City Research Online

Tag analysis as a tool for investigating information behaviour: comparing fan-tagging on Tumblr, Archive of Our Own and Etsy

Price, L. ORCID: 0000-0001-7747-4210 & Robinson, L. (2021). Tag analysis as a tool for investigating information behaviour: comparing fan-tagging on Tumblr, Archive of Our Own and Etsy. Journal of Documentation, 77(2), pp. 320-358. doi: 10.1108/jd-05-2020-0089


This article describes the third part of a three-stage study investigating the information behaviour of fans and fan communities, the first stage of which is described in the study by Price and Robinson (2017).

Using tag analysis as a method, a comparative case study was undertaken to explore three aspects of fan information behaviour: information gatekeeping; classifying and tagging and entrepreneurship and economic activity. The case studies took place on three sites used by fans–Tumblr, Archive of Our Own (AO3) and Etsy. Supplementary semi-structured interviews with site users were used to augment the findings with qualitative data.

These showed that fans used tags in a variety of ways quite apart from classification purposes. These included tags being used on Tumblr as meta-commentary and a means of dialogue between users, as well as expressors of emotion and affect towards posts. On AO3 in particular, fans had developed a practice called “tag wrangling” to mitigate the inherent “messiness” of tagging. Evidence was also found of a “hybrid market economy” on Etsy fan stores. From the study findings, a taxonomy of fan-related tags was developed.

Research limitations/implications
Findings are limited to the tagging practices on only three sites used by fans during Spring 2016, and further research on other similar sites are recommended. Longitudinal studies of these sites would be beneficial in understanding how or whether tagging practices change over time. Testing of the fan-tag taxonomy developed in this paper is also recommended.

This research develops a method for using tag analysis to describe information behaviour. It also develops a fan-tag taxonomy, which may be used in future research on the tagging practices of fans, which heretofore have been a little-studied section of serious leisure information users.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This author accepted manuscript is deposited under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC) licence. This means that anyone may distribute, adapt, and build upon the work for non-commercial purposes, subject to full attribution. If you wish to use this manuscript for commercial purposes, please contact
Publisher Keywords: tag analysis; fandom; information behaviour; folksonomy; Tumblr; Etsy; Archive of Our Own; tagging
Subjects: Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z665 Library Science. Information Science
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > ZA Information resources > ZA4050 Electronic information resources
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > Library & Information Science
SWORD Depositor:
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Text - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

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