On 06/11/2012 14:17, Joseph Montibello wrote:
I don’t think that the point of the tagging is to provide consistency or a centralized, authoritative structure for exploring the whole pile. Rather, the point of it is to allow people to produce some metadata to search with / by, for dimensions that wouldn’t be covered by traditional cataloging.
I don’t see this kind of crowdsourcing as a replacement for cataloging in the library world. Rather, I see it as an extension of (some form of) cataloging into areas where catalogers don’t have the resources to go (2500 images in this flickr group alone).
While I agree with what you are saying that this kind of crowdsourcing should not be a replacement for cataloging, I don’t know if most administrators would agree. For instance, in this Smithsonian example, there do not seem to be full-level records for these photos so therefore, the tags are all that exist. (other than the macro-supplied ones with the Smithsonian’s name, as I mentioned) So, if tags are just add-ons, that is certainly one matter, but if they are used in more serious ways, as in this project, then there are other concerns.
We should not expect scholars to immediately understand these kinds of subtleties, so that is why I think these talks by major scholars are so important. They have a much greater following and far greater influence than librarians do. While many may have a basic idea of “metadata,” the importance of consistency–in whatever form it may take–can be very difficult to grasp. Nothing I have seen, in practice or in theory, has made me think that the principle of consistency has become any less important. The problems with lack of consistency are very difficult to see; you have to know how to “look” and catalogers know. The “Brazil” example I mentioned is hidden. I can’t imagine too many non-specialists even noticing it as a problem.
I compare it to the professors who would go to seances of the early 20th century, and in spite of their deep skepticism, they would come away absolutely bedazzled by the mediums and what they saw. The problem was: they didn’t know how to see. It took a great magician like Harry Houdini, to show people what the professors could not. I think catalogers could/should be in that same role as Houdini.
I can certainly imagine an administrator who is facing massive budget cuts, watching Clay Shirkey’s talk, looking at the Smithsonian project and deciding: this looks pretty good to me. I have a few hundred or thousand photos that need processing and no money. Here is one way to do it instead of hiring a pro.
I am not saying that the administrator should not be thinking this way. The administrator could even be right. After all, is something better than nothing? Good question! But it is important to answer this kind of question based on a clear understanding of what is being lost and I don’t believe most non-catalogers understand it.
Unfortunately, our system of name and subject headings broke with the introduction of keyword in our OPACs (if not before) so it is almost impossible to demonstrate how the catalog methods are supposed to work. But I have written enough about that in other posts.