Bastard Tags

The following is the introduction I wrote for a 10-page paper assignment. Please don’t run off screaming, “she’s posting a 10-page term paper?!!”. Only the introduction, which is marginally interesting, I promise.


Folksonomy is a bastard born of an indifferent mother. I concede that this description is likely not to be the most commonly cited definition of a folksonomy. The honor for being the most cited, in one variant or another, probably goes to the definition given the man who coined the term “folksonomy”, Thomas Vander Wal. In Wal’s words, a folksonomy is a “user-created bottom-up categorical structure development with an emergent thesaurus” (Wal (2007)). Nonetheless, I believe the first, less cited statement captures several quintessential features of folksonomies, and one species of that in particular, tagging.

Tagging is a bastard product because when a tag is created – when it is born – it is unclear what is its purpose, whom it is intended for, what motivation engendered it, and in what greater categorization, hierarchy or family structure does it belong. If children bear the surnames of their fathers, in part, to signify their belonging to a larger, purposeful clan, then a tag, lacking such clear-cut purpose or design, is metaphorically, but truly, a bastardized child.

On the maternal side, the creator of a tag, its mother, is careless and indifferent towards it. What forms should it take (nouns, gerunds, singular, plurals), with what specificity she should endow it, with what synonyms to associate it, away from what homonyms to keep it – these are matters that do not (usually) impinge upon the attention of the heedless mother.

Yet, for all that, the bastard offspring with the apathetic upbringing is a beautiful child. In the following pages, I shall discuss the purposes, strengths, limitations, and effectiveness of tagging. I will argue that although we should recognize the flaws in our children, unless there is a perfect, fault-free child whom we can identify and propose to adopt instead, dwelling at length on the shortcomings of tags is a fruitless exercise.


No worries. There are no following pages, not on the blog anyway*. That special hell is reserved for the reader of my class — pity the poor man.

*Although if you insist, there is another post that I wrote on the same topic.

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One Response to Bastard Tags

  1. Esa says:

    I was going to comment on your previous post, but it seems to me to be appropriate here as well. You had an eclectic group of offspring spawned by the Getty post, and the one that will garner the most traffic is obvious. But I am sad that waffles didn’t make the cut, as that would have made it slam dunk. 😉

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