Not the traditional form of indexing an archive, I know, but it seems to me that automagically extracted metadata formed into tag clouds would be a marvelous way of navigating through some digital archives.
We could present clouds at different levels of granularity – at the collection level, in series and lower levels all the way down to the item. We could even present clouds across multiple aggregations, be they of series, collections or items. This could be fun.
For some digital archives, I think tag clouds are probably a ‘must’. Poorly structured and overly large email archives are a good candidate.
One of the downsides of the ‘hybrid archive’ is that we can’t necessarily generate tag clouds that draw on all the contents of the archive. All ‘physical’ material and non-textual digital formats are excluded unless these things are already tagged by creators. They can, of course, be tagged later by cataloguers and/or users. I guess that we need to recognise that imbalance in our user interface, to help our users get to grips with the nature of research in a hybrid archive.
I know that automatic metadata extraction may have shortcomings, but I’d really like to see a fusing of standardised subject headings with tag clouds. We can have the best of both worlds, surely?
There have been lots of examples of tag clouds about recently, including TagCrowd and Wordle.
This is a Tag Crowd entry for this blog…