Toward More Colorful Newspeak

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’re aware that I am in the process of organizing my poetry using del.icio.us keyword tags. I’m only about a tenth of the way through all the poems in this journal, and already I’m a bit overwhelmed by the number and variety of tags that I’ve come up with. That’s what comes, I suppose, from letting a poet identify the themes in his own work. However, it started me thinking about the whole tagging process. The goal, I believe, is to create a set of tags by which similarities and common subjects in posts can be identified and grouped — so that if one is looking for entries related to George W. Bush, or blogging, entries with those tags will show up on a search list. However, one thing that I’ve noticed is that there is a great disparity in the way that people tag their entries. My own range of tags shows a level of nuance that probably will escape most people. But as an example, peace and calm are on some levels related, but in other respects, they represent completely different things. By that same token, to infer a level of Newspeak here, peace and war are not necessarily polar extremes. In other words, war is NOT unpeace. Likewise, alternatives are not necessarily choices. One might have an alternative lifestyle, propose alternatives for energy generation, or serve as an alternate juror. You wouldn’t necessarily say, however, that you make an alternative. You make a choice, by choosing an alternative. You see where I’m going with this?

My fear is that by limiting yourself to “popular” tags, or “common” tags, you are by definition limiting the range of your expression. Further, what is one’s perversion may be another’s entertainment or even alternative lifestyle. As my father used to say when working for the Detroit Department of Sanitation, “it may be shit to you, but it’s our bread and butter.”

So don’t let yourself be too duly influenced by the tags that other people assign to their entries. Sure, it would be nice to get a lot of hits based on a shared keyword, but if that keyword doesn’t really describe your zeitgeist, at the very least include additional tags that further define your vision.

Remember, illusion and disillusion may be related terms, but the experience of one is quite different from the other. The use of tags is more than an exercise in sharing common parameters. It should also be an opportunity for expanding the awareness and vocabulary of the community. Because, as George Orwell proposed in 1948, once a word disappears from your vocabulary, the concept it represents has a limited future in your culture. The goal should not be reduction to an “essential” set of tags, no matter how sage and seemingly well-intentioned the creator of that set may be. Because what is essential, to quote St. Exupery, is invisible to the eye. The power of any word, including social tags, lies in the connotations it brings to the table that stretch beyond its mere dictionary definition.

The tags that you use illustrate the breadth and depth of your experience. They represent the range of connotations, mythologies, experiences, tangents, references and frame of reference that makes up who you are. They are a convenience, for sure; but if they force you into a conformity that denies the essence of your variety, that convenience is not worth the price you’re paying.

To coin a phrase: Tag. You’re it.

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