Over-Dose, Under-dose and Social Media

Tagging has taken on a new version with the popularity of social media. The combination of all the tagging and metadata tools we have read along with the popularity of social media should be combined to create the perfect tool for historians. This would lead to an accessible source for historians to use and find important piece of history. The years I have spent working in social media have trained me in the non-academic use of tagging. If I’m working on the Instagram for the sports team I work for I have many options of how to tag a photo and those various options can influence how many people know that we exist.  Using tools that combine traditional methods of library cataloguing and social media tagging within blogs or other forums can elevate internet friendly academic historical work.

                The experience I have had using Gallaudet’s DSpace is a key example of the importance of using accurate wording to tag items in online archives. DSpace holds a majority of the important pieces of Deaf history that Gallaudet has access to. This unique collection gives the searcher access to hundreds of pieces of information of everything from alumni cards to photographs of students, along with information about “heroes” to the Deaf community. The problem with Dspace is that it does not utilize an effective tagging system as describe in our readings this week.  What Dspace does instead is over tag each piece that is in its online archive. At times, this problem leaves the archive unusable and inaccessible unless the user plans a few hours searching through each piece of the archive, a reminder of searching through boxes at an archive, truly the anti-tagging system. While the information that Dspace provides access to some of the most important tools in analyzing Deaf history, the metadata has left this piece of history in the same place that most Deaf history is left… lost. A true disappointment, given the importance placed on Gallaudet in Deaf American history. It makes one wonder how organized their libraries may be.

                The goal of making online archives more user-friendly will be more popular once historians accept digital history as a true academic form of history. Until that time we will continue to struggle searching through archives that either have an over dose of metadata or just not enough metadata. Honestly though, isn’t the search process part of the joy of being a historian.

Shawn Clements

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