Labelling or labeling is describing someone or something in a word or short phrase.[1] For example, describing someone who has broken a law as a criminal. Labelling theory is a theory in sociology which ascribes labelling of people to control and identification of deviant behaviour.

It has been argued that labelling is necessary for communication.[2] However, the use of the term labelling is often intended to highlight the fact that the label is a description applied from the outside, rather than something intrinsic to the labelled thing. This can be done for several reasons:

  • To provoke a discussion about what the best description is
  • To reject a particular label
  • To reject the whole idea that the labelled thing can be described in a short phrase.

This last usage can be seen as an accusation that such a short description is overly-reductive.

Giving something a label can be seen as positive, but the term label is not usually used in this case. For example, giving a name to a common identity is seen as essential in identity politics.

Labelling is often equivalent to pigeonholing or the use of stereotypes and can suffer from the same problems as these activities.

The labelling of people can be related to a reference group. For example, the labels black and white are related to black people and white people; the labels young and old are related to young people and old people.

The labelling of works of art can be related to genre. For example, a piece of music may be described as progressive rock or indie or ragga jungle drum and bass. However, there are other labels that can be applied to a work, such as derivative, low or high. The use of the word labelling is less common in the context of works of art than people. However, it also often represents the rejection of a label. For example, an artist may feel that the labeller is attempting to restrict the scope of the artist's work to that which is covered by the label.

Labelling system on the World Wide Web

Labelling on the Web represent the chunks of information in our information environments. In information environment, label encounter in 2 formats: Textual and Iconic.[3]

Textual labels

Contextual Links: Hyperlinks to chunk of information on other pages or another location in same page. Contextual link needs to draws meaning from its surrounding text.[3]

Headings: Labels are often use as heading to present the chunk of information that follow. The headings will use to make hierarchy within content. The hierarchy relationship between heading establishes visually through consistent use of numbering, font size, colour and styles, white spaces, indentation or combination of this items.

Navigation system choices: There is no standard for navigation system but there is common category here:[3]

  • Main, Main Page, Home
  • Search, Find, Browse, Search/Browse
  • Site Map, Contents, Table of contents, Index
  • Contact, Contact Us
  • Help, FAQ,
  • News, News and events, News and announcements, Announcements
  • About, About us, About, Who we are

Index terms: Often is referred to as keywords, tags, Descriptive metadata,taxonomies,Controlled vocabularies and thesauri. This labelling system can describe any type of content such as sites, subsites, pages, content chunks.[3]

Iconic Labels

Icons can represent information in same way as text. Iconic labels are used as navigation systems, especially in mobile apps, where the screen space is constrained.[3]

Labelling in argumentation.

In context of argumentation and debate, labelling a debator or position is often (whether consciously or unconsciously) used as a "red herring" to divert or dismiss the argument, in stead of valid argumentation. Often in the form of ad hominem association fallacy aiming at accrediting or discrediting the argument or the debator by associating them with an emotionally charged label. Typically negatively; labelling it as ridiculous or despicable, though it can also go the other way round; attempting to gain sympathy for example by promoting the debator or position as authoritative, or by appealing to pity. - Using labelling in argumentation this way constitute an informal fallacy. - For example:

The guy believed that it can be done with the right technology.

  • The guy is a perverted pansy. (ie. Therefor it can never be done.)

The witness claim to have seen something that indicate foul play.

  • It is paranoid to assume foul play. (ie. Therefor whatever the witness might have seen is irrelevant.)

Markings indicate that a it was done with a crowbar. - And secondly, Mr X is a suspect..

  • It is rediculous to suspect mr X. (ie. Therefor it is also rediculous to assume it was done with a crowbar.)

It has been suggested that something it said in the book could be wrong.

  • It is a very noble book. (ie. Therefor the suggestion is wrong.)

See also


  1. ^ "Labelling on (definition 2)". 
  2. ^ The American Oxonian, Volume 86, pp184. Association of American Rhodes Scholars. 1999. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Louis Rosenfeld, Peter Morville, Jorge Arango (2015). Information Architecture for the web and beyond. O'Reilly Media, Inc.,. ISBN 9781491911686. 

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