The Smith (2008) article on tagging goes into how this phenomenon brings people together, helps us organize and explore our interests, express ourselves, and have fun. The psychologist Robert Cialdini was mentioned in talking about “social proof.” Often we tag what others have tagged to make a decision for ourselves by confirming it with someone else’s opinion. This can be good and bad. If we tag things because someone else has, it can influence the diversity of information that we can gather from tagging, but it can also bring people with common interests together.
I think tagging is a unique way to learn about people, their interests, and who they want to be like and be different from and why. Although, there is a component of experience missing that needs to be taken into account when gathering information about people based on tags. I tag a lot of items on Facebook when I come across something that I find interesting (or that I think someone else will find interesting) but that I don’t feel like spending a lot of time on investigating at the moment (but don’t want to miss out on it all together). I think context has a large impact on what we tag. When we go back to find it later, we may be missing that same context. What we might get out of a picture or article later might be totally different because of a different context. Also I think there is something to be said of tagging things you don’t want to spend time on in the present. Those are possibly topics you don’t spend much time on in your daily life as well, and will most likely not put much effort into later when you encounter the tag in the future.
I think a huge amount of information can be gathered from the way people organize information through tagging, and it is a good way for people to gather around common goals and share information. More research needs to be done though on the value of tags to those that use them, as they may not really be indicating the things we care about and will spend quality time on later. I think a lot can be gathered from the context and the intention of tagging. They might be reflecting more of what our ideal selves (or social personas) would do or like rather than what our true selves would really use or care about. Understanding people’s ideals may be good for advertising, but misguiding when it comes to how people categorize objects, what they value in the context of their everyday lives, and what they are willing to spend continued time and effort on.