Alexis Wichowski discusses folksonomies and tagging as a way in which outlying information (not happening in the mainstream of the information environment) is managed in “Survival of the Fittest.” She says that folksonomies are tags, used by everyday or “ordinary” users, that have created a new information organization system to help manage the volume of information online. Tags can be used to simply remind a user to return to a particular site or to organize them based on content or other descriptors for ease of retrieval and use. Wichowski discusses their evolution over time and their uniqueness from traditional metadata schemas or controlled vocabularies used in the information science world; one flaw she points out about folksonomies is their lack of context. Wichowski starts the article by stating that information must be useful and findable, and the natural language can contribute to the discoverability of information simply because it has been described in language familiar to those seeking the content.
Mary W. Elings and Gunter Waibels’s “Metadata for All” describes the challenges faced by institutions and inconsistency in metadata. They describe the various standards used within libraries, archives, and museums and cover the history of the use of those standards and how they have evolved or moved to others over time. They argue for modifying the standards based on material type, rather than institution or community (library, archives, museum, etc.) type. For instance, cultural heritage materials at museums, libraries, and archives would all be described using the same standards, while books at those same institutions would all be described using their own set of standards separate from cultural materials. The current lack of interoperability ultimately negatively impacts user experiences in accessing resources, which is detrimental to all of the communities mentioned.
I think online tagging both facilitates access to information but can also make it more difficult in some situations. Users who are used to getting relevant search results by using a colloquial term via Google may be surprised when that same search yields no results in a library catalog or database. The Library of Congress Subject Headings are often outdated, such as the much discussed change from ‘Illegal Aliens’ subject heading to ‘Noncitizens’ last year. The lack of natural language in the subject headings make some research more difficult than necessary, and it omits certain groups of people and perspectives. The lack of diversity among those in the field is reflected in the language used, and the natural language used in online tagging and folksonomies offers a chance to include some of those underrepresented populations and to ultimately make the information realm more inclusive in its descriptions.
While I know that interoperability among libraries, archives, and museums would have a great impact on the discoverability of resources, I wonder how feasible this move is. MARC has been rumored to be on its way out for decades but is still in use. Even within the library in which I work, multiple standards being used (MARC in the catalog, Dublin Core in the institutional repository and digitized special collections, EAD for archival finding aids, etc.). Those standards are content-based but having multiple systems of access can lead to confusion and lack of use. Trying to cross populate content management systems or adding a discovery layer can help, but still leads to confusion and there are often just too many clicks to get to the actually content. And lastly, the institutions discussed in the readings are often constrained by budgets and may only be able to afford one platform with one metadata standard for all content.