Session Update from Atlanta: Power to the People

Power to the People: Social Tagging

Sherman Clarke, Moderator

Lauren Cornell,

Jenn Riley, Indiana University Digital Library Project

Ross Singer, Georgia Tech

Sherman Clarke‘s Introduction

Lauren Cornell (
Intersection of social tagging and controlled vocabulary
Case study of Rhizome – 10 year old non-profit. Commission, give out grants, publications, archives.

Opportunity to curate art on- and offline. User-generated website – there is mediation through organization.

Two kinds of archives –
Each work is indexed with a biography. Metadata. 180 term controlled vocabulary had become insufficient to describe artists’ works. Enhance controlled vocabulary – expensive in terms of labor, time-intensive (3 FTE staff).

Allow people to describe their own work and contextualize – tagging as a form of networking!

Lack of a working new media art vocabulary. Get input on changing the metadata – from their mailing list of users. Users don’t want to tell librarians about vocabulary, rather show.

2-tiered system – retaining controlled vocab (Rhizome Terms) while interjecting social tags (Artist Terms).

When a tag gains a certain amount of popularity, a moderated discussion begins on the blog about adding the term to the controlled vocabulary.

Showed an example of tagging overload (this was mentioned in Megan Winget’s presentation at VRA 2007)!!!

Important to distinguish that this is self-tagging, so it is still controlled to a degree.

CC licenses? Content remix?

Term categories became irrelevant (Genre Type and Object).

NEH Forging the Future – creation of tools to bridge online archives.

Showed page – opportunity for Museums to reach out.

Jenn Riley (Indiana University Digital Library Project)
Talking about high-level decision making process. Referenced Eileen Fry’s flickr experiment presented at the 2006 ARLIS/NA conference about generating expert-supplied terms.
10 year old database DIDO.
How do we design a system which allows users to participate?
Think: what is tagging for??
Golder & Huberman article (The Structure of Collaborative Tagging) which categorized tags

What purpose do tags serve?

  • Identifying object
  • What it is
  • Who owns it
  • Refining categories
  • Qualities or characteristics
  • Self reference
  • Task organizing

Beyond tags:
Getting structured metadata as well (dates, etc.)
Reviews, commentary
Subjective information
Relationships (adding secondary sources, multiple versions, etc.)

Decisions to make to implement this system


Libraries have been expanding the “who” role – copy cataloging!, vendor records, as well as the “deprofessionalization” of the cataloging profession (paraprofessionals, etc.)

  • Anybody
  • Those who register
  • IU community only
  • Specific roles within the IU community
  • Specific designated users

Taging isn’t necessarily unstructured!
Penntags (UPenn system is separately searchable)

  • Fix errors
  • Some metadata elements (subjective only, factual only, commentary, “extra” data elements)
  • Any metadata element (Wiki-like)

Why would users do this – tagging is work!!

  • money
  • manage personal resources
  • assistance with a needed task
  • recognition
  • contribution to a greater good
  • fun!

Library- created metadata is not necessarily consistent and error-free!!

Options for control:

  • No formal editorial mechanisms
  • Streamlined approval mechanisms
  • Users contributions must be verified

System contributions to controlled data
What do we need to do the facilitate control of taggin?

  • Pick list
  • Normalization algorithms
  • Spell check
  • Behind the scenes authority files

Ross Singer, Georgia Tech
The Communicat
What can fall through the cracks – lack of subject collection. No relationship to outside world
The catalog as an inventory system – moving away from a one-to-one system for public display
Value in the relationships and contexts between the objects – he sees this as the biggest value rather than the object metadata

Compiling webpages, citations, Interlibrary loans, EAD finding aids, as well as catalog records. Users would use a social bookmarking tool.
Ensuring that these groups of items are permanently accessible, shareable across institutional academic communities

Users should be able to opt-in
Register to the GaTher, and continue to use their own application (link resolvers will do the footwork). Keep them in their comfort zone.

Created Umlaut (shows SFX in the background).

Many faces of GaTher
Citation manager
Reserves system
Subjet/Research guides
Personal library
Group library

The “Research Trail”
Tracking the user’s path through information landscapes and annotation surrounding them

Multiple levels of this universe
“Core” juried resources
“Community” items added by Georgia Tech group


  1. Did anyone catch the name of the public library Ross used as an examples of a catalog with blogging integrated into it? (It’s a new one.. not Ann Arbor)

  2. If you want to see Jenn’s and Ross’s ppt files, they’re available off Lauren’s ppt or pdf is expected, as is Elizabeth Lilker’s report.

    At a meeting this morning, one of my NYU colleagues who went to Computers in Libraries mentioned that Hennepin County P.L. was doing some innovative work that was vaguely similar to Ann Arbor. I don’t remember if Ross mentioned H.C.P.L.

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