I need to do a lot of reading of articles, newspapers, blog postings, etc., and these days the way I get to most of it is that I collect in one big batch, and once a month print it out to read on the train trip I take back to Rochester from my monthly faculty meetings at The New School in NYC (These days, I’ve found that it is more reliable and enjoyable to be on a train for 7 hours then to take a 1 hour flight from New York, with all of the delays, hassles and discomforts!).Anyway, this last ride home among the reams of print outs, one statement in particular in one article jumped out at me as being both prescient and rather nerve wracking. An article in the Technology Quarterly section of the Dec 7th Economist on mobile social networks made a reference to the fact that today we tag content like blogs, pictures, and videos, but we don’t tag people. (See: Playing Tag) Hmmm… not yet!
Will we all soon come across tags not only that describe articles, photos, and video clips but people we’ve encountered too? Will we all start carrying around labels of how others see us? “thoughtful”, “unreliable”, “hard working” “boring”?
It seems that there may be several converging trends that would drive things in this direction: celebrity culture; exporting our social network profiles around the Net (following the concept of Open Social Networks); young people using social networks for identity creation and self branding, and the growth of trust rating systems like Trust Plus that ask us to rate the reputation of others.
From a researcher’s standpoint, there could be some potential value with this. For instance, if readers were able to rate and tag the professional quality and characteristics of specific authors, writers, etc. of market research reports, business analyses, etc. (Some of this is in fact already implied by Web 2.0 like sites like PressDisplay that automatically rank news articles by the popularity of a particular writer).
But tagging people about their personal characteristics? What will your tag cloud reveal about you as a possible date, employee, thinker, or human being? Of course, probably nothing truly – personal tags are likely to be the most unreliable type of content on the Net–won’t they?
But something like this is bound to occur and there will be a lot of mischief attached with the tag.
Jeffrey Rosen, John Battelle and others have warned us not to make assumptions about people based on their clickstream; it will also be true that we won’t want to judge a person by the digital tags others hang on them either.