Remember when you took film to be developed and then shared your packets of memories with friends? It seems so nostalgic, but this routine was occurring only a few years ago. Then came the age of digital photos which led to online photo sites, of which Flickr was born.

The Telegraph brought this topic to our attention in their article, “Flickr: the world’s photo album.” No one could predict that 35 million people would willingly choose to share their photos online with strangers. Even more, who could have guessed that people would join groups identified by their photo subjects, i.e. cats, dogs, cancer patients, etc?

Thomas Vander Wal calls this anomaly a “folksonomy”, an informal, collaborative taxonomy. Much like Wikipedia, it is a relatively small, highly committed bunch of users who busy themselves with the sifting and sorting out of Flickr’s content. Their diligence was recognized by the US Library of Congress, who added unmarked photographs from its archive to Flickr in the hope that the worker-ants might identify them. Other institutions quickly followed suit.

Melody K. Smith

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