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Tag analysis as a tool for investigating information behaviour: comparing fan-tagging on Tumblr, Archive of Our Own and Etsy

Ludi Price (Centre for Information Science, City, University of London, London, UK) (Library, Learning, Research and Enterprise, SOAS University of London, London, UK)
Lyn Robinson (Centre for Information Science, City, University of London, London, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 1 January 2021

Issue publication date: 18 February 2021

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612

Abstract

Purpose

This article describes the third part of a three-stage study investigating the information behaviour of fans and fan communities, the first stage of which is described in the study by Price and Robinson (2017).

Design/methodology/approach

Using tag analysis as a method, a comparative case study was undertaken to explore three aspects of fan information behaviour: information gatekeeping; classifying and tagging and entrepreneurship and economic activity. The case studies took place on three sites used by fans–Tumblr, Archive of Our Own (AO3) and Etsy. Supplementary semi-structured interviews with site users were used to augment the findings with qualitative data.

Findings

These showed that fans used tags in a variety of ways quite apart from classification purposes. These included tags being used on Tumblr as meta-commentary and a means of dialogue between users, as well as expressors of emotion and affect towards posts. On AO3 in particular, fans had developed a practice called “tag wrangling” to mitigate the inherent “messiness” of tagging. Evidence was also found of a “hybrid market economy” on Etsy fan stores. From the study findings, a taxonomy of fan-related tags was developed.

Research limitations/implications

Findings are limited to the tagging practices on only three sites used by fans during Spring 2016, and further research on other similar sites are recommended. Longitudinal studies of these sites would be beneficial in understanding how or whether tagging practices change over time. Testing of the fan-tag taxonomy developed in this paper is also recommended.

Originality/value

This research develops a method for using tag analysis to describe information behaviour. It also develops a fan-tag taxonomy, which may be used in future research on the tagging practices of fans, which heretofore have been a little-studied section of serious leisure information users.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by a doctoral studentship awarded to Ludi Price from the School of Informatics, City, University London. A portion of this study was previously published in Price, L. (2019), “Fandom, folksonomies and creativity: the case of the Archive of Our Own”, in: Haynes, D. and Vernau, J. (Eds.), The Human Position in an Artificial World: Creativity, Ethics and AI in Knowledge Organization: ISKO UK Sixth Biennial Conference, London, 15–16th July 2019, pp. 11–37, Ergon Verlag, Baden–Baden.

Citation

Price, L. and Robinson, L. (2021), "Tag analysis as a tool for investigating information behaviour: comparing fan-tagging on Tumblr, Archive of Our Own and Etsy", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 77 No. 2, pp. 320-358. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-05-2020-0089

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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