Now there's a title that will scare away most readers.
I've been thinking about folksonomies this week, occasioned by a post that Bruno Giussani made in his LunchOverIP blog about Gartner's "Hype Cycle" report. That report ranked folksonomies as a low benefit emerging technology.
He didn't report on why and I can't access the report, but that then was followed by a conversation this afternoon at work (broadcasting organization) with a smart colleague who was arguing that the tagging (i.e., folksonomy) and search capability built into the media-over-IP service we've begun to use in the past year will not be sufficient to enable users to find our content and that of our partners without implementation of metadata on our part and some form of professionally-designed taxonomy. Not just how do they find stuff, but also, how do they find our stuff?
Then, on the other hand, this evening I ran across a post, Folksonomy as Symbol, on the Berkman blog by Becca Tabasky that quotes a short pro-folksonomy essay (he calls them "bottoms-up taxonomies") by David Weinberger. He writes:
... If a folksonomy is a symbol, what is it a symbol of? ¶ First, folksonomies stick it to The Man... ¶ We don't need no stinkin' experts to organize ideas and information! There is, of course, inefficiency built into expert-based taxonomies because they have to choose one way of ordering, and that one way is necessarily infested with personal, class, and cultural biases. As Clay Shirky says, "Metadata is worldview." But beyond the inefficiency, simply having someone else have the authority to say 'It shall be filed thus' is a statement of political authority. Even when the experts do a good job—as they usually do, because they're experts—it is still an implicit statement that someone else's way of thinking is better than yours. ...
... Folksonomies also embrace excess. Publishing and broadcasting by their nature require us to trim the fat from our world. That's how those systems survive ...
Excellent essay, but then my colleague also made some excellent points. For us professional media types, nothing defines the divide between the way we've done business throughout my 37-year career (and before) and the way we'll likely be doing business for the next 37 years than the admissibility of user organization of media content. This is core value territory. Are we to have self-organization for "small craft" content (videos of cats swinging on fans) and expert organization for "big craft" content? Or is there a role for both?
We broadcasters need to understand that all curation doesn't need to be done on the ground on a program-by-program basis. That's an artifact of the scarcity paradigm that's constrained us for decades. Like most humans, we're good at making necessities into virtues. But in an abundance paradigm, not only doesn't curation need to happen at the program level, it doesn't need to be done only by us. It's not hard to envision curation at the five- or ten thousand-foot level -- which might be a working definition of taxonomies -- existing simultaneously and productively with user curation at ground level.