Information Representation in Libraries and Social Media

This week’s lecture focused on information representations via controlled vocabularies, including indexing, categorization, summarizations, and citations.

Where does this take place in libraries and social media?  In libraries, the catalog is the primary place where information representation takes place.  Dewey Decimal Classifications, Library of Congress Subject Headings, LC Call Numbers, abstracts, MARC Records, and other bibliographic formats are all examples of information representation.

In Social Media, citations are a common form of information representation.  Bitly links are shortened forms of hypertext links, and both are forms of indexing as identification of resources the web.  On Twitter and in other social media, the pound sign (#) is an important form of indexing as they turn a word or group of words into a searchable link.  Hashtags are supported not only on Twitter and Facebook but also Instagram, Google+ and more.  Hashtags organize users’ content, characterize their thoughts, and enable those thoughts (information) to be found more easily.

For purposes of this assignment, I’d like to focus on hashtags and the challenges of using them as information representations vs. what you might find in a library catalog.  While hashtags allow social media users to represent/summarize their content in their own vocabularies, the  lack of vocabulary control, hierarchy, quality assurance and other issues make them difficult to use as a reliable or accurate information representation mechanism.  Misspellings are also common.  Hashtags have also taken on a dual purpose of conveying or humor or irony in some circumstances, becoming less about a succinct representation of a longer thought and more about relaying extra layers of meaning.  All of these issues can lead to over-inclusion of retrieved information that is less relevant, or unintentional exclusion of potentially relevant information.

In contrast, the controlled vocabularies used in library catalogs increase the likelihood of a better match between information desired and information retrieved.  Authority controls can used to harmonize different names for the same subject, increasing a researcher’s efficiency.  They can also provide an organized structure or hierarchy among information resources.

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