Thursday, February 16, 2006

Internet: Folksonomy

The online world is quickly developing a complex sociology that affects the entire society. Here is a new term that has been floating around library circles nationwide due to that effect.

Folksonomy - a neologism, or recently coined word, for a practice of collaborative categorization using freely chosen keywords. This feature has begun appearing in a variety of social software, a broad term used to describe software-based tools that facilitate interaction and collaboration. At present, the best examples of online folksonomies are social bookmarking sites like, a bookmark sharing site, Flickr, for photo sharing, and 43 Things, for goal sharing.

Folksonomy is currently understood somewhat narrowly as "tagging". Social sciences and anthropology have long studied "folk classifications" - how average people (non-experts) classify the world around them. Folksonomies work best when a large number of users all describe the same piece of information.

A derivation of taxonomy, which is from "taxis" and "nomos" (from Greek). Taxis means classification. Nomos (or nomia) means management. Folk is people (from German). So folksonomy means people's classification management. (from

How will this affect our day-to-day operations? Will people become frustrated with the Library of Congress Subject Headings that we use or will this help them better understand the system?

1 comment:

Doris Dixon said...

I will not pretend to completely understand what a folksonomy is. I am intrigued, however, by the idea of vocabularies and technologies evolving to help people connect and communicate. You ask how a new collective way of understanding and naming things would change the way we do things at the library(such as find information) and how it might impact Library of Congress subject headings. I don't know, but I think that keyword searching has already made LOC subject headings MORE powerful and MORE useful to non-librarians. Once someone is trained to search by keyword, they do not have to know that the heading for cookbooks in "cookery." And a well designed tool like IG's "related titles" feature allows them to take advantage of all the work that catalogers have done to classify items by subject. I will miss IG keyword/related titles. The web interface and circle version of keyword are inferior in my opinion.

By the way, I found this article using your new index!