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?

  • Effective use of keywords is becoming extremely relevant since it’s one of the key factors for search engines. Allowing museum objects and collections to be tagged by users means not only a more open attitude –read respect- towards users’ contributions, but it increases searchability, thus visibility. And in History or Ethnological museums, for instance, social tagging may help to object identification or contextual info gathering.- conxa.roda conxa.roda Aug 26, 2011
  • As more museums create online portals to access their collections databases, creating a standard tagging system is crucial. While I agree with the points above about users' contributions, collection databases will be used more and more by students and scholars, and creating or agreeing upon a standardized way to tag collection info will be crucial. This would seem to be relevant not just in terms of finding an artwork, or looking up all the works by an artist in a collection, but also for linking scholarly articles to collection works, and to one another. - jason.trimmer jason.trimmer Aug 30, 2011
  • - seema.rao seema.rao Aug 30, 2011I think the emphasis on the collective in the definition. To me, the most useful tagging systems are driven by large volumes of taggers.
  • - jludden jludden Aug 31, 2011Simply tagging (classifying) digital content can increase access to the public (or museum field experts) to relevant information, but it also helps an organization internally better manage/preserve their data. I have seen more and more content experts (educators and conservators) use tagging to better understand their own content.

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

  • Social tagging / Folksonomy in Museums online catalogues / collections - conxa.roda conxa.roda Aug 26, 2011
  • Thinking through and creating 'best practices' for tagging scholar articles, collection entries, etc. - jason.trimmer jason.trimmer Aug 30, 2011
  • - seema.rao seema.rao Aug 30, 2011 I think the issue of volume might need to be addressed. Smaller museums might have a smaller pool of people doing the tagging.
  • - jludden jludden Aug 31, 2011 Using tagging, Museums can better manage (internally) their digital collections.
  • Tagging as a fun but meaningful gaming activity and way to engage visitors and online audiences with the collection. - nancy.proctor nancy.proctor Sep 1, 2011

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

  • Users are nearer to other users’ classifications/naming criteria than those from researchers’ or curators’. So, by admitting them, in fact museums are facilitating users to find what they are looking for. The more windows to knowledge, the better. Both types of entries –museum curators’ and audiences’– should be clearly identified not to misguide users’ quest - conxa.roda conxa.roda Aug 26, 2011
  • Agree that different tags that are entered should be clearly identified. This type of tagging is already being used, within 'closed' systems to help teachers find and develop curricular lesson plans (for example: the Walker and MIA's ArtsConnectED site, among others). - jason.trimmer jason.trimmer Aug 30, 2011
  • - seema.rao seema.rao Aug 30, 2011This could have a wonderful impact on interpretation--or--basically just noice. The issue to me again going to volumes. I think if a large enough pool is doing the tagging (say on a collections website) it could be useful. But, as Jason.trimmer said, I think there will need to be a means of creating best practices to balance the community voice, with the institutional and the scholarly.
  • - seema.rao seema.rao Aug 30, 2011I think that Jason.Trimmer is also right that this could be particularly useful, and easy to implement, tagging for specialty audiences. I can see this potentially as useful for peer-to-peer communication about the collection between K-12 educators. And, if deployed correctly, for peer-to-peer teen communication. I think in part it is b/c they are already using similar terminology within their community, so the tagging has a sort of resonance.
  • - jludden jludden Aug 31, 2011Tagging is going to have an ongoing impact on education and interpretation. I think the tagging of today is going to have a very large impact on digital experiences tomorrow. If we think about AR experiences that use layered information or geo-locating mobile applications or the growing capabilities of ultra high bandwidth, all of those things become exponentially richer (more useful) because of tagged content. (It’s been given context and relevance.)

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

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