Tagging and Folksonomies

Technology Description

Tags are non-hierarchical terms or keywords assigned to a piece of information by individuals to enable them to find that information again. Tags may be created by an individual or they may be assigned by an individual from a list of predefined terms or keywords.

Folksonomies are a user-driven approach to organizing information utilizing tags. Folksonomies are also referred to as social tagging, collaborative tagging, social classification, and social indexing. Folksonomies are defined by

  • The ability to create tags
  • The ability to manage those tags
  • The creation of a taxonomy based on those tags
  • The lack of hierarchy
  • The occurrence in a social environment

Sites that utilize folksonomies feature two basic functions:

  • Ability to add tags to digital content
  • Ability to take those tags and create navigational links connecting content with the same tags

There are several Internet sites that utilize tagging and folksonomies. They include:

Archival Applications

Folksonomies are an important development in the way that information is shared, because they democratize the organization of information and allow users to tag information in ways that are meaningful to them. Archivists can utilize tagging and folksonomies in a number of different ways. They include:

  • Enabling patrons to discover and rediscover content in collections
  • Allowing patrons to create links between collections that are not immediately obvious
  • Giving patrons the ability to create virtual bookshelves based on their tags
  • Providing patrons with powerful ways to organize and share their research

Case Studies in Archival Applications

Tiah Edmunson-Morton, “Talking and Tagging: Using CONTENTdm & Flickr in the Oregon State University Archives”


Various institutions are beginning to experiment with systems that employ tagging. Below is a sampling of some of these projects. For an extended list, check our implementation listing at Delicious.com.

If you are developing a tagging- or folksonomy-based project and would like to appear in the list, send a bookmark in Delicious.com using the tag for:interactivearchivist.


Guy, Marieke and Emma Tonkin. “Folksonomies: Tidying up Tags?” D-Lib Magazine 12, no. 1 (January 2006), http://www.dlib.org/dlib/january06/guy/01guy.html (accessed Apr. 24, 2009).

Wikipedia. “Folksonomy.” Wikimedia Foundation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folksonomies (accessed Apr. 24, 2009).

Wikipedia. “Tag (metadata).” Wikimedia Foundation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_(metadata) (accessed Apr. 24, 2009).