Au Yeung, Ching Man
From user behaviours to collective semantics.
University of Southampton, School of Electronics and Computer Science,
The World Wide Web has developed into an important platform for social interactions
with the rise of social networking applications of dierent kinds. Collaborative tagging systems, as prominent examples of these applications, allow users to share their resources and to interact with each other. By assigning tags to resources on the Web in a collaborative manner, users contribute to the emergence of complex networks now commonly known as folksonomies, in which users, documents and tags are interconnected with each other. To reveal the implicit semantics of entities involved in a folksonomy, one requires an understanding of the characteristics of the collective behaviours that create these interconnections. This thesis studies how user behaviours in collaborative tagging systems can be analysed to acquire a better understanding of the collective semantics of entities in folksonomies. We approach this problem from three different but closely related perspectives. Firstly, we study how tags are used by users and how their different intended meanings can be identified. Secondly, we develop a method for assessing the expertise of users and quality of documents in folksonomies by introducing the notion of implicit endorsement. Finally, we study the relations between documents induced from collaborative tagging and compare them with existing hyperlinks between Web documents. We show that, in each of these scenarios, it is crucial to consider the collective behaviours of the users and the social contexts in order to understand the characteristics of the entities. This project can be considered as a case study of the Social Web, the research outcomes of which can be easily generalised to many other social networking applications. It also fits into the larger framework for understanding the Web set out by the emerging interdisciplinary field of Web Science, as the work involves analyses of the interactions and behaviour of Web users in order to understand how we can improve existing systems and facilitate information sharing and retrieval on the Web.
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