Tag Clouds: Data Analysis Tool or Social Signaller?
Hearst, M.A., and Rosner, D., "Tag Clouds: Data Analysis Tool or Social Signaller?" Proceedings of the 41st Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Computer Society Press (2008)
We examine the recent information visualization phenomenon known as tag clouds, which are an interesting combination of data visualization, web design element, and social marker. Using qualitative methods, we find evidence that those who use tag clouds do so primarily because they are perceived as having an inherently social or personal component, in that they suggest what a person or a group of people is doing or is interested in, and to some degree how that changes over time; they are visually dynamic and thus suggest activity; they are a compact alternative to a long list; they signal that a site has tags; and they are perceived as being fun, popular, and/or hip. The primary reasons people object to tag clouds are their visual aesthetics, their questionable usability, their popularity among certain design circles, and what is perceived as a bias towards popular ideas and the downgrading of alternative views.