CSCW Session – Social Tagging


Microstructures of Social Tagging

Need to get name of presenter…University of Illinois

What are microstructures?

Relatively invariant behavioral patterns emerged from user-environment interactions.

At a functional level, cognitive processes tend to be stable across individuals.

Why do we care?

Provide explanations that cut zcross levels of activities: social levels (minutes, hours, weeks), cognitive levels (seconds, minutes), embodiment level (ms, seconds). Whoah.

Distributed congnition

Arguing that social tagging is a distributed cognitive system, where individual represntations of individual users interact with the “same” external representations of other users (tags)

Tagging is a form a knowledge exchange (your representation via a tag is interpreted by another person)

Exploratory Search

Exploratory information search characteristics

  • Lack of specific information goals
  • Info goals are defined throuh a series of search-and-comprehend activities
  • Claim: Mental concepts are utilized (and critical) for evaluation of info content
  • Okay, what does this have to do with tagging?
  • Claim: social tags augment the evaluation process and thus facilitate exploratory search

How do people form and use mental categories

Peeople naturally categorize concepts. Concept formation is a rational response to information reduction.

The study (“to show you i’m not just hallucinating”)

Follow 4 users across 8 weeks. Engage in exploratory info tasks. Use to collect information and prepare for talk. Create tags for themselves and others.


Somewhat impenetrable. Upshot seems to be arguing that tags are not just “metadata” but actually directly influence knowledge structures.

Influences on tag choices on

Emilee Rader, Univ. of Michigan

Missed presenter name.

Folksonomy: Potential for the emergence of collective meaning.

Why do people choose some tags over other tags.?

Social: Tag choices influenced by the system. non-social: tag choices are idiosyncratic. Which is true?

Found: Users future tag choices are heavily influenced by tag choices they have previously made. Shocker. (and the ui specifically encourages that)

Social hypothesis: users’ tag choices are influenced by tags applied by other people.

Organizing hypothesis: users’ tag choices are personal and idiosuncratic, NOT influenced by others’ tag choices.

So we set out to look for a aconection between the small scale (individual tag choices) and the large scale (aggregate patterns). Dataset: 30 pages, hundreds of thousands of tags, thousands of users.

Final hypotheses

  • Imitation: users imitate tags that previous users have used
  • Organizaing: users re-use tags they ahve previously used — Our study indicates this is most imporant (But SK says: yeah, but the UI supports this one most visibly. You’re just verifying the UI effect. Right? Am I missing something? Okay, yeah, guy comes up and ask.)
  • Recommended: users choose suggested tags from


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