So say I

Why I use ‘ethnoclassification’ rather than ‘folksonomy’.

  1. ‘Ethnoclassification’ recalls ‘ethnomethodology’, Harold Garfinkel’s coinage for the study of the collective construction of everyday life. Garfinkel took a great deal from Alfred Schutz; I think some of his work develops Schutz’s social phenomenology in the wrong direction, but to have Schutz’s work developed at all is a good thing. In this context, the term ‘ethnoclassification’ suggests a process that’s continual, provisional and embedded in practical activity: the place where it happens (to borrow a phrase from Russell Hoban) is Everywhere All The Time. I think this is a good emphasis.
  2. ‘Folksonomy’, by contrast, suggests both a process and the end result (a viable folk-taxonomy); as such it’s confusing and promotes fuzzy argument.
  3. It’s also a term with a strong positive value: forward the taxonomy of the folk! a bas les bibliothecaires! It’s a marketing term as well as a term of analysis, and lends itself to slippage between description and advocacy.
  4. (Last and least) It’s etymologically ghastly and obtrusively American (I don’t say ‘candy’, I don’t say ‘diaper’ and I don’t say ‘folks’).

Henceforth – starting in the previous post, to be more precise – I’ll be using ‘ethnoclassification’ to refer to the (real, universal, continuing) process and ‘folksonomy’ to refer to the (hyped, unrealised, arguably unrealisable) end result.

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4 Comments

  1. Gene
    Posted 10 August 2005 at 19:37 | Permalink | Reply

    What do you say instead of candy and diaper?

  2. Phil
    Posted 10 August 2005 at 21:04 | Permalink | Reply

    ‘Candy’ collectively is ‘sweets’ (‘toffees’ in some areas), although a ‘candy bar’ would be a ‘chocolate bar’ (‘candy bar’ confused me for ages – I couldn’t imagine what they would be made of). And a ‘diaper’ is a ‘nappy’ (short for ‘napkin’, although nobody calls them that).

  3. Tom
    Posted 11 August 2005 at 11:47 | Permalink | Reply

    Yup – I rebelled against ‘folks’ as well, although people did point out that we still use folk-knowledge and the like in the UK and folklore – just to describe a slightly different class of things.

    Having said all of that ethnoclassification comes with its associations as well – it suggests (for example) something observed and commented upon rather than engaged in, it seems to put the person using them in the same relationship to the practice as an ethnographer might with the objects of their study. I’m not sure I like that either.

    This is basically why I insist on using the term fauxonomy – pronouncing the x as you’re allowed to when you elide words together like that. It’s a hideous bastardisation of etymology, but it’s only two letters from taxonomy and suggests a pseudo-taxonomy while keeping some of that aural sense of ‘folk’. I figure I’m the only person in the world likely to keep using it.

  4. Phil
    Posted 22 August 2005 at 13:36 | Permalink | Reply

    This is basically why I insist on using the term fauxonomy

    Oh. Ah. Yes, of course (nods sagely).

    Er… actually, no, I’d never realised that your ‘fauxonomy’ was supposed to be the same concept as ‘folksonomy’ (which made this post a bit baffling, admittedly). I saw the ‘faux-‘ and assumed that a critique or piss-take was intended.

    On ‘ethnoclassification’, you say

    [it] suggests (for example) something observed and commented upon rather than engaged in, it seems to put the person using them in the same relationship to the practice as an ethnographer might with the objects of their study

    I don’t know what Peter Merholz would say, but for me the ethno- prefix signifies classification by the people; the closest parallel isn’t ethnography but ethnomethodology. I think ‘ethnoclassification’ has got a lot going for it – it hasn’t got a hope of gaining anything like the traction of ‘folksonomy’, but it’s got a lot going for it.

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