Organizing Information 7 statements Melanie Feinberg, Spring 2011

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Organizing Information
7 statements
Melanie Feinberg, Spring 2011
What do we mean by
“organizing information”?
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Describing.
Grouping.
Relating.
Arranging (sorting).
Melanie Feinberg, Spring 2011
What are some systems for
organizing information?
Libraries (and their classifications), Web sites (and
their information architectures), the periodic table of
the elements, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
(DSM) of mental disorders, the supermarket, the
racial categories on the U.S. Census forms, the
schools and departments in this university, your
kitchen, the menu at McDonald’s, the folders on
your computer, the International Classification of
Diseases (ICD), your iTunes playlists, the section
headings in a book, and the table of contents, and
the index, the colors to indicate elevation on a
map...
Melanie Feinberg, Spring 2011
1. You cannot escape.
Classification surrounds you.
You add to the mass of classification without
even thinking about it.
Classification is part of your brain!
Melanie Feinberg, Spring 2011
2. Any classification is only partial.
We need classification to simplify the world:
classification enables us to generate new
knowledge and communicate it to others.
But the real world is infinitely complicated. And
it bites back.
Melanie Feinberg, Spring 2011
3. There is no one classification
to rule them all.
Paul Otlet: one of many who
wanted to classify the world.
Melanie Feinberg, Spring 2011
3. There is no one classification
to rule them all.
But situations are different. People are different.
New ideas arise. And old ideas are reinterpreted.
Even in science! Phenetic (Linnean) taxonomy vs.
cladistic, for example, in biology.
Melanie Feinberg, Spring 2011
4. Classifications are made by people.
They are not handed down from the divine, or
from Melvyl Dewey.
All classifications can thus be criticized.
Melanie Feinberg, Spring 2011
4. Classifications are made by people.
Not the periodic table of the elements!!!!
Mendeleev discovered that. Nature created it!
Yes, in some sense, we can say that even the
periodic table of the elements is a human
creation.
Melanie Feinberg, Spring 2011
5. Classification is creative.
By selecting the important properties of objects and
showing how these manifest in different groups,
each classification shows a unique way of viewing
the world.
Classifications can open our minds as well as
confirm our stereotypes. And creating a
classification that illuminates new relationships
between things can be thought of as a creative act!
Melanie Feinberg, Spring 2011
6. Classification is political.
Classifications can validate or marginalize
certain ideas, or certain groups.
What are the significant properties behind any
category term?
What’s in and what’s out?
Melanie Feinberg, Spring 2011
6. Classification is political.
From Soviet library classification:
Religion
Atheism
E0 Marxism-Leninism on religion and atheism
E1 Freethinking and atheism
E2 / 9 Religion
Melanie Feinberg, Spring 2011
6. Classification is political.
From Dewey Decimal Classification:
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200 Religion
210 Natural theology
220 Bible
230 Christian theology
240 Christian moral & devotional theology
250 Christian orders & local church
260 Christian social theology
270 Christian church history
280 Christian denominations & sects
290 Other & comparative religions
Melanie Feinberg, Spring 2011
7. Classifications both reflect and
shape us.
What we create has a life of its own.
Melanie Feinberg, Spring 2011
Thank you
Melanie Feinberg, Spring 2011
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