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From fieldnotes to fieldtags

May 13, 2011

I seem to spend a lot of my social media research time tagging web contents rather than taking fieldnotes.  By ‘tagging’ I mean attaching keywords such as ‘activism’, ‘protest’, and ‘sinde’ to online materials that seem useful and then saving them on the bookmarking site Delicious.com, or (less frequently) on this blog, or ‘sharing’ them via Twitter through hashtags (e.g. #activism, #socialmedia, #egypt).

How does extensive tagging shape the fieldwork process? By analogy to Granovetter’s celebrated dictum about strong vs. weak ties, are weak (uniplex) tags as important as strong (multiplex) tags? Does the ethnographer gather grow a long tail of weak tags as he or she spends month after month in social media environments?

See http://www.delicious.com/tags/jpostill

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2011 5:11 pm

    On a technical note when Delicious had an uncertain future I moved to Pinboard – chose that from the many alternatives because it takes a snapshot of the website and caches it for you, meaning you have stable data to play with.

    I like the idea of weak tags. That’s interesting. All those little stubs of things that become nothing, and the bigger nodes they link to that are the brokers in the network of tags. Very interesting!

  2. May 17, 2011 7:35 am

    Thanks Jon. Sorry ’bout the slow reply. Tell us more about Pinboard, pleez…

  3. May 17, 2011 10:06 am

    Head to http://pinboard.in/ and all will be revealed

  4. potatoskins permalink
    June 4, 2011 11:21 am

    I’m interested in thinking about this as a form of coding qualitative data. If you use a qualitative data management software, you page through large bodies of fieldwork notes and transcripts (and photos, videos, etc) attaching codes and building a codebook from which you can build an interpretation of what is going on.

    Is tagging an incipient form of theory building? How does it affect our methodology if we attach tags on the fly, as it were, because we are posting much of our data, in the moment, to sites like delicious and blogs and so forth, rather than deliberately, thoughfully, after the fact?

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