A matter of context
: An investigation into the representation of bias in social tags and Library of Congress Subject Headings

  • Chloe Gisela Jane Dash

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies


This study explores the representation of bias in social tags and Library of Congress Subject Headings, with a particular focus on the motivations of the layperson (the tagger) and the expert (the cataloguer). A mixed methodological approach was adopted. A framework for measuring bias was defined and constructed and this was applied via a simple coding scheme to a total of 500 social tags from LibraryThing and 175 Library of Congress Subject Headings from the Library of Congress online catalogue. These were harvested from a sample of 50 popular feminist fiction titles. The analysis demonstrated that, although there were a higher proportion of unbiased social tags than unbiased LCSH, issues of bias were found in both systems. The two systems displayed very distinct issues of bias, given the differing motivations of the tagger (personal) and the cataloguer (to allow subject access). The research demonstrated the idea that the concepts of bias and interpretation are inseparable; and (regardless of system and language), one cannot interpret anything without applying personal, cultural and leaned biases based on a
particular worldview
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorPauline Rafferty (Supervisor)

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