Monday, June 30, 2008

Folksonomy Musings (article and poem)

In a moment of insomnia, I've decided to post the only real pearl of wisdom I gained from the technology portion of the Allied Media Conference, and it can be summed up in the equation: Folksonomy= folk + tagging = more democratic pathways of information.

I know, it sounds so theoretical that you're probably either wanting to click away in annoyance or preparing to commence mental masturbation, but if you make it to the end, then there is a geeky yet kinda cute (if I do say so myself) conclusion.

It seems that even the "experts" find Web 2.0 to be a nebulous concept, but from what I gather, it refers to a new way of creating, accessing, and thinking about information that has come about via the internet, but what makes it 2.0 is how we're using it. When the process of creating content becomes communal like in open source, when the process of distribution becomes social like in youtube, when the process of cataloging becomes collective and democratic like in tagging (the blue highlighted words at the end of each blog entry that are actually searchable key terms), that's when we're operating in Web 2.0 space.

[skip this if you want to avoid theory] Let's take a second to deconstruct Folksonomy (folk + taxonomy) or "the practice and method of collaboratively creating and managing tags to annotate and categorize content" according to wikipedia. With tagging, we assign arbitrary associations that, rather than being based upon external, standardized cues, add meaning from our own experiences, allow us to highlight which aspects of a give piece of information are important to us, and allow us to connect with other people who categorize in similar ways to what we do.

Tagging is like identity. It is created based on reference points that shift according to whom is interpreting what and in which context. Content can inhabit multiple varied, intersecting and/or overlapping categories at any one time. There is a portion of it that has to do with the actual content but most of its meaning comes from how the user relate to it- how they call it, who they send it to, what they associate with it. Where as old-school internet searches operated by a tree-like structure, with one category embedded underneath another one (ie. to find soccer scores you would look under entertainment then sports then soccer then statistics), tagging only privileges one way of categorizing information above others in so far as it is more commonly cited and understood.

But is that enough to call it folk? Some of the distinguishers of things that fall under the category of folk in my mind are... it's something easy to teach yourself, something can be done almost anywhere by anyone, something that requires relatively little investment of time, and training, and/or money upfront. Let's remember who does and does not have the access to the internet and under what circumstances (things that make sense to check out on my laptop which I have 24 hour access to are different than what I would check out if I were on a public library computer for 20 min blocks). Let's remember who has the confidence and spare time to teach themselves (I only learned how to use some of these programs when I flew half way across the country to go to a conference). Lets remember that we only occasionally do it in the same room and almost never do it in the streets...

Other neat things to think about:
Zipcode tagging = what’s going on around you? Who could you meet? Possibility of real world connection.
Pivot browsing (browsing by using tags) = conversational flow

[You've made it past the techy part!] Why is this important? Because it means that we are learning new ways to relate to content, we are becoming actively engaged in the media we are consuming at each step of the process. Of course there is the issue that all of the infrastructure we use (like blogspot) is corporately consolidate and sustained mostly through data mining. Even though there are promising alternatives to corporate monoliths (such as instead of youtube), they have only a fraction of the traffic, and in a cyber world where there is too much everywhere all the time, distribution is an important consideration. It's democratic in the way that political parties and lobbying are, which is to say it's easy to bully.

In the end, web 2.0 is not anyones salvation. It is a tool that is less limiting, less consolidated, less inaccessible than television was, but its not local, its not class-blind, and it doesn't belong to us. We should let our imaginations be freed by it in-so-far as it creates new ways of relating to and with each other via technology but we should be cautious that we don't let it technology circumscribe our notions of what community and social networking actually mean.

Tags for my life 06.30.08
Lost, wandering, VA beach, Northampton, Marlboro College, in between, liminal, intersticial, borderlands, genderqueer, queer, white Puerto Rican, abstentia, unemployed, Buddhist, groundless ground, vulnerability, stronger, Afraid, Recovering, compassion, asexual, romantic, intimacy, connection, wrestling, kink, play, boi, post-modern, writing, teaching, Meg Mott, creating, media, documentaries, reflexive, Truth, dysfunctional family, baggage, lies, silence, confusion

1 comment:

Monica said...

Web 2.0 at it's finest in my admitedly highly biased opinion! Hehe. The whole idea of it just gives me the giggles.