a meteor landed. This final layer was inverted so the meteoric collision with the planet became the sun in this delicious cloud.

‘Folksonomies’ is an organic emerging term in an organic emerging system. Is it perhaps an example of autopoiesis constituting and nurturing its own rhizomic organization? There are economic, political, social as well as ontological and axiological dimensions to the unfolding taxonomy of cyberspace. Tag clouds leave visible trails of a blogger’s inner life. Unlike solitary browsing through library stacks or flipping through pages of a book, internet searching and browsing leaves digital imprints that allow us to retrace where we were yesterday in terms of our understanding of a topic. Theoretically how well we understand a debate or discussion informs how discerning we are in our judgments. Our ethical topography changes as we travel and encounter Others whose ideas and/or values resonate or are in dissonance with our own. Encounters with the stranger, one whose experience differs greatly from our own in some way, provides us with an opportunity to re-evaluate previously held beliefs or assumptions. In welcoming the Stranger in friendship with a heightened degree of hospitality that includes a willingness to tolerate ambiguity temporarily, to briefly at least set aside prejudices, we open ourselves to the possibility of fresh insight that expands for both of us. It is only through the invention of unique terms such as folksonomies, or ethnoclassification or perhaps tag.clouds that I might filter through infinite numbers of blogs on taxonomy and find the like-minded individual who is concerned about the potential emergence of an inclusive taxonomy that somehow includes the more socially vulnerable not as objects of charity but as fully participating members in civil society.

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