Archive for November 2012

Meta meta-analysis

I’m reading a relatively new book (Nate Silver The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–but Some Don’t. Penguin, 2012). It’s a good book, a good read and informative, and I can recommend it to everybody reading this blog, although it isn’t particularly germane to KO alone. However, the breadth of the meta-analysis that Silver brings to bear is truly impressive. I wish we had more work like that in KO. Hjørland’s “Theory and Meta-theory of Information Science: A New Interpretation” was published in Journal of Documentation in 1998 but very few scholars in KO have ever taken up the methodology. The virtue of meta-analysis is meta-theory, which is to say theory that emerges from a broad view of what might otherwise have seemed unrelated findings. In a domain based on the concept, in which we don’t seem to agree on what a concept is, I’d say we ought to avail ourselves of this technique more often.

In “Epistemology of Domain Analysis” I tried, really I did, whether it looks that way or not (this is chapter 6 in Cultural Frames of Knowledge, ed. by me and Hur-Li Lee, Ergon 2012, launched so dramatically at the opening of ISKO 12 in Mysore!). I used a synthesis of prior writing to propose a definition of “domain”–this was not itself meta-analysis, merely typical synthesis. Then I used the definition to analyze all of the formal domain-analytic papers I could find from KO, especially if they seemed to be in response to Hjørland and Albrechtsen’s 1995 “Toward a New Horizon in Information Science: Domain-Analysis” (JASIS 46 (1995):400-425). (Apparently I didn’t count the papers, I can’t now find their number, although I remember it to be around 70 at one point–perhaps I narrowed it in the writing … hmmm.) Of course, I was looking for epistemology, so meta-theory doesn’t emerge explicitly, except in the empirical alignment of domain-analysis. Oh well.

I have written a few other meta-analyses, probably the most useful is “A Meta-Analysis of Instantiation as a Phenomenon of Information Objects” in Culture del testo e del documento 9 (2008): no. 25: 5-25. My current students in Comparative Bibliography have just analyzed a dozen vastly different instantiation networks, from anarchist pamphlets to legal decisions to French symbolist poetry. The theory of instantiation arises over and over in the empirical demonstration of the presence of absence of canonicity on the evolution of an instantiation network. That’s fascinating, and it’s fascinating to watch it develop more or less along the lines I predicted in that paper.

The other thought I had as I began reading Silver’s book was that we almost never engage in prediction in KO. I suppose that’s because so little of our research is directly empirical. It seems we look either at the present or the past, but rarely attempt to suggest what might emerge. There is enough domain-analytical work to begin to suggest at least hypotheses about the development of domains, enough to suggest (for example) that an emergent ontology uncovered in a CWA analysis in a given workspace might evolve in certain ways given the presence or absence of certain conditions. I won’t go further here, I just want to suggest a direction for research in our domain.

Posted November 28, 2012 by lazykoblog in domain analysis

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Boundary objects

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.

Posted November 4, 2012 by lazykoblog in ontology

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