23 August 2006 8:30pm

I’ve been reading the preface to Elaine Svenonious’ The Intellectual Foundation of Information – that last book that I thought would be my introduction textbook, was not. This is. No silliness about “information packages” here. A bare 198 pages, but she packs a punch. In fact, Elaine has already punched me before I’ve even made it to the first chapter:

p. xiii “… metadata that are derived and metadata that are assigned: the former provide the means to find information, and the latter provide the normalization required to organize it.”

This simple statement combined with a lot of thinking lately about folksonomies and the way some folks are wonderfully organized with their tagging, and I realized that the metadata assigned are the very puzzle pieces being thrown out by today’s up and coming information users. The internet-bred population strongly disagrees with / doesn’t relate to the traditional metadata assignments “required to organize” the information and so now we have an internet in utter chaos with open-ended structures like Wikipedia, tagging, open-source software, and our information discovery comes through social networking rather than institutionalized subject terms.

Or, perhaps, another way to see the change is to say that now everyone is taking it upon themselves to assign metadata, but only in so far as they can organize it for their own purposes … personalized, contexual metadata rather than broad, generic concepts. And this is where the social networking element became a necessary partner – without the institutionalized standards, these personalized tags can be all over the map for the same piece of information. But by comparing your tags with others who use similar tags, you have a new filtering method that uses social context rather than subject indexing. It’s all developing this way for a reason – the personalized tagging hand-in-hand with the networking – they require each other in order to even come close to replacing traditional assigned metadata. And deep down inside, I believe they will. Before reading the above quote from Elaine, I only saw tagging as the new information organization method … but thinking of tagging in terms of folksonomies makes more sense … the possibilities (both bad and good)!