Order is in the eye of the tagger

From David Weinberger’s introduction to Everything is Miscellaneous (2007).

The majority of taggers may tag “las vegas” as “vacation,” but those who think of it as “sodom” can find their way through the data as well.

That’s the big change the rise of the miscellaneous brings. We’re adding massive amounts of metadata — tags, links, playlists, even taxonomies — to all of the resources available on the web without prior planning and coordination, making a huge mess. But, that mess actually enhances the available ways we can find and make sense of what’s available to us. All that unplanned metadata lets us pull pieces together, and then it helps us contextualize and understand those pieces.

Until we started digitizing everything, we organized either the physical things themselves (what Everything Is Miscellaneous refers to as the first order of order) or we physically separated the information about the things and organized that (the second order): Think of books and card catalogs, or merchandise on racks and a catalog of products. With the third order, for the first time we can organize information, ideas and knowledge free of the limitations of the physical. And that enables us to get past the notion that there must a single right order, whether it’s Aristotle’s, God’s, or Linnaeus’ best guess.

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