Folksonomies to support coordination and coordination of folksonomies

Publication Type:

Conference Proceedings




Members of highly-distributed groups face challenges in achieving coordinated action. We examine how such groups develop folksonomies (i.e., user-generated classification schemes) to support coordinated action. Our study is set in the context of an online citizen-science project, Gravity Spy, in which volunteers label “glitches” (problematic data from a scientific instrument) to identify and name novel classes of glitches. Drawing on structuration theory, we conceptualize a folksonomy as an interpretive schema forming a structure of signification. Through a multi-method study combining virtual and trace ethnography, we analyze folksonomies and the action of labelling as mutually constitutive: an emergent folksonomy supports the volunteers in labelling images at the same time that the individual work of labelling images supports the development of a folksonomy. However, our analysis suggests that the lack of supporting norms and authoritative resources (structures of legitimation and domination) undermines the power of the folksonomy and so the ability of volunteers to coordinate their decisions about naming novel glitch classes.

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