Studying Social Tagging and Folksonomy: A Review and Framework


  • J Trant archives & museum informatics


This paper reviews research into social tagging and folksonomy (as reflected in about 180 sources published through December 2007). Methods of researching the contribution of social tagging and folksonomy are described, and outstanding research questions are presented. This is a new area of research, where theoretical perspectives and relevant research methods are only now being defined. This paper provides a framework for the study of folksonomy, tagging and social tagging systems. Three broad approaches are identified, focusing first, on the folksonomy itself (and the role of tags in indexing and retrieval); secondly, on tagging (and the behaviour of users); and thirdly, on the nature of social tagging systems (as socio-technical frameworks).

Author Biography

  • J Trant, archives & museum informatics
    ennifer Trant is a Partner in Archives & Museum Informatics and consults on digital cultural strategy and collaboration. She blogs here ( She is co-chair of Museums and the Web and ichim, and has served on the program committees of the Joint Digital Libraries (JDL) and the Digital Libraries (DL) conferences, the Culture Program Committee of the International World Wide Web Conference, and the Board of the Media and Technology Committee of the American Association of Museums. Trant was the Executive Director of the Art Museum Image Consortium (AMICO) from 1997-2005. She was Editor-in-Chief of Archives and Museum Informatics: the cultural heritage informatics quarterly from Kluwer Academic Publishers from 1997-2000. Prior to joining Archives & Museum Informatics in 1997, Jennifer Trant was responsible for Collections and Standards Development at the Arts and Humanities Data Service, King's College, London, England. As Director of Arts Information Management, she consulted regarding the application of technology to the mission of art galleries and museums. Clients included the now closed Getty Information Institute (then the Getty Art History Information Program) for whom she managed the Imaging Initiative and directed the activities of the Museum Educational Site Licensing Project (MESL). She also managed disciplinary review and prepared the report of the Art Information Task Force (AITF), entitled Categories for the Description of Works of Art [link to a later edition] for the College Art Association and AHIP. A specialist in arts information management, Trant has worked with automated documentation systems in major Canadian museums, including the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Centre for Architecture, where she developed and implemented common cataloguing standards for the Prints and Drawings, Photographs, and Archives Collections. She has been actively involved in the definition of museum data standards, participating in numerous committees and regularly publishing articles and presenting papers about issues of access and intellectual integration. Her current interests center around the use information technology and communications networks to improve access to cultural heritage information, and to integrate the culture fully into digital libraries for research, learning and enjoyment. In addition to her consulting practice, Trant is enrolled in the PhD program of the Faculty of Information Studies at the University of Toronto, where she is researching the role of folksonomy in museums.