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Feminist tagging
Trinity Overmyer
Reorganize
Add stuff about what Peitho ad the colalition is doing with tags and citations
< Introduction >
My purpose is to take up the invisible, the overlooked, and as Susan Star would
say, the boring. Im going to talk about the tags we attach to academic articles, and how
those keywords are infrastructural, political, and how they impact our access and
understanding of what counts as scholarship. I will also touch on how Peitho is
approaching the coalitions initiative to rework our citations and their visibility.
As the editorial assistant of Peitho, the Journal of the Coalition, I was approached
by CompPile administrators to add Peithos past articles to their database. As many of
you probably know, CompPile is a premier database for composition scholarship. Its
search function is based on 6,000+ terms that have been gradually added and crowdsourced over the life of the database by scholars in composition studies. Scholars
interact heavily with databases like this one by searching for and tagging texts. These
amassed keywords create an index of the subjects, and therefore the boundaries, of
composition studies; in fact, databases of tagged articles help define the field in some
ways, particularly for newcomers still trying to define it for themselves. While
researching in a database, we can tell what is counted as scholarship, and what is not, by
noticing the threads that run through, and between, tags or keywords. It is particularly
important, then, to also look at the tags that are missing in order to see what has been
shadowed.

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[slide] Even with thousands of possible tags, key feminist terms were absent in
the database. For example, when you search for the term feminist, it brings up other
tags that are linked to it. It lists obvious connections like feminine, sexist, subaltern, and
masculinity to name a few. While tagging new articles for the database, I came across
one focusing on blackness. In the CompPile database, African-am is the most prevalent
tag for scholarship on black and African American studies, but blackness as a tag is not
linked to African-am. In fact, blackness does not (or did not) exist as a tag, at all. But,
surprisingly, whiteness is linked directly to African-am. Whiteness is there, but
blackness is noticeably absent.
To say that it reflects the work in the field , meaning, no one is doing work on
blackness, is obviously inaccurate. The work exists, but the system of crowd-sourced
tags has not yet captured the terms that can make this scholarship accessible to the
database users. The work, then, is still on some level, invisible in this premier database.
This isnt a comment on CompPiles efficacy. They have created an intricate and
complex scholarly resource and they offer it free to the public. They actively seek out
new contributors and encourage them to add new key words as they arise. This paper is
also not a critique of how the users generate or apply keywords to articles. But the
absence of such a key term made me start to think about the power of key words, and
the work they do.
This paper looks at Tagging as practice of wayfinding that helps
newcomers navigate the field, and could potentially shine a light on the
spaces of feminist scholarship.

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[slide] < Dynamic Tagging >

Tags are not just static labels. They are processes: they are the processes of
essentializing texts, processes of searching, and of intertextuality, that form categories
around groups of scholarship. In the textual landscape of writing studies, these
categories make up key terms that map topical emphases and borders. By looking at
how tags are situated, and how their meaning and connections to other topics change
over time and in different contexts, scholars can examine how the fields focus changes.
In a sense, the tags we use define the texts to which they attach, but the texts also
redefine the tags. Tags are like mental schemas. Each time we encounter a new object or
concept, our brain tries to add it to an already existing group of information. For
example, we might have an existing schema of neighborhoods; because all the
neighborhoods we have encountered are connected through that schema, when we come
to a new place, we can determine if it is a neighborhood or not based on if its
characteristics are similar to the characteristics of neighborhoods already in our schema.
Neighborhoods have streets, sidewalks, houses or apartments where people live that are
kept private from the street. Neighborhoods have a sense of community. In the midst of
this mental process though, each new encounter also begins to reshape the schema
itself. In Kampala, you can walk through a place with where people live that has a
palpable sense of community, but the place doesnt have sidewalks. The dwellings are
open to the street, not separate from it. This place still becomes part of our
neighborhood schema, but changes the boundaries of it. With this new encounter, our
brain no longer defines a neighborhood as a place with public and private areas or

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sidewalks, necessarily. A neighborhood is now a place where people live and have a
sense of connection with each other.
The tags we already have in place define what the field of rhetoric and
composition is, and what our scholarship should look like. As new research enters, we
tag it and often shuffle it into those pre-existing categories. But new research and texts
also change the bounds of those categories themselves. Online ethnographies changed
what ethnographic research looks like. Community engagement practices changed the
boundaries of teaching composition. Similarly, new research published in Peitho is
changing the definition of what scholarly work can be.
As you can see in the CompPile example, the act of tagging is articulation work.
Articulation is often invisible, and usually consists of small incremental changes to how
we strategize bigger projects and how we communicate them with others. The tags
characterize complex texts and put them into single terms or phrases that the database
can understand. In doing this, tags are also articulating the field of texts to the scholars
who use it. It is important to make these processes more visible so that the body of our
disciplinary work is reflective of the work actually being done. That is, to use tags to
highlight what has for so long been shadowed in womens work in composition studies.
For example, Sullivan and Moores 2013 article asks about the ways in which
technical writing instructors can mentor undergraduate women in technical fields in the
classroom. They suggest making small changes to classroom infrastructure in order to
to positively model the kinds of working environments that empower women students
(335). Engineering and STEM environments are difficult for women, and Sullivan and
Moore concede that the culture will not be reconfigured by one undergraduate class.

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Instead they turn to kinds of articulation work. Their article focuses on the incremental
changes that can create an environment of possibility for women students through
small, quick wins and modeling inclusive technical environments for all students. One
classroom practice has students code , or tag, their thinking time, on projects just like
they would their other work time. This helps students make their thinking time visible,
and the process values usually invisible means of what we dub, work. Though their
coding (tagging) is a small task, Sullivan and Moore project that the skill will carry over
into womens professional careers, helping them articulate their own value and the value
of their unseen and often unpaid, but important work.

[slide] < Feminist Tagging as Wayfinding >


Tagging practices operate like wayfinding. [slide] Wayfinding is normally
defined as spatial problem solving. It is simply, the process of finding your way.
Wayfinding is usually linked to street signs and road maps, but signs and maps operate
on the premise of a fixed, physical world. The academic field is not fixed, but always
changing with the addition of new information. Wayfinding in scholarship and
academia is more like a how we feel our way around a place that is always in motion
(Ingold 2000). Research is not a linear process from point A to B, and neither is the
academic career path. It is an iterative process with various moving pieces. Research
emerges from a network of materials, texts, ideas and personal identities. Likewise,
tagging is not static, but shows what is trending the fieldwhere our work is going and
where it has been. The way we research, combine things, make novel connections, the
way we essentially perform research, all hinges on how we come across and manage bits

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of information and how we perform articulation. Tags become wayfinders in this way,
like breadcrumbs or arrows leading the way around a space and letting it unfold for a
user.
Tagging is important because it not only helps us find information, but also refind it, rediscover it, offer it to others. The purpose of our scholarship is to create work
that acts and enacts changes, and makes things visible. That is the purpose of all work.
The most useful work, then, is that which inspire more useful work and pushes for
further study. Tags help bring others to the work. They are sparks that light a path. Like
wayfinding apparati that open space for scholars to make and find their own way.
[slide]
Tagging systems are most powerful when they are crowd sourced, the way they
are in CompPile. Categorization systems can be top-down, imposed by authorities, or
authors, or they can be built up by the users themselves. Another term for crowdproduced tagging systems is folksonomies . A folksonomy is the grassroots community
classification of digital assetsand represents a merging of the terms folk and
taxonomy (Spiteri, 2006, p. 78). The rise of folksonomies is based on two factors.
People and organizations with growing masses of data that need categorized are smartly
relying on distributed work of users to organize their information. At the same time,
folksonomies promote user participation, which keeps them engaged and invested in the
process. User knowledge is highly valued in crowd sourced/folksonomic tagging
systems. Systems or databases become artifacts of collective intelligence that can change
over time. this temporality is key for understanding tags, not as markers of ownership,
but as signals of a change in state (Coyne, 2010, p. 108).

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A change in state is what we are looking for with feminist tagging, particularly where
databases bear few markers of feminist work in our field. This change can begin in small
ways, but do important work.
Communities usually have similar ways of organizing and sense making. and
they have to, in order for those communities to maintain a common purpose and
coordinate action (Huberman 2005). This means that outliers and deviations from the
normative organization is a disruption to the power structures of the community.
Purposefully looking for opportunities to tag content by its feminist principles is a
similar, though slight, disruption of power in our larger scholarly communities.
Slight disruptions are particularly important in folksonomies and tagging work,
because tags tend to norm over time. tagging systems have a stable distribution across
scale and time, where tags that are used often, are reinforced by the community, so that
the more a tag is used, the more it continues to be used.
Folksonomies tend to have a core group of heavily used tags and a long tail of
idiosyncratic ones; as users interact more with the system, individual tags may shift
from the tail to the main stage, but the distribution will continue to look the same
(Halpin et al 2007).
If, right now, feminist tags are in the long tail in CompPile, it only demonstrates
that we have not been interacting with tagging systems enough, or at least in an
intentional enough way, to shift attention toward feminist subjects. Again, feminist work
is happening, it just is not always being highlighted by our tagging systems. as the
tagging structure grows, taggers and tags exhibit consensus on what labels mean and
should be used for. Tagging purposefully and intentionally , as either an author, editor,

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or part of the crowd-sourcing, is a way to gain consensus from feminist scholars on what
feminisms work within compositions studies means, and what it mean to composition
studies.
The Coalition and Peitho editors have been putting a lot of thought into how we
circulate the journal, how authors are credited, and how people access the information.
When Caitlan Spronk redesigned the Peitho website, she implemented processes that
now highlight citation, author, and site information for web crawlers like Google. And
shes also implemented sophisticated SEO. We are also in the process of applying for
Peitho to be in the MLA International Bibliography subject index.
For my part, Ive been looking more deeply into how databases use articles
keywords and search engine optimization for pdf and digital journals. For the first time,
we are asking our authors to submit their own abstracts and keywords, not just for the
sake of convention. Weve done this with readers experiences in mind, but also with
digitality in mind, so that these tags and abstracts can make work visible to computers
and databases, which again, comes back to shining light on what has been shadowed
from digital spaces.

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< References >

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