My editorial based on the conference proceedings from Mysore was just published in Knowledge Organization, v. 40, no. 1 (2013): 1-10. I gave it the subtitle “evolving intension,” because from what I could see in the statistical evidence, the theoretical core of knowledge organization is stable and is represented in these papers, but there was less granualarity than in recent biennial ISKO conferences, suggesting differences peculiar to this specific mixture of scholars which appear to be sort of pushing and pulling the boundaries inside the domain, thus evolution is taking place in the intension. Of course, it is hard to take one moment in time represented by a single conference by itself; so it will be interesting to see how this dataset fits into the domain analysis of knowledge organization over time.
We have been having some success with extending online access to Knowledge Organization (which now is available to library subcribers through Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts (EBSCO) full text. But for some reason we have not seen Web of Science catch up with the indexing of our conference proceedings. So I will upload the basic Excel spreadsheet of papers and citations that I used to analyze this conference, here: ISKO 2012 citations
As I commented about earlier, there was quite a different mix of scholars at this conference, probably because of the exotic location. It did seem as though many of the usual suspects were not present, but the conference was well-attended anyway, by new people, which was good. The effect of this shows up in my analysis in the prevalence of papers from Brazil and India, which had the largest presence together with the US. I expect there is therefore some influence of the emerging economic powerhouses of Brazil and India on the thematic emphases of the conference, with digital solutions at the top of the list, relationships and domains rising up the thematic distribution, and categories and general classifications falling to the bottom. I was not able to demonstrate this statistically, however, as there were too few cases in the cells of a cross-tabulation.
The tug-and-pull between empirical scientific methods and humanistic methods, or epistemologies, was evident in the heavy reliance on monographic citations; only about half of the citations were to journal articles.
Of course, it was no surprise that S.R. Ranganathan had clear influence on the conference participants; but it also is true that facets are increasingly being found useful in knowledge organization systems.
In my experience of ISKO, which now is a bit more than a decade, it was the first time I had seen “official ISKO vehicles.” I thought that was delightful!
Family life being what it can be, I just spent two weeks sitting in a hospital, managing the care of my significant other (who now has recovered, btw). At the peak of the crisis he was in intensive care, where the large critical care team made me a part of their deliberations. It was curious in a number of interesting ways. But, this is my KO blog. On the morning of ASIST SIG/CR Classification Workshop, which I had to miss, I emailed my colleague and former doctoral student Chris Marchese about our co-authored presentation. I sent her this little story:
“Last night I had an experience. Dr. A and B were telling me he has condition X and Y. I said, that’s nothing new, I asked you to talk to his own doctor. They said “We have our own specialists” and I said, his doctor is a world-reknowned specialist and has two decades of data on his health and chronic conditions. I’m an information scientist, we encourage teams to talk to each other across their self-imposed boundaries.” They gave me a kind of stunned look, but the next morning as I arrived they told me they had the file and had summoned his w-r-s doctor. But, it kept occurring to me that this is what our work is about, finding out how team A talks to its members, so we can learn how they are describing the same thing as Group 11, even though they seem to be working in different worlds. This is the importance of what we’ve done with CWA.”
There was a fascinating paper about boundary objects at Mysore this summer by Michael Shepherd and Tara Sampalli “Ontology as Boundary Object” (see the Mysore proceedings p. 131). Directly relevant, it showed how terms in clinical notes sometimes were misfires with terms in medical records, but the misfire was what made them boundary objects. I think there was to have been a paper about boundary objects at SIG/CR as well.
It behooves us to look more closely at this manner of creating interontological discourse.
At the 12th International ISKO Conference in Mysore, I gave the “keynote” address at the opening session. The preliminary text of the paper is in the proceedings, which all conference-goers received on site. Printed copies may be acquired from Ergon-Verlag in the West, or in Asia from the Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org).
The abstract is:
In KO there is work to solidify concept theory, which is at the core of our discipline; but there are other dimensions, as well as suggestions that classification must engage a multi-verse. This paper encompasses a domain analysis of KO as a means of visualizing the emergence and coherence of our domain, and as a way of denominating the parameters of the universe (or universes) in which our domain operates, as well as the dimensions of the operational paradigms at work. In other words, we look here at the extension and intension of KO as a domain. KO as a domain demonstrates coherence across time and across geo-political boundaries, particularly as it concerns its theoretical foundations. Consistently marked dimensions within the domain: theoretical versus applied on one continuum, humanistic versus scientific on another. These dimensions serve to maintain constructive and dynamic tension within the domain, which in turn keeps the research front constantly in a state of renewal.
In the event, I added a set of final slides, which all were versions of this illustration:
The four quadrants of the dark circle in the center illustrate the extension of KO, which has shifted temporally from the search for universal classification to attempts to increase interoperability, and the methodological continuum in the domain, which stretches from empirical science to humanist narrative. The background quadrants represent the shifting intension of the domain, which runs from concept theory to applied systems.
The following remarks are not in the proceedings, but were in my talk:
-we need to understand facets as more than simple categories;
-the same entity, viewed from within, or across, different dimensions, will have different characteristics and especially different contextual boundaries
-even instantiations on a time-space trajectory can be seen not as a linear sequence, but instead as points with related intellectual context but each standing in a different dimension
Knowledge Organization in the 21st Century must:
-not be constrained by shifting extensions, but embrace them as boundaries for faceted dimensions (rather than concretizing, see social tagging as a dimensional hallmark for re-perceiving indexing, etc.; use ontogenetic approaches to move KOS from concrete fixed systems to systems that are flexible in a time-space dimension, etc.
-embrace methodological pluralism by more fully embracing epistemological contexts—empiricism as qualitative, for example, or historicism as part of the time-space dimension.
I’m just back in the Netherlands after a week in India for the 12th International ISKO Conference “Categories, Relations and Contexts in Knowledge Organization, University of Mysore, 6-9 August 2012.”
To say it was an exciting event is the understatement of the century in KO. We had four jam-packed days of contributed papers, invited sponsored lectures, Indian dance, Indian food, and Indian culture.
The opening ceremony was the most elaborate I’ve ever seen, with the lighting of the torch of knowledge: a choir to sing the anthem of the university, and the launching of IOrg’s new book Cultural Frames of Knowledge, , which was presented in a package of golden paper, unwrapped on the dais by Prof. Naik (a noted physicist) and the president of the university. I gave the keynote really, I did . So there. The text (except the last bit) is in the proceedings.
Appalling was the near total absence of North Americans and western Europeans. There were about 6 Americans, 2 Canadians, a couple of French and Germans. There were a host of Brazilians, who turned out in force. Even more appalling was the number of papers from North Americans who did not show up but had them read by people who did.
I’ve lots more to say, of more substance, in future posts. This is the official “whistle whetter.”
Last summer at CAIS in Fredericton we heard a very interesting paper about multi-lingual subject headings. As it happens, the French version of LCSH and the original headings in LCSH often are quite different conceptually. The author made reference to Pierre Bourdieu’s Language & Symbolic Power and I dutifully ordered a copy. I have to say it was a bit of a tough slog initially, but once I got well into it I found an immense trove of useful sociological fodder, enough that I’ve just used a tiny bit as a lens for a visualization paper (that’s all I’m going to say about that until I find out how that paper has fared). The book is definitely worth a read for folks in knowledge organization. I’d have added it to my seminar’s reading list but the students were already blanching at the length of that list. Sorry friends, reading is one of the scholars’ burdens.
It was recently my great honor to participate as an examiner in defense of a new Ph.D. dissertation by Wouter Van Acker, at the University of Ghent in Belgium. Interestingly enough, the dissertation was produced in the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning, Faculty of Engineering and Architecture. The title of the work is Universalism as Utopia: A Historical Study of the Schemes and Schemas of Paul Otlet (1868-1944).
I want to draw attention to the work in a couple of ways. First, I think the dissertation is not to be made public through deposit, so we should make all conscious efforts to urge the author to publish the work. It is an immense synthesis of Otlet’s career, and includes many illustrations from his papers at the Mundaneum and elsewhere. There is immense value in both the compilation and the sensitive synthesis. So, keep an eye peeled for dissemination of this work. I won’t even attempt to review the work here, but I do want to draw attention to it.
I was interested as a participant to see how wide-ranging a discussion we had about the disciplinary roots of this research. Of course, many of Otlet’s “schemes and schemas” were systems for knowledge organization. As I read the dissertation, and as I pondered how to participate in the conversation, I kept reminding myself that the document was not produced in an iSchool division of knowledge organization, because it might well have been. Certainly much of the work of Otlet, even that explicitly directed at the founding of a world-city, was essentially an extension of knowledge organization. What I take, then, from the conversation, is a renewed sense of the critical importance of knowledge organization as substrate for everything else.
I also was quite specifically interested in the physical specifications of space for knowledge repositories. That is, Otlet’s ideas about how to organize everything, from a seaside resort to a movable museum, reflected a sense of the human in the physical space surrounded by knowledge, and thus the organization of the knowledge was more than just an abstraction, it was also structure in which human activity could take place. That was a pretty common idea, I think, at the turn of the 20th century. We see it in Martel’s 7 Points for the Library of Congress Classification, for instance. And there are many other examples of classifications designed to fit specific physical spaces. KOS as architecture, literally, in other words. I think there is a fascinating set of historical hypotheses in there somewhere.
Questions also arose about the UDC, and based on my work with the Knowledge Space Lab (tracing the growth and evolution of the UDC over time; http://virtualknowledgestudio.nl/current-projects/knowledge-space-lab/), I found myself wondering about dimensionality and facets. That is, if faceted KOS have the possibility of facilitating multidimensional knowledge representation, and I’m certain they do, then why do we get the usual list of suspects in the UDC (space, time, language, and so forth). I think my question is too ill-formed as of yet, so I’ll have to beg your indulgence while I ponder what it is I really mean to say here. My colleague Charles van den Heuvel suggested the mutildimensionality was there, not in the specific elements of the facets but rather in their potential for multiple combination. We’ll see where this leads us.
Perhaps on a more humorous note, I was quite impressed with the process. There were two defenses (2!), one private and one public. The public defense was quite formal, and I might add I enjoyed it immensely. Here are some photos of the event: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ugentvas/sets/72157628096131988/.
Finally (for now), congratulations to Wouter Van Acker for a brilliant defense of a magnificent piece of research.