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Marshall's Web Tool Blog

Training and Consulting in New Tools for Effective Web Use

This site is an archive of posts that I hope you will find useful. Please visit my new site at Marshallk.com.

Thinking About Tagging and Web 2.0

There's a great write up of the thinking proccess behind tagging and (as I read it)the supperiority of tagging over catagorization when it comes to the digital world over at Rashmi Sinha's blog RashmiSinha.com.

There are lots of pithy points made in a short article, and the discussion in the comments section is great. If there's anything in particular to excerpt, it's these two illustration and the article's conclusion.

These two images sum up much of what's written in the original article, but I really suggest you find the time to read it yourself. (And check out the author's bio.) It concludes with the following words:

To conclude, the beauty of tagging is that it taps into an existing cognitive process without adding add much cognitive cost. At the cognitive level, people already make local, conceptual observations. Tagging decouples these conceptual observations from concerns about the overall categorical scheme. The challenge for tagging systems is to then do what the brain does - intelligent computation to make sense of these local observations, and an efficient, predictable way to ensure findability.
When you tag your digital objects well (for you and others to find) and when the underlying programming of the tagging systems is good (rich, interoperable and portable)...then we're really getting somewhere in Web 2.0 world. Understanding how the thought proccesses in Web2.0 (like tagging) work is essential to pulling this new media experiment off.

So attempting to remix the above quoted article is going to be my contribution to the blogoposium1 event this week. Part of explaing Web 2.0 can be to say the following:

Web 2.0 is in part about using new technology to bring our web-use more in line with the free-form and hyper-efficient working of the human mind. Old systems of communication are inflexable and based on either/or thinking: an object is either type A or type B, people are either information producers or they are consumers, a particular use of an information-object is either the way it was intended or it's not. Now in Web2.0 we have the tools to mark and retrieve objects with an open number of signifiers (like tags), the line between information producer and consumer is far more blurred and transversable than before, and every information object can be reappropriated in as many ways as you can imagine (e.g. podcast audio-search-to-RSS, blog posts tagged into an attention stream, graphic illustrations pasted into a wiki ecosystem's history, etc.) Our brains are capable of amazing things, and now we are building the tools to transcend the logistical boundaries of the information past.

Not exactly an elevator pitch, but when that's what's needed I say: Web2.0 is about moving beyond static web-sites and into web-services that support the creation and consumption of remixable multi-media products by a much larger number of people than have been considered "proffesionals" in the past.

It's complicated, but it's not. The hardest part of adopting Web2.0 practices is breaking old web-use habits that don't serve us well anyway.

Resources: Cognitive Analysis of Tagging article, Blogoposium1 attention stream, explaining Web2.0, Articles I've written explicitely about Web2.0, items online that I've tagged with Tagging and with SocialBookmarking. Article on cognition of tagging found via Elearnspace, another good site.

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