Archive for October 2016

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 ( 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.



“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

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).



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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