Ethnoclassification:faceted tagging

June 16, 2007

Ethnoclassification in the broadest sense refers to “how people classify and categorize the world around them (Merholz 2004).” Star (1996) used the term ethnoclassification in reference to the work of her research group who were exploring the convergence of the sociology of science and the sociology of work with digital libraries. Their work, as ethnographers in a way, involved tracing the web backwards by observing how readers and writers routinely adopt and adapt formal classification schemes with their own personal everyday classification systems in their local work spaces, filing cabinets, computer desktops, web browsers, and group-level software (Star 1996).

Faceted browse interface or faceted tagging refers to a trend in support for finding information with tags that goes beyond tag clouds. Sinha uses the example of the interface of wine.com which can be browsed under the facet of price, region, type which can be undertaken in any order: region:price or region:type (Sinha 2006). Hebig (2005) used the term structured tagging and semantic tagging. He applied the idea of faceted navigation to tagging using tags consisting of a prefix, a colon and a suffix like is:quicklink, project:ilm or via:papascott. Buzzword: structured tagging. He noted that Rainer Wasserfuhr was using colons in a similar way to create faceted tags in his deli.cio.us bookmarks.

Folksonomies are categories, tags or key words used by writers and readers to facilitate and optimize Internet searches. The communal virtual archives is flooded with unending torrents of digital data and users need high performance search devices to optimize search engine results. The term ‘folksonomy’ (volksonomy) coined by Vander Wal in 2004, captures the spirit of a revivified Internet where users train and are trained to use free software. Although I find the term itself to be inelegant, I use it because of its brilliance. It works as a key word searching device. See (Smith 2004, Mathes 2004, Vander Wal 2007).

In his blog Vander Wal (2007) described how the term folksonomy emerged organically during insider conversation in 2004 where he considered using the prefix folk- instead of tax- in taxonomy to create the word folksonomy: a  “user-created bottom-up categorical structure development with an emergent thesaurus.”

If I type folksonomy I will probably find sites related to my own interest in connectivity/content issues. For many people Googling is already a verb used in everyday language, helping users navigate and find instead of surfing and searching for information on the Internet. I have worked with key words in bibliography software EndNote for many years. Now I can share other users searches with social bookmarking freeware such as deli.cio.us, Swicki and Google’s own user-customized-search. Sites that are tagged with efficient, relevant tags (folksonomies) on topics that are situated within current conversations, will get more hits.
Key words: folksonomy, folksonomies, tagging, tag clouds, social bookmarking, ethnoclassification, deli.cio.us, Flickr, wordpress categories, faceted tagging, findability, SEO, semantic tagging, taxonomy, categorization, categories, ethnoclassification:faceted tagging, folksonomy: faceted tagging, semantic web,

Webliography and bibliography

Hebig, Haiko. 2005. “Semantic tagging.” >> http://hebig.org/blog. Accessed June 15, 2007.

Mathes, Adam. 2004. “Folksonomies, Computer Mediated Communication, LIS590CMC, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, December 2004. Accessed October 2006.

Merholz, Peter. 2004. “Metadata for the Masses.” >> Adaptive Path. October 19. Accessed June 15, 2007.

Sinha, Rashmi. 2006. “Findability with tags: Facets, clusters, and pivot browsing.” >> http://www.rashmisinha.com. July 27. Accessed June 15, 2007.

Smith, Gene. 2004. “Folksonomy: Social Classification.”>> atomiq Posted in: Information Architecture on Aug 3, 2004. Accessed June 18, 2007.

Star, Susan Leigh. 1996. “Slouching toward Infrastructure.” Digital Libraries Conference Workshop. Illinois Research Group on Classification. Graduate School of Library and Information Science University of Illinois. Accessed June 15, 2007.

Vander Wal, Thomas. 2007. “Folksonomy Coinage and Definition.” February 2. Accessed June 18, 2007.

©© Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Ethnoclassification, Folksonomy, Tag Clouds and Faceted Tagging.” >> Speechless. June 15.

©© Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Ethnoclassification, Folksonomy, Tag Clouds and Faceted Tagging.” >> Google docs. June 15.


I created the first Adobe Photoshop digitage above called “Folksonomies” (2006) was an image I generated from my Del.icio.us tag cloud. Deli.cio.us is one of a number of Web 2.0 technologies I have been using since September 2006. Deli.cio.us is a free social bookmarking tech tool that works with folksonomies, tagging or tag clouds. The other layers are a 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, 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. The second is called Folksonomy II (2006) using another of my Del.icio.us tag cloud tag as a backdrop for the BC mountains merged with a section of Friedrich’s painting of the German Romantic period.

2 Responses to “Ethnoclassification:faceted tagging”

  1. vanderwal Says:

    You may want to look at you definition of folksonomy again as a folksonomy is done by tagging from the reader not the creator of the content. The definition that does not change drastically (as it does on wikipedia) is at http://vanderwal.net/folksonomy.html

  2. I altered my definition based on your informative comments.

    In my own personal approach to using hypertext I have found that the roles of writer and reader have become blurred.

    Thank you for drawing my attention to your blog entry and to the article by Gene Smith. Mathes (2004) mentions both of you but your much needed blog entry of February 2007 makes the emergence of the term folksonomy that much clearer.

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