This has been languishing as a draft post - probably because the subject area sparked too many ideas to get them all down. This was from a relatively recent attendance at the excellent Content 2.0 conference in London and amongst a host of inspiring talks I found myself particularly excited by Matt Locke - Head Of Innovation, BBC New Media - and his question: "What use are folksonomies?". The premise being that user generated tags allow for participation in classification systems and in so doing they also afford play within those classification hierarchies.
He put forward a list of reasons for why people tag:
- Future retrieval
- Contribution and sharing
- Attract attention
- Play and competition
- Self presentation
- Opinion expression
A statement that kept me thinking was that the success of a tagging system is predicated on serving the selfish motives of the individual. Chew on that. He also touched upon the ways in which classification systems make things visible and invisible and that this has both social and political consequences. This is really just a taster and if you are interested in categories and classification systems then the issues, touched lightly upon here, are drawn out in the very readable book by Geoffrey Bowker and Susan Leigh Star called 'Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences (Inside Technology)'