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Content Analysis of Social Tags on Intersectionality for Works on Asian Women: An Exploratory Study of LibraryThing

Sheetija Kaur Kathuria
Major Professor: 
Bharat Mehra
Committee Members: 
Suzie Allard,
Kimberly Black
August 2011

Abstract: This study explores how the social tags are employed by users of LibraryThing, a popular web 2.0 social networking site for cataloging books, to describe works on Asian women in representing themes within the context of intersectionality. Background literature in the domain of subject description of works has focused on race and gender representation within traditional controlled vocabularies such as the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). This study explores themes related to intersectionality in order to analyze how users construct meaning in their social tags. The collection of works used to search for social tags came from the Association of College and Research Libraries’ list on East Asian, South and Southeast Asian, and Middle Eastern women. A pilot study was conducted comprising of a limited sample in each of the three domains, which helped generate a framework of analysis that was used in application for the larger sample of works on Asian women. The full study analyzed 1231 social tags collected from 122 works on Asian women. Findings from this study showed that users construct a variety of intersections relating to gender and ethnicity for works on Asian women. Overall findings from this showed that gender and gender-related constructs were the most common subject of tags employed for works on Asian women. Users more often referred to geography rather than ethnicity when describing the materials on Asian women. Interesting themes to emerge involved how gender and other constructs differed among the three domains. Tags describing the majority of East Asia, such as Chinese and Japanese were most common in the East Asian dataset. Countries not considered the “majority” in South and Southeast Asia were often used, such as Indonesia and the Philippines. Themes of sexuality and religion were much more prevalent in the Middle Eastern set of tags. Social tags act as a mechanism for social commentary. Researchers have access to a plethora of constructions available to them through these social tags; such abundance of information is a valuable resource to understanding how the general populace understands intersections and constructs identity.