Thomas Vander Wal recently offered an interesting discussion of how collective understanding and collaborative understanding differ, and why those differences are significant to social software, specifically in relation to folksonomy. Thomas’ concern is that many observers, and he points to the Wikipedia entry for folksonomy specifically, conflate collective understanding and collaborative understanding when considering folksonomy. He notes that, even though the two terms are similar, their differences manifest as distinct capabilities in social software.
…the term folksonomy was coined to separate tagging done in a collective manner (each individual’s contribution is held separate and collected or aggregated to build a fuller understanding, as the tagging is done by and from the individual reading the media for their own retrieval and is also share out with others). Collaborative tagging does take place and there is a need for it in certain situations, but it is not folksonomy.
First, Thomas makes a key point that remains unspoken when many people write about social software. Read the rest of this entry »