Through the Lens ‘39-’46: Photo tagging as a means to challenging assumptions and shifting perceptions

Andrea Bertrand, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, USA, Michael Haley Goldman, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, USA

Online photo tagging is not a new concept in the museum world. As part of a concerted effort to more deeply explore the benefits crowdsourcing for its educational mission, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum developed a photo tagging project, Through the Lens ‘39-’46. The tagging techniques that composed this project suggest that participants’ perspectives of the photos changed over the course of the activity, creating a sense of disequilibrium - a state Museum staff has found difficult to recreate in online spaces in the past. Tagging and participant volunteered data also provided a glimpse into public perception of Museum collections that could influence future museum initiatives and exhibitions. Results from Through the Lens suggest that it is possible to create educational experiences for our online audiences using crowdsourcing projects.

Ames, Morgan and Mor Naaman. “Why We Tag: Motivations for Annotation in Mobile and Online Media.” CHI 2007, San Jose, California. Accessed September 26, 2014.
Why do people tag? Users have mostly avoided annotating media such as photos – both in desktop and mobile environments – despite the many potential uses for annotations, including recall and retrieval. We investigate the incentives for annotation in Flickr, a popular web-based photo-sharing system, and ZoneTag, a cameraphone photo  capture and annotation tool that uploads images to Flickr. In Flickr, annotation (as textual tags) serves both personal and social purposes, increasing incentives for tagging and resulting in a relatively high number of annotations.ZoneTag, in turn, makes it easier to tag cameraphone photos that are uploaded to Flickr by allowing annotation and suggesting relevant tags immediately after capture. A qualitative study of ZoneTag/Flickr users exposed various tagging patterns and emerging motivations for photo annotation. We offer a taxonomy of motivations for annotation in this system along two dimensions (sociality and function), and explore the various factors that people consider when tagging their photos. Our findings suggest implications for the design of digital photo organization and sharing applications, as well as other applications that incorporate user-based annotation

Bar-Ilan, Judit, Snunith Shohas, Asher Idan, Yitzchak Miller, and Aviv Shachack. “Structured versus Unstructred Tagging: A Case Study.” Online Information Review 32, no. 5 (2008): 635-47.
Purpose - This paper seeks to describe and discuss a tagging experiment involving images related to Israeli and Jewish cultural heritage. The aim of this experiment was to compare freely assigned tags with values (free text) assigned to predefined metadata elements. Design/methodology/approach - Two groups of participants were asked to provide tags for 12 images. The first group of participants was asked to assign descriptive tags to the images without guidance (unstructured tagging), while the second group was asked to provide free-text values to predefined metadata elements (structured tagging). Findings - The results show that on the one hand structured tagging provides guidance to the users, but on the other hand different interpretations of the meaning of the elements may worsen the tagging quality instead of improving it. In addition, unstructured tagging allows for a wider range of tags. Research limitations/implications - The recommendation is to experiment with a system where the users provide both the tags and the context of these tags. Originality/value - Unstructured tagging has become highly popular on the web, thus it is important to evaluate its merits and shortcomings compared to more conventional methods.

Cairns, Susan. “Mutualizing Museum Knowledge: Folksonomies and the Changing Shape of Expertise.” Curator: The Museum Journal 56, no. 1 (Jan. 2013): 107-119. DOI: 10.1111/cura.12011.
The networking of knowledge in the Internet age is calling into question the relationship between experts and non-experts in the development, preservation, and communication of knowledge. There is a growing movement towards knowledge co-creation and “mutualization.” These changes in the roles of expertise will have implications for museums as traditional gatekeepers of knowledge. This paper will explore social tagging as one tactic for broaching the divide between experts and non-experts in the online museum. Although tagging cannot mutualize museum knowledge itself, it can increase access to online collections, provide insight into users and their frameworks of perception, and begin to turn the online collection catalogue into a living historical document in its own right.

Chae, G. and J. Kim. “Can Social Tagging Be a Tool to Reduce the Semantic Gap between Curators and Audiences? Making a Semantic Structure of Tags by Implementing the Faceted Tagging System for Online Art Museums.” In Museums and the Web 2011: Proceedings. Edited by J. Trant and D. Bearman. Toronto: Archives &Museum Inofrmatics, published March 31, 2011. Accessed September 25, 2014.
Social tagging for art museums has been receiving widespread attention as a tool for reducing the semantic gap between curators and visitors by the publicís active participation and knowledge. However, as the number of tags is increasing, social tagging systems have shown limitations in providing meaningful information and supporting semantic relationships between tags and museum collections. Thus, to improve existing social tagging systems, this study proposes a faceted tagging system which gives a guideline or schema for the users when tagging the individual artworks. In order to demonstrate the effectiveness of a faceted tagging system in art museums we first presented six facets  Background, Identification, Theme, Association, Emotion and Figureî – based on explanation and interpretation of art works so that the tags can be organized in semantic structure. Then we implemented the faceted tagging system with Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art (GMoMA) and discussed the feasibility of faceted tagging systems and their results with GMoMA curators through workshops.

-----. “Rethinking Museum Management by Exploring the Potential of Social Tagging Systems in Online Art Museums.” International Journal of the Inclusive Museum 3, no. 3 (2011): 131-140.
After the emergence of Web 2.0, online art museums have been evolving into participatory museums, in an attempt to increase the public's participation through utilizing social media. Among the many types of social media, social tagging has been receiving widespread attention as a tool for creating new metadata on museum collections through the participation and knowledge of the public. In the era of participatory museums, this study attempts to deduce a new method of museum management that utilizes social tagging as a means for communication between the museum and the audience. This study proposes specific museum management strategies and also provides a scenario using these strategies to reduce the semantic gap between museum experts (i.e. curators) and the audience. These were achieved by collecting and analyzing tags from users on actual museum collections. The strategies that are proposed discuss: 1) new museum collection information management, based on building public oriented museum collection metadata by social tagging, 2) public oriented curating, in which the visitors' perspective is reflected into exhibition planning, 3) a new way of surveying the public, through social tagging as a real-time public survey on how the public understands museum collections. These strategies, which showed worthy potential of being applied to museum management, were reviewed and discussed with museum experts at several workshops.

Chan, S. “Tagging and Searching – Serendipity and Museum Collection Databases.” In Museums and the Web 2007: Proceedings. Edited by J. Trant and D. Bearman. Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics, published March 1, 2007. Consulted September 25, 2014.
In mid-2006, the Powerhouse Museum launched a new online catalogue Inspired and informed by the explosion of Web2.0 sites and services, the new collection database aimed not only to provide a 'better,' more usable museum catalogue, but also to explore ways to leverage user interest and community knowledge.
Internally called OPAC2.0, the new catalogue put more than 70% of the Museum's collection on-line. In order to operate effectively, OPAC2.0 collects detailed information about search terms and object relationships as well as tagging and controlled vocabulary usage patterns. With these and other evaluation tools built in to the structure of the site from day one, OPAC2.0 has been conceptualised as an ongoing project requiring continual enhancements and usability modifications.
This paper examines the OPAC2.0 project and its impact on the Museum. It presents initial usage patterns, search trends, and social tagging trends over the first 6 months of operation (from June 14 to December 31, 2006). In particular, the paper explores the impacts of opening up and the driving of traffic down the 'long tail' of the Museum's collection; tag structures submitted by users using the folksonomy engine; and the internal Museum changes that have come about as a result of unprecedented user access and, importantly, user input and engagement.

Choi, Youngok and Edie M. Rasmussen. “Searching for Images: The Analysis of Users’ Queries for Image Retrieval in American History.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science &Technology 54, no. 6 (April 2003): 498-511.
Users' queries for visual information in American history were studied to identify the image attributes important for retrieval and the characteristics of users' queries for images. The queries were collected from 38 faculty and graduate students of American history in 1999 in a local setting. Pre- and post-test questionnaires and interview were employed to gather users' requests and search terms. The Library of Congress American Memory photo archive was used to search for images. Thirty-eight natural language statements, 185 search terms provided by the participants, and 219 descriptors indicated by the participants in relevant retrieved records were analyzed to find the distribution of subject content of users' queries. Over half of the search requests fell into the category "general/nameable needs." It was also found that most image content was described in terms of kind of person, thing, event, or condition depending on location or time. Title, date, and subject descriptors were mentioned as appropriate representation of image subject content. The result of this study suggests the principle categories of search terms for users in American history, suggesting directions for the development of indexing tools and system design for image retrieval systems.

Chun, S. et al. “ An Ongoing Experiment in Social Tagging, Folksonomy, and Museums.” Museums and the Web 2006: Proceedings. Toronto: Archives &Museum Informatics, 2006. Accessed September 26, 2014.
Social tagging applications such as flickr and have become extremely popular. Their socially-focussed data collection strategies seem to have potential for museums struggling to make their collections more accessible and to build communities of interest around their holdings. But little is known about the terminology that visitors to museum sites might contribute or how best to obtain both useful terms and on-going social involvement in tagging museum collections. In the project, a number of art museums are collaboratively researching this opportunity. These research questions and an architecture for a prototype research application are presented here. Prototypes created to date are discussed and plans for future development and term-collection prototype deployment are presented. We discuss the potential use of folksonomy within museums and the requirements for post-processing of terms that have been gathered, both to test their utility and to deploy them in useful ways.

Dalton, Joseph B. “Can Structured Metadata Play Nice with Tagging Systems? Parsing New Meanings from Classification-Based Descriptions on Flickr.” Conference Paper. Denver: Archives &Museum Informatics, 2010. Accessed September 29, 2014:                                
By the time The New York Public Library (NYPL) joined The Commons on Flickr, almost a year after The Library of Congress (LOC) had launched the initial pilot project, it was clear there is great potential for user-generated content to shed new light on archival imagery in ways that are difficult to achieve with more traditional methods. Many of the earliest Commons images contained little or no prior description, and users were encouraged to tag these records with much-needed metadata. Images uploaded more recently by Commons partners often have included associated metadata, and this fact has been dealt with differently by various institutions. Some choose to not upload that data; others upload subject-headings, but only as descriptive text; still others add selected subject headings as single tags across a set of items.                                                                                        
When the library uploaded its first set of 1,300 images in late 2008, it was thus faced with a number of questions about what type of metadata should also be uploaded. Should we hide or cloak the structured metadata (subject headings, name authority files, etc.) associated with these images? Or could we try to contribute our pre-existing subjects as tags? Although Flickr machine-tags have emerged as one option for exposing controlled vocabularies on Flickr, what if our structured metadata could look – and behave – more like user-generated tags from the beginning? This paper discusses the rationale behind NYPL's decision to combine existing metadata – in the form of subject headings – with user-generated tags, and demonstrates some of the challenges, benefits and drawbacks for institutions that may be interested in using similar approaches for their own collections.

Flanagan, Mary and Peter Carini. “How Games Can Help Us Access and Understand Archival Images.” American Archivist 75, no. 2 (Fall-Winter 2012): 514-537.
A lack of quality metadata is a key problem encountered with mass-digitization projects as institutions strive to "go digital." This paper reports on a pilot study of Metadata Games, a software system that uses computer games to collect information about archival images in libraries and archives as these institutions digitize millions of items across national collections. Games offer a unique advantage for collecting metadata because they can entice users who might normally be inclined to visit archives to explore humanities content and, in the process, contribute to vital records, and they can work in a wide-scale, distributed fashion to collect much more metadata than a typical archives staff member could contribute alone in the same time frame. Metadata Games can be used to enhance knowledge about images associated with particular disciplines and fields, or in interdisciplinary collections. This open-source system is easily customized to meet each institution's needs. By inviting mass participation, Metadata Games opens the door for archivists, researchers, and the public to unearth new knowledge that could radically enhance scholarship across the disciplines. Metadata Games expands what researchers, students, and the public can encounter in their quest to understand the human experience. Games offer great promise for humanities scholarship by uniting the culture of the archives with a diverse user base, including researchers, hobbyists, and gamers.

Jorgensen, Corinne, Besiki Stvilia, and Shuheng Wu. “Assessing the Relationships among Tag Syntax, Semantics, and Perceived Usefulness.” Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology 65, no.4 (April 2014): 836-849.
With the recent interest in socially created metadata as a potentially complementary resource for image description in relation to established tools such as thesauri and other forms of controlled vocabulary, questions remain about the quality and reuse value of these metadata. This study describes and examines a set of tags using quantitative and qualitative methods and assesses relationships among categories of image tags, tag assignment order, and users' perceptions of usefulness of index terms and user-contributed tags. The study found that tags provide much descriptive information about an image but that users also value and trust controlled vocabulary terms. The study found no correlation between tag length and assignment order, and tag length and its perceived usefulness. The findings of this study can contribute to the design of controlled vocabularies, indexing processes, and retrieval systems for images. In particular, the findings of the study can advance the understanding of image tagging practices, tag facet/category distributions, relative usefulness and importance of these categories to the user, and potential mechanisms for identifying useful terms.

Klavans, Judith, Robert Stein, Susan Chun, and Raul David Guerra. 2011. Computational linguistics in museums: Applications for cultural datasets. In Museums and the Web 2011: Proceedings, J. Trant and D. Bearman, eds. Toronto: Archives and Museum Informatics. Accessed at
This paper reports on the linguistic analysis of a tag set of nearly 50,000 tags collected as part of the project. The tags describe images of objects in museum collections. We present our results on morphological, part of speech and semantic analysis. We demonstrate that deeper tag processing provides valuable information for organizing and categorizing social tags. This promises to improve access to museum objects by leveraging the characteristics of tags and the relationships between them rather than treating them as individual items. The paper shows the value of using deep computational linguistic techniques in interdisciplinary projects on tagging over images of objects in museums and libraries. We compare our data and analysis to Flickr and other image tagging projects.

Lewis, Andrew. “Mixing It Up: Developing and Implementing a Tagging System for a Content-Rich Website Which Users Aggregated Content from Multiple Sources.” Accessed September 29, 2014:
In 2009, the Victoria and Albert Museum website had a very large amount of in-depth content including museum content and user-generated features. This presented a challenge in connecting users with site content that they may not have been aware of. In January 2011, the Museum made live a beta version of its redesigned website which aimed to address this issue. The new site moved away from a hierarchical navigation model to a dynamic concept-driven one. This aimed to collect and present content relevant to the user's subject of interest. A central method in achieving this was the development of a tagging system to classify Web content so that it would aggregate as required. This paper looks at the reality of developing and implementing a bespoke tagging system that could be effective for users yet simple enough to use for staff who are not specialist classifiers. The human issues for staff in developing the system are discussed, with some early results and feedback from the early beta-testing period. It is hoped the paper will offer insight into what happens in practice when using tagging for real on a live website.

Mathes, Adam. “Folksonomies- Cooperative Classification and Communication through Shared Metadata.” Accessed September 26, 2014.
This paper examines user-‍generated metadata as implemented and applied in two web services designed to share and organize digital media to better understand grassroots classification. Metadata - data about data - allows systems to collocate related information, and helps users find relevant information. The creation of metadata has generally been approached in two ways: professional creation and author creation. In libraries and other organizations, creating metadata, primarily in the form of catalog records, has traditionally been the domain of dedicated professionals working with complex, detailed rule sets and vocabularies. The primary problem with this approach is scalability and its impracticality for the vast amounts of content being produced and used, especially on the World Wide Web. The apparatus and tools built around professional cataloging systems are generally too complicated for anyone without specialized training and knowledge. A second approach is for metadata to be created by authors. The movement towards creator described documents was heralded by SGML, the WWW, and the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative. There are problems with this approach as well - often due to inadequate or inaccurate description, or outright deception. This paper examines a third approach: user-‍created metadata, where users of the documents and media create metadata for their own individual use that is also shared throughout a community.

Matusiak, Krystyna K. “Towards User-Centered Indexing in Digital Image Collections.” OCLC Systems and Sevices 22, no.4 (2006): 283-298.
Purpose - User-created metadata, often referred to as folksonomy or social classification, has received a considerable amount of attention in the digital library world. Social tagging is perceived as a tool for enhancing description of digital objects and providing a venue for user input and greater user engagement. This article seeks to examine the pros and cons of user-generated metadata in the context of digital image collections and compares it to professionally created metadata schema and controlled vocabulary tools. Design/methodology/approach - The article provides an overview of challenges to concept-based image indexing. It analyzes the characteristics of social classification and compares images described by users to a set of images indexed in a digital collection. Findings - The article finds that user-generated metadata vary in the level of description, accuracy, and consistency and do not provide a solution to the challenges of image indexing. On the other hand, they reflects user's language and can lead toward user-centered indexing and greater user engagement. Practical implications - Social tagging can be implemented as a supplement to professionally created metadata records to provide an opportunity for users to comment on images. Originality/value - The article introduces the idea of user-centered image indexing in digital collections.

Movahedian, Hamed and Mohammad Reza Khayyambashi. “Folksonomy-based User Interest and Disinterest Profiling for Improved Recommendations: An Ontological Approach.” Journal of Information Science 40, no.5 (October 2014): 594-610.
Social tagging has revolutionized the social and personal experience of users across numerous web platforms by enabling the organizing, managing, sharing and searching of web data. The extensive amount of information generated by tagging systems can be utilized for recommendation purposes. However, the unregulated creation of social tags by users can produce a great deal of noise and the tags can be unreliable; thus, exploiting them for recommendation is a nontrivial task. In this study, a new recommender system is proposed based on the similarities between user and item profiles. The approach applied is to generate user and item profiles by discovering tag patterns that are frequently generated by users. These tag patterns are categorized into irrelevant patterns and relevant patterns which represent diverse user preferences in terms of likes and dislikes. Furthermore, presented here is a method for translating these tag-based profiles into semantic profiles by determining the underlying meaning(s) of the tags, and mapping them to semantic entities belonging to external knowledge bases. To alleviate the cold start and overspecialization problems, semantic profiles are enriched in two phases: (a) using a semantic spreading mechanism and then (b) inheriting the preferences of similar users. Experiment indicates that this approach not only provides a better representation of user interests, but also achieves a better recommendation result when compared with existing methods. The performance of the proposed recommendation method is investigated in the face of the cold start problem, the results of which confirm that it can indeed remedy the problem for early adopters, hence improving overall recommendation quality.

Noordegraaf, Julia, Angela Batholomew, and Alexandra Eveleigh. “Modeling Crowdsourcing for Cultural Heritage.” Accessed Sept. 29, 2014:
Despite the widespread prevalence of crowdsourcing projects in the cultural heritage domain, not all initiatives to date have been universally successful. This study has revealed that the conditions in which projects are realized, and the design properties of those projects, have a significant impact on success or failure rates. Through a literature analysis and close study of two cases—Red een Portret (Save a Portrait) at the Amsterdam City Archives and a photo-tagging project of the Maria Austria Institute on the Vele Handen (Many Hands) crowdsourcing platform—this study identifies those conditions and implements them in the design of a model to assist in the design and evaluation of effective cultural heritage crowdsourcing projects.

Oomen, Johen, Lotte Baltussen, Sander Limonard, Maarten Brinkerink, Annelies van Ees, Lora Aroyo, Just Vervaart, Kamil Afsar and Riste Gligorov. “Emerging Practices in the Cultural Heritage Domain: Social Tagging of Audiovisual Heritage. Proceedings of the WebSci10: Extending the Frontiers of Society On-Line. Raleigh, N.C. Assessed Sept. 22, 2014:
Project used a software called Waisda? that uses gaming method to have participants tag video content. Within 7 months, 350,000 tags were added in Waisda?

Ridge, Mia. “From Tagging to Theorizing: Deepening Engagement with Cultural Heritage through Crowdsourcing.” Curator: The Museum Journal 56, no. 4 (Oct. 2013): 435-450. DOI:10.1111/cura.12046.
Crowdsourcing, or “obtaining information or services by soliciting input from a large number of people,” is becoming known for the impressive productivity of projects that ask the public to help transcribe, describe, locate, or categorize cultural heritage resources. This essay argues that crowdsourcing projects can also be a powerful platform for audience engagement with museums, offering truly deep and valuable connection with cultural heritage through online collaboration around shared goals or resources. It includes examples of well-designed crowdsourcing projects that provide platforms for deepening involvement with citizen history and citizen science; useful definitions of “engagement”; and evidence for why some activities help audiences interact with heritage and scientific material. It discusses projects with committed participants and considers the role of communities of participants in engaging participants more deeply.