The debate within the Web community over the optimal means by which to organize information often pits formalized classifications against distributed collaborative tagging systems. A number of questions remain unanswered, however, regarding the nature of collaborative tagging systems including the dynamics of such systems and whether coherent classification schemes can emerge from undirected tagging by users. Currently millions of users are using collaborative tagging without centrally organizing principles, and many suspect this exhibits features considered to be indicative of a complex system. If this is the case, it remains to be seem whether collaborative tagging by users over time leads to emergent classification schemes that could be formalized into an ontology usable by the Semantic Web. This paper uses data from “popular” tagged sites on the social bookmarking site del.icio.us to examine the dynamics of such collaborative tagging systems. In particular, we are trying to determine whether the distribution of tag frequencies stabilizes, which indicates a degree of cohesion or consensus among users about the optimal tags to describe particular sites. We use tag co-occurrence networks for a sample domain of tags to analyze the meaning of particular tags given their relationship to other tags and automatically create an ontology. We also produce a generative model of collaborative tagging in order to model and understand some of the basic dynamics behind the process.
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