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Metaphors of the Web 2.0

With Special Emphasis on Social Networks and Folksonomies


Alexander Tokar

This study is an attempt to semantically decompose the most popular metaphorical expressions associated with two particular Web 2.0 practices: social networks and folksonomies. What is a friend on a social networking Web site like MySpace and StudiVZ? Is it polite to poke strangers on Facebook and give them fives on hi5? How can we subscribe to RSS feeds, if we don’t pay subscription fees? Do we really broadcast ourselves on our YouTube channels? These and other similar questions are dealt with from the perspective of the referential and the conceptual approaches to meaning, i.e., what these words stand for (referential/extensional approach) and which concepts they signify (conceptual/intensional approach). Thus, from the referential point of view, a friend on MySpace is only a hyperlink directing to a profile page of another MySpace user. But from the intensional point of view, a friend is a subscriber to the content generated by the profile owner.


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Part 3 Folksonomies 85


85 PART 3 FOLKSONOMIES 86 7. Tagging As mentioned in the Introduction, the defining characteristic of a folksonomic Web site is collaborative taggingthe practice whereby users assign keywords of their own choice to the content (e.g., URLs of favorite Web pages book- marked with an SB like Delicious, videos uploaded on YouTube, photos pub- lished on Flickr, etc.) which they want to make findable for other users. Partic- ularly important is also that many folksonomic services allow users to subscribe to tags, i.e., be automatically notified about the availability of new content re- lating to a particular tag. (I will enlarge on this in the next chapter.) In contrast to the previous case studies, the focus of this chapter will be not the term tag itself which can be considered a metaphor only from a diachronic point of view (see the last section of this chapter), but on conceptual metaphors which tagging has given rise to. We will start with tag clouds. 7.1. Tag clouds As you can see below, a tag cloud is a list of tags (occurring on a particular Web site) where the size of a tag reflects its popularity, i.e., the more items are tagged with it, the larger the size. Screenshot 13. Tag cloud on Flickr 87 Like Web 2.0, tag cloud is a semi-phraseme whose meaning “list of tags” in- cludes the literal meaning of the constituent tag but not of cloud. Particularly interesting here is not that tag cloud is an easily...

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