Way back in my early days, before I learned to be a junior-high conformist, I used to collect insects. To their credit, my parents nurtured my interest, helping me get the supplies I wanted—mounting pins, cardboard, boxes for my specimens, etc. I loved the idea of bringing order to my collection by separating critters into their respective boxes and tagging them by laboriously printing information on little slips of paper, which were then mounted on the tall pins above each specimen.
While I am not inherently an organized person, this process of classifying appealed to me deeply. I think I wanted a bit of order in my disorganized little mind. Years later, cataloging books had a similar attraction. As a school librarian, I loved the idea that I could look out over my collection and tell myself that all those wonderful books were in their places, waiting to be found by seeking students. Lately, I have been thinking about tagging and folksonomies and how they work together to bring a modicum of order to the vast, unruly internet.
Before delving into my topic, definitions are certainly in order. In cyberspeak, tagging is appending keywords to websites so that users can find the sites later. It is the descendent of bookmarking, a web browser feature from earlier days. I can remember when I had a long list of bookmarks saved to my favorite computer in my preferred browser. I have always been leery of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and back in my early searching days I was a devoted Netscape user. If I were searching for pages about endangered animals for use with 8th-grade science students, I would create a bookmark folder with that label and file the URLs into it.
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