Saturday, April 4, 2009

My favorites...

Last year I was seeing buttons with the term everywhere in my online cruising, but I really had no idea what it was about and hadn't taken the time to find bad!

I'm a logical thinker - not to say I'm not emotional, just that my preferred style of thinking is orderly. I like to proceed from one thing to the next. I never really considered the implications until I read a book last spring titled Everything is miscellaneous: the power of the new digital disorder, by David Weinberger.

I've worked in libraries for some years and my undergraduate degree is in biology, two fields that depend heavily on systematics and taxonomic structure as a means of organizing information. Carl Linnaeus and Melvil Dewey respectively were instrumental in the development of two of our major systems of classification, binomial nomenclature and Dewey Decimal Classification.

Weinberger had a lot of interesting things to say on the subject, but the part that really grabbed me was the discussion about classification systems. Ever since people started recording information we've been developing ways to sort and store the physical artifacts that have been created. We were dealing with tangible objects that took up a lot of space, so finding ways to store them was very important. The primary purpose of the storage was to make sure the information could be kept and made available to others in the future. This meant that other important factors were finding ways to allow potential users to learn of the existence of the information, and providing a means of locating the artefacts when they were wanted.

And then, along came the relatively ethereal and intangible internet and the practice of community tagging.

The possibilities that are growing out of large-scale social collaboration combined with functional miscellany (as opposed to our earlier obligate taxonomy) was a revelation. Before this I hadn't really understood much of what tagging was all about, but now it appears to me that we're teetering on the brink of some truly fundamental changes.

So, did I dive right in to social bookmarking? No, but I did try out LibraryThing for the tagging and stayed for the book discussions and sociability. Now, though, (thanks, Jeff!) I have finally set up a account and I'm ready for business.

Only trouble at the moment is that my computer froze up, I can't find the admin password and I'm working with limited access to a borrowed computer. I can't imagine I'm the first person ever to have forgotten their admin I? How disorderly is that?

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