In one of the short briefings in this month’s Update, Charlie Inskip discusses the latest research into the social tagging of music, as presented in a recent themed issue of the Journal of New Music Research. He writes:
Although highly personal and subjective classifiers are of little value when searching for music, user-generated genre tags are incredibly useful when negotiating enormous collections – as long as you share the opinions and knowledge of other users …
… Funnily enough, the enormous freedom of tagging seems to be restricted by the apparent need of users to confom. Indeed, it appears that the taxonomy that emerges strongly resembles that which it has replaced. Just Google ‘last.fm toptags’ if you want to see this in action – a last.fm tag cloud of genres shows how the wisdom of crowds can match that of the experts when large numbers of users are involved … Sophisticated methods of clearing out the ‘noise’ of errors, purposeful mistagging and highly personal tags are nowadays very successful, leading to robust and valuable new systems …It may be too early to announce the death of the genre, and there will always be a place for expert indexing. But the value of tagging in a digital world cannot be ignored.
Charlie Inskip. Tagging: a new frontier? Library & Information Update. 2009 (March): 27. (Cilip members can access full-text online).