Summer reading

I discovered a great little book earlier this summer and I commend it to anyone interested in knowledge organization, but especially to those who understand the relationship between the order and structure of knowledge, and the order and structure of everything. The book is The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli (New York: Riverhead Books, 2018). It’s one of those amazing little books (240 double-spaced pages including its index, and also easily handheld at a mere 19.5 cm. tall) but also densely packed with information. I will leave it to others to review the book. What I want to do is just reflect a bit about ideas the book brings forward.

The first is that we do not really understand what is meant by “order.” We think of time as something sequential, carefully ordered and entirely quantifiable. But what do we mean when we think of “order”? Sequence? Did one thing happen before another? How do we know? Rovelli opens (p. 5) with the challenge that “somehow our time must emerge around us, at least for us and at our scale.”

Critical to scientific thinking is (p. 11) “the ability to understand something before it’s observed is at the heart of scientific thinking …. The ability to imagine, reflect and explain something we have not yet seen is the essential intellectual method of science. Thus, to understand time or its order we must be prepared to understand and reflect outside of our own experience, to imagine.

After carefully deconstructing our understanding of time, Rovelli begins to build a more reasonable theory, one that actually synthesizes apparently conflicting points of view, again the essence of science. Among his assertions:

-(p. 96) “the world is a network of events. On the one hand, there was time, with its many determinations; on the other, the simple fact that nothing is: things happen.”

-(p. 119) “there is no need … to choose a privileged variable and call it ‘time.’ What we need, if we want to do science, is a theory that tells us how the variables change with respect to each other.”

-(p. 152) “‘indexicality’: the characteristic of certain words that have a different meaning every time they are used, a meaning determined by where, how, when, and by whom they are being spoken. Words such as ‘here,’ ‘now,’ ‘I,’ ‘this,’ ‘tonight’ all assume a different meaning depending on who utters them and the circumstances in which they are uttered.

-(p. 153): “if we give a description of the world that ignores point of view, that is solely ‘from the outside’—of space, of time, of a subject—we may be able to say many things but we lose certain crucial aspects of the world. Because the world that we have been given is the world seen from within it, not from without. Many things that we see in the world can be understood only if we take into account the role played by point of view.”

-(p. 160): “it is entropy, not energy, that drives the world” … energy is conserved … neither created nor destroyed … what makes the world go round are not sources of energy but sources of low entropy.”

-(p. 194): “a present that is common throughout the whole universe does not exist … Events are not ordered in pasts, presents, and futures; they are only ‘partially’ ordered. There is a present that is near to us, but nothing that is ‘present’ in a far off galaxy. The present is a localized rather than a global phenomenon.

-(p. 201): “physics helps us to penetrate layers of the mystery … but in our search for time … we have ended up by discovering something about ourselves … perhaps the emotion of time is precisely what time is for us.”

At the risk of oversynthesizing, I think I can go so far as to say that I see in this writing confirmation of what I have laconically told students for years, what we do in knowledge organization is impossible. There is no order other than perception, indexicality can have no order because it is entirely dependent on point of view, and if space and time are the same, there cannot be two different facets that represent them unless we admit that we are representing neither but only our perceptions of “here” and “when.” On the other hand, science is a critical tool for comprehending the “network of events” that constitutes observable reality. And the presence of networks means there are potential pathways.

(Ironically, I don’t now recall how I discovered this book, it does not occur on any reading list for knowledge organization that I have seen. I suppose it must have been suggested to me by Amazon or Google!)

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False taxonomy

In The Economist for June 23rd 2018 a fascinating article appeared in a column headed “French Connection” and titled “Forget McKinsey: A Gallic Intellectual is the key to controlling how businesses are perceived.”

I was surprised, then, to discover as I read along, that the entire article was about the power of taxonomy. Lights went off in my brain and I was very excited to see something about the actual work of knowledge organization appearing in the pages of The Economist.

My excitement was short-lived, however, as I got all the way to the end of the article finding absolutely no mention of the domain of knowledge organization, ISKO, and no reference to any of the very active authors in knowledge organization in general and not even to any of those writing about taxonomy.

The article describes how businesses variously make use of taxonomies, not only in the conduct of their day to day business but also in controlling how they are perceived–“digital” and “high-tech” are exciting and “traditional” is not, or so it seems from the article. The French connection, such as it is, is through Foucault, who is explicitly named. Of course, many of us in KO-land cite Foucault, teach Foucault, and regularly introduce new students to the intracacies of The Order of Things and The Archeology of Knowledge. Sigh ….

In this morning’s opening keynote at the 15th International ISKO Conference in Porto, Portugal, David Bawden pointed to just this article as an example of how ubiquitous knowledge organization is, thus reminding me I had been carting the actual paper article around with me for two weeks waiting to feel like blogging about it. (Bawden’s talk was titled “Supporting truth and promoting understanding: knowledge organization and the curation of the infosphere,” and it appears on pages 17-22 of the conference proceedings).

One reason I had not yet posted on this was that I’m of two minds about it. First, I am offended that The Economist‘s author did so little research that ISKO and KO and all of our large and growing body of literature was utterly ignored. Shame on The Economist.

But of course, it also is up to us in ISKO to raise the bar a bit and make our voices heard outside of our own tribe. How to do this is perplexing. Even as we now talk about the silos of disciplinary academia still we cling to our own pretty tightly. More sighs ….

Well, let us enjoy the fact that the stuff of our labor made it into a business column in an international news magazine. But let us also accept this challenge to do what we can to see that we heighten awareness of our existence and productivity as a domain.

Some proper references:

Bawden, David. 2018. “Supporting Truth and Promoting Understanding: Knowledge Organization and the Curation of the Infosphere.” In Challenges and Opportunities for Knowledge Organization in the Digital Age: Proceedings of the Fifteenth International ISKO Conference, 9-11 July 2018, Porto, Portugal, ed. Fernanda Ribeira and Maria Elisa Cerveira. Advances in Knowledge Organization 16. Würzburg: Ergon Verlag, 17-22.

Foucault, Michel. (1966) 2001. The Order of Things: An Archaelogy of the Human Sciences. London: Routledge.

Foucault, Michel. 1972. The Archeology of Knowledge and The Discourse on Language. Trans. by A. M. Sheridan Smith. New York: Pantheon Books.

Posted July 9, 2018 by lazykoblog in ISKO, KO, taxonomy

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some useful bibliographic references

When I first began to teach a seminar in knowledge organization at LIU in the 1990s I began preparation for the course with the reading lists from a seminar in bibliographic control that I had team-taught with Arlene Taylor at Columbia University. I added quite a lot to it, of course, and proudly presented the hefty document to my new students. Every year after that I updated the bibliography, making it ever more terrifying with each update. When I first offered the seminar at UWM in 2010 I discovered the heft of the document was putting off students. (Although, in my defense, I always had offered it as a reference tool and it never was the entire required reading list.) I stopped maintaining the list after that. Not too much later, The Elements of Knowledge Organization (Springer 2014) was published, and I decided to retire the bibliography because it was, essentially, the reference list from that book.

This spring I taught the seminar in knowledge organization at UWM. At some point in the semester I told a version of this story, and at the end of the course a couple of the students asked to see the list. So, I updated it. I decided I ought to offer it here, as a reference list, for anybody who is trying to grasp the finer points of the basics of knowledge organization. You will see contents cover classical texts in descriptive cataloging and subject analysis as well as classification and more contemporaneous topics in knowledge organization, such as interdisciplinarity and domain analysis.

Cheers.

Smiraglia_Basic KO Bibliography 030618

Posted June 13, 2018 by lazykoblog in bibliographic control, bibliography, KO

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Plenty of places for traditional thesauri

In 2015, ISKO-UK held a very thought-provoking conference on the future of the thesaurus; the sessions were so popular the papers were turned into a special issue of Knowledge Organization (v. 43 no. 3 2016), with the title “The Great Debate: ‘This House Believes that the Traditional Thesaurus has no Place in Modern Information Retrieval.'” The upshot was generally favorable with regard to the future of thesauri, especially as they increasingly play roles in the semantic web and enterprise search.

I teach a course in thesaurus construction almost every spring (this year it got moved to summer) and the students always do a remarkable job of creating thesauri of use–I think this is really the important part, that their thesauri are useful–in a variety of domains. This year’s crop included everything from beer to Eurogames. All students are required at the end of the course to make a brief presentation to the whole class–the presentations form the basis for an evaluation exercise that is the course capstone. This year, three students prepared Youtube presentations. With their permission, I invite you to see what these new places for thesauri look like.

Linda Anderson: syntax/ syntactic analysis

Lisa Glover: Better Ways of Working (US Bank)

 

Erik Johnson: Magic–The Gathering Pro Tour Amonkhet

Posted July 13, 2017 by lazykoblog in teaching

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Digging Into the Knowledge Graph

I am gratified to be among those receiving research grants from the 2016 fourth round of the Digging Into Data challenge, sponsored by the Trans-Atlantic Platform for the Social Sciences and the Humanities (https://www.transatlanticplatform.com/). Our project is called “Digging Into the Knowledge Graph”; principal investigators include, besides me, Andrea Scharnhorst of the Royal Netherlands Academy of the Arts and Sciences and Rick Szostak of the University of Alberta. A brief abstract of our project is available here: https://diggingintodata.org/awards/2016/project/digging-knowledge-graph

I am sure to be reporting here often about the specifics of the project so I won’t take space to do that now. What I want to say, for those who read this blog, is that this fairly compact project represents a major step up in research profile for the knowledge organization community. We are among a group of fourteen international projects being funded to explore making more effective use of “big” data. And we are proposing to use knowledge organization systems–both existing systems and systems we plan to develop–to do so. From our proposal, just as a teaser, is this exciting line: “This project aims for nothing less than to provide means of support for [the] self-organising process of knowledge creation.”

Pretty exciting stuff, if I do say so myself.

When two things are like each other

In the October 22nd issue of The Economist there’s an article about urban pulses (“Listen to the music of the traffic in the city,” p. 70). It reports on research (Miranda et al. 2016) that measures activities as diverse as Flickr posts and traffic volume, which together generate an impression about ebbs and flows of activity in a place over time, as well as identifying other similarities. The hook for the article is the notion that Alcatraz and Rockefeller Center turn out to have the same pulse.

It’s just one more example of the kind of situation that I wish we in knowledge organization (KO) were more concerned with. This is the notion that when two things are like each other it might be meaningful, whether the relationship between them is semantic or not. I think in KO we are too much oriented to semantic similarity systems to the exclusion of almost everything else. A good place to start might be to look for more research like this and subject it to meta-analytical analysis from the KO domain-analytical point of view. What sort of domain is urban pulse, or social-pulse taking (which apparently is a broader term, see the end of the article)? I don’t mean, who are its authors and what are its keywords, although that would be interesting too; I mean, what are the heuristics that lead to classes and how are the classes ordered?

I have been very interested in this approach to KO for a long time. It is one of the reasons I am so enthusiastic about the CIDOC-Conceptual Reference Model (CRM), a meta-level ontology for cultural heritage information sharing (http://new.cidoc-crm.org/). Apart from all of the other virtues of the CRM, it is obvious to me that metadata conformed to it can have a footprint made up of the particular combinations of entities, properties, and relationships expressed in the ontology. This was the subject of research undertaken in my last years at LIU (“Mining Maps of Information Objects” and “Classifying Information Objects” 2008). It also is the theoretical basis for my work on classification interaction (Smiraglia 2013; 2014a; 2014b), of my work with knowledge maps (Scharnhorst et al. forthcoming) and my work with Korean open government data (Park and Smiraglia 2014; Smiraglia and Park 2016).

The point is to use empirical research to discover instances when things that don’t seem to be the same actually are like each other, to generate classifications from those observations, and then to create pathways for navigating similarity discovery.

 

References

“Classifying Information Objects: An Exploratory Ontological Excursion.” Sergey Zherebchevsky, Nicolette Ceo, Michiko Tanaka, David Jank, Richard Smiraglia and Stephen Stead. Poster at 10th International ISKO Conference, Montréal, 5-8 August 2008.

Miranda, Fabio, Harish Doraiswamy, Marcos Lage, Kai Zhao, Bruno Goncalves, Luc Wilson, Mondrian Hsieh and Claudio Silva. 2016. “Urban Pulse: Capturing the Rhythm of Cities.” IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics PP, 99:1-1. doi: 10.1109/TVCG.2016.2598585

“Mining Maps of Information Objects: An Exploratory Ontological Excursion.” Sergey Zherebchevsky, Nicolette Ceo, Michiko Tanaka, David Jank, Richard Smiraglia and Stephen Stead. Poster at American Society for Information Science and Technology Annual Meeting, Columbus Ohio, October 24, 2008.

Park, Hyoungjoo and Richard P.  Smiraglia. 2014. “Enhancing Data Curation of Cultural Heritage for Information Sharing: A Case Study using Open Government Data.” In Metadata and Semantics Research: 8th Research Conference, MTSR 2014, Karlsruhe, Germany, November 27‐29, 2014. Proceedings, ed. Sissi Closs, Rudi Studer, Emmanouel Garoufallou and Miguel-Angel Sicilia. Communications in Computer and Information Science 478: 95‐106.

Scharnhorst, Andrea, Richard P. Smiraglia, Alkim Almila Akdag Salah and Christophe Guéret. 2016. “Knowledge Maps of the UDC: Uses and Use Cases.” Knowledge Organization 43 forthcoming.

Smiraglia, Richard P. 2014a. “Classification Interaction Demonstrated Empirically.” In Knowledge organization in the 21st century: Between Historical Patterns and Future Prospects, Proceedings of the 13th International ISKO Conference, Krakow, Poland, May 19‐22, 2014, ed. Wiesław Babik. Advances in Knowledge Organization v. 14. Würzburg: Ergon‐Verlag, pp. 176‐83.

Smiraglia, Richard P. 2014b. “Extending the Visualization of Classification Interaction with Semantic Associations.” In Proceedings of the ASIST SIG/CR Classification Workshop, Seattle 1 November 2014.

Smiraglia, Richard P. 2013. “Big Classification: Using the Empirical Power of Classification Interaction.” In Proceedings of the ASIST SIG/CR Classification Workshop, Montréal, 2 November 2013, ed. D. Grant Campbell, p. 21‐29. doi: 10.7152/acro.v24i1.14673

Smiraglia, Richard P. and Hyoungjoo Park. 2016. “Using Korean Open Government Data for Data Curation and Data Integration.” DCMI 2016 OCS447 http://dcevents.dublincore.org/IntConf/index/pages/view/abstracts16#Smiraglia

On an Epistemic Center

A SIG/CR panel at this year’s ASIST annual meeting in Copenhagen was devoted to the concepts of global and local knowledge organization. It was a continuation, of sorts, of the 2015 conference held under the auspices of the Royal School of Library and Information Science at the University of Copenhagen,  orchestrated by Jens-Erik Mai, to consider whether approaching knowledge organization from the dual poles of global and local might shift the domain in new and useful directions from its standard dichotomy of universality versus domain-specificity. A report of the conference appeared in Knowledge Organization (Martinez-Avila 2015). The ASIST panel spent only a small portion of the allotted time in presentations, choosing instead to pose a series of questions in order to promote discussion.

One of the more intriguing ideas arose from John Budd, who spoke from the floor for a bit about phenomenological approaches to knowledge organization. I also have embraced phenomenological KO from time to time because of my conviction that a core problem in any form of KO is perception. A basic problem always exists because perceptions are not fixed, even in any particular individual, let alone in a community or among strangers. If KO is based ultimately on the atomic concept, how can concurrence on ontological distinctions ever be reached if every concept is subject to individual perception? There is no good answer to the question. There only are utilitarian explanations about what, in fact, is done in individual knowledge organization systems or applications to force perceptual concurrence. The central problem remains.

In his comments, which I by no means remember in full, Budd made reference to work by Paul Ricoeur in which the notion of “just institutions” plays an important role. Institutions that are just, in a phenomenological sense, must become so by arriving at, negotiating, navigating or even simply hovering over an epistemic center. Budd asked the group to consider whether there is an epistemic center in KO. If there were, presumably it would be located between and overlap the interests of both global and local considerations.

It’s an interesting question, by which I mean it is a critical question for KO, to consider how or whether an epistemic center, or epistemic centers, exist or function in the domain. If so they would provide a kind of unity, or maybe community is a better term, of perceptual conceptual loci. There are various approaches to phenomenology, of course, but most assert the role of the individual as a lens for perceiving reality. In Husserlian phenomenology (see Smiraglia 2014b, 28-29), noesis is the action by which the individual perceiving any entity sweeps his own ego for experienced perceptions and settles on, however briefly, a synthesis of experience that becomes in that moment the perception of that entity. When the entity is a concept, it means the noetic act involves sweeping and synthesizing cognizance based on experiential evidence. The problem for KO, of course, is that, if every individual is perceiving every concept individually, there is a high probability of misunderstanding from one individual to another or from individual to community. How can there be a knowledge organization based on concepts, if all concepts are subject to perception, and perception is a function of individual lived experience?

The answer has to lie in this notion of an epistemic core, a central gathering space as it were of overlapping perceptions that arrive at overlapping noetic synthesis and thus an agreed (conscious or not) ontology of any particular concept or set of concepts.

Such an epistemic center (epistemic because it relies on knowledge) has to be what we often refer to as culture. In Cultural Synergy in Information Institutions I wrote (Smiraglia 2014a, 1):

Cultural forces govern the synergistic relationship among information institutions and thus [shape] their roles collectively and individually. Synergy is that combination of forces whose power is greater than the individual power of its constituent elements. Culture is that base of knowledge that is common to any particular group of people, such that it shapes their perception as well as their behavior as a group and as members of that group. Cultural synergy, then, is the combination of perception- and behavior-shaping knowledge within, between, and among groups that contributes to the now realized virtual reality of a common information-sharing interface among information institutions.

Culture then, such as it is, must be the ethos of an epistemic center. If so, it must necessarily be a dynamic space, much like Peirceian semiotic space (see Smiraglia 2014b, 23-26), in which a constant process of synthesis on the part of individuals and groups sweeps experience for perceptual understanding arriving momentarily simultaneously on overlapping ontologies of concepts. (By ontology of a concept I mean its definitive boundaries, and the factors that determine what is or is not an exemplar.) Such a dynamism is the combination of semiosis with noesis.

The epistemic center must be the space in the universe of knowledge where perception takes place, leading to signs and concepts, the combination of which constitute works, which in turn constitute taxons, which constitute canons that represent cultures (see Smiraglia and van den Heuvel 2013, 374). The epistemic center (or any epistemic center) is the working place from which knowledge organization arises; it is the foundry where Paul Otlet’s grinder chugs away rearranging perceived knowledge into newly discoverable clusters (378). Culture, in all of its meanings, defines the boundaries of epistemic center. Ontological boundaries must therefore be constantly shifting (this we know already from common sense and more recently, empirically from ontogenetic studies of KO).

 

References

Martínez-Ávila, Daniel. 2015. “Global and Local Knowledge Organization, Copenhagen, August 12, 2015. Knowledge Organization 42: 470-3.

Smiraglia, Richard P. 2014a. Cultural Synergy in Information Institutions. New York: Springer.

Smiraglia, Richard P. 2014b. The Elements of Knowledge Organization.  Cham: Springer.

Smiraglia, Richard P. and Charles van den Heuvel. 2013. “Classifications and Concepts: Towards an Elementary Theory of Knowledge Interaction.” Journal of Documentation 69: 360-83.

Posted October 23, 2016 by lazykoblog in epistemology, phenomenology

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