What is Tagging?


Tagging, the practice of attaching a descriptive word or phrase to a piece of online content for the purpose of linking it to other related content, has become a mainstream activity in the past year. Tagging is now being used in very creative and functional ways by people in all kinds of communities, scholarly and otherwise, and even allows researchers to dynamically create coding and classification schema that reflect the collective wisdom of their community. Nearly every website designed for sharing media — whether audio, video, images or other media — includes a field for the author to tag the media at the time of upload. Most all of these sites also allow viewers to add their own tags. Social bookmarking sites allow users to tag — and in some cases, highlight and annotate — web pages for easy retrieval later. The power of community tagging is that large collections can be built easily by leveraging the collective efforts of the community. In the hands of students, it can also be a powerful way to develop information and knowledge management skills.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the museums you know best?

  • Crowd-sourcing visitors for "data" and "opinion" is a critical aspect for museums to understand audiences and to benefit from the latent experiences of amateur experts. We currently use social tagging as a way for users to help us describe artworks in their own words and then we use that data to drive a browsing interface for those who don't know what to search for - rob.stein rob.stein Apr 30, 2010
  • Many online resources use automated systems to deliver information, with user tagging (for want of a better description) we can offer simple routes into delivering a less automated response by allowing and inviting the public to engage with and enhance the content for other visitors. This can be achieved with activities involving research or equally a game like experience. There is both fun and enrichment available in equal measure for those who take part. - eric.bates eric.bates May 4, 2010

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Tagging seems to be the wrong name for this topic. Tagging popularly limits or refers to personal cataloging of online content. This is definitely part of the story, but I'm more curious about the potential for crowd-sourced visitor data and opinion. I think methods for treating / harvesting this kind of data from users is coming soon, and currently unexplored w.r.t. museums and education. - rob.stein rob.stein Apr 30, 2010
  • The one thing that needs to be made explicit is that the tagging needs to be open i.e. people other than the application's owners need to be able to filter the data by the tags! A public API a must, then. Obvious, I know....- jeremy.ottevanger jeremy.ottevanger May 1, 2010
  • Is tagging a kind of collective intelligence, or is it something completely different? There are some themes here that are similar to the ones on the collective intelligence topic page. - ninmah ninmah May 5, 2010

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • I agree with Rob Stein, not sure if tagging is the right name for this topic. I am increasingly excited about the potential for tagging to track shifts in language, especially as our efforts to tag works increases and can be measured against other crowd-sourced visitor data and opinions. I would love to have read tags about abstraction in the 1910s and 20s, and be able to cross-reference tags written by museum visitors in 2010. What words would an 8-year old tag use to a work of art in 2010, versus an 8-year old in 2025? The number one tag we collect in our galleries is "cool," not very helpful in building intelligent collections management data. However, that word already sounds dated, and am curious about what insights we can gain in tagging contemporary collections before they are no longer contemporary. - rosanna.flouty rosanna.flouty May 4, 2010rosanna.flouty- rosanna.flouty rosanna.flouty May 4, 2010

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?


As part of the Victoria and Albert Museum Search the Collections, http://collections.vam.ac.uk/ we are asking the public to help in selecting the best crop for an image used to represent an object. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/crowdsourcing/ The existing crops are auto selected and benefit from a viewers eye. - eric.bates eric.bates May 4, 2010
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