Archive for the ‘epistemology’ Category

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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Teaching epistemology

For years students and colleagues rolled their eyes any time I said anything about epistemology. Once, famously, a paper submitted for a major international conference was accepted with revisions, one of which was to explain what that was because the readers (all holders of PhDs mind you) didn’t know what epistemology was, and (apparently) were unable to look it up or otherwise figure it out. Sigh.

But then epistemology became an important part of the science of knowledge organization, originating in papers by diverse scholars, leading to panels at international ISKO conferences and eventually even two anthologies (Smiraglia and Lee 2012; Ibekwe-SanJuan and Dousa 2014). Epistemology, how we know what we know, is one of the two major poles in a domain-centric knowledge organization.

So the question arises, how can we teach it without getting everybody dizzy from eye-rolling? I took a stab at it recently and I think it worked out nicely. In my introductory course in KO I often begin class discussions by asking the students to post an observation about some thing that has some order. This time around I got everything from a grandmother’s farmer’s market vegetable table to how big-box hardware stores hide microfiber cloths. I enjoy responding to each post, pointing out the nature of the organization–hierarchy for the vegetables, for example. It helps to point out to them that everything everywhere is organized in some manner, not just libraries.

This time I followed up with a secret epistemology discussion by asking them to post something they absolutely knew for sure. I gave them a couple of examples: “I know George Washington was president because it’s history I was taught; I never met the man. I know the speed limit on Lincoln Memorial Drive is 30 but I’d better drive 70 or people will plow into me or drive me into the lake. I know this because it happens to me daily. Of course, we have here examples of historicism and empiricism (okay, facetious empiricism, but if you live in Milwaukee you’ll get it). They did a great job. Here’s a table of a few of the things they came up with:

fastest routes to campus empirical
swimming must blow air out your nose empirical
Rush has 3 members … historical
death and taxes historical
difficult to buy a car with manual transmission empirical
get out of the pool if there’s thunder and lightning pragmatic
yellow mustard eases pain of small burns empirical
pick from the back when shopping pragmatic

 

I think it turned out well, and although we didn’t go further into epistemology in this introductory course, it allowed me to reference this discussion at the end when they were exploring the heirarchies in DDC numbers assigned to specific resources, which subtly makes the point about the role of epistemic stances.

References

Ibekwe-SanJaun, Fidelia and Thomas M. Dousa, eds. 2014. Theories of Information, Communication and Knowledge: A Multidisciplinary Approach. Dordrecht: Springer-Netherlands.

Smiraglia, Richard P. and Hur-li Lee, eds. 2012. Cultural Frames of Knowledge. Würzburg: Ergon-Verlag.

Boundary objects or Herding cats?

We have received some fascinating manuscripts for Knowledge Organization recently. Some of them come from outside KO but with a bent toward information, others come from disciplines completely apart from ours. All of them speak directly to our domain about the phenomena that comprise our science. All of them were problematic in peer-review.

If we are going to thrive as a science principally concerned with knowledge, then we must be open to learning what others have to teach us about our own phenomena. There is, I suppose, a fine line between accepting work that does not fit into our discussion because it fails to acknowledge our domain, on the one hand, and work that in essence contributes to our domain even if the authors have naively underrepresented their intersection with our domain. Was that diplomatic enough?

We have to show these authors where the intersections are, we have to point out the boundary objects. Then we have to suggest how the papers can be reconfigured to speak more cogently to our domain. It is, curiously, the realization of epistemology within our science. It is how we approach true interdisciplinarity.

And then we have to take it one step further by stopping ourselves from wandering off aimlessly or turning our backs on new ideas just because they did not spring from within a culture of classification. We have to reach across those boundaries and invite conversation. It is hard work, but it is essential for the advance of KO as a domain.

Posted September 14, 2014 by lazykoblog in epistemology, interdisciplinarity, Uncategorized

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Epistemology as a dimension of knowledge organization

I was recently one of a handful of keynote speakers at ISKO Brazil, meeting in Rio de Janeiro, May 27-29. It was my first trip to Brazil, and I was just a little shocked to find myself sitting at a bar at Ipanema listening to Bossa Nova. I texted my sister, because our mother (who passed away about a year ago) used to dream of such a thing. Well, be that as it might, I won’t write here about culture shock, I’ll come back to that.

I spent some time musing about dimensions and how epistemology could be a dimension of knowledge organization. In the end my presentation became rather pedantic, but that is because I think there is too much wiggle room in ISKO about just what knowledge organization is. And I think that is problematic for a domain that thinks of itself as a science.

I’ll try to write more about this soon.

Here are some photos from my trip. escondodinho 1 escondodinho 2 ipanema 1 ipanema 2 ipanema 3 ipanema 4 obligatory Jesus

And here is a pdf of my presentation, which I think also is available on ISKO Brazil’s website, but caveat emptor, this is not a formal research presentation. Smiraglia_Epistemological Dimension of KO

More later.

Posted June 12, 2013 by lazykoblog in domain analysis, epistemology, KO, Uncategorized

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Flimsy Fabric and Epistemic Presumptions

In two papers on authorship, my colleagues Hur-Li Lee and Hope Olson and I have been working out the intricate relationship between the iconic concept of attribution of responsibility, which seems to be the western notion, and the classificatory pillar, which seems to be the (what shall I say here?) non-western notion (derived in our papers from classic Chinese practice, and from what we can discern from the record of Callimichus).

What we see, however, is that “author,” even (or especially) in Anglo-American cataloging practice, is not about attribution, but about creating an alphabetico-classed arrangement of works. It gives a whole new twist to the concept of classification, but also to the comprehension of what often is called “bibliographic” description, which, it turns out, isn’t.

Here are the citations and the abstracts:

“The Flimsy Fabric of Authorship,” by Richard P. Smiraglia, Hur–‐Li Lee and Hope Olson. In Ménard, Elaine and Nesset, Valerie, eds., Information Science: Synergy through Diversity, Proceedings of the 38th Annual CAIS/ACSI Conference, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec. June 2-4 2010. http://www.cais–‐acsi.ca/proceedings/2010/CAIS089_OlsonLeeSmiraglia_Final.pdf

This paper is about authorship, its influence on bibliography and how that influence is reflected in cataloging across cultures. Beginning with Foucault’s question “what is an author”, it proceeds to demonstrate, through an examination of cataloging standards, that it is the role that is represented rather than true intellectual responsibility.

“Epistemic Presumptions of Authorship,” Richard P. Smiraglia, Hur-Li Lee, Hope A. Olson. iConference’11, February 8–11, 2011, Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. ACM 1-58113-000-0/00/0010

The major concern of this paper is the cultural ramification of the bibliographic conception of “authorship.” Beginning with Foucault’s question “what is an author” and his notion of an author as a cultural phenomenon, the paper proceeds to examine the treatment of authorship in cataloging practices of two ancient cultures, the Greek and the Chinese, as well as in the modern Anglo-American cataloging standards from Panizzi’s 91 rules to the draft of Resource Description and Access (RDA). An author, as the study shows, is constructed as part of the recognition of “a work” as an essential communicative social entity. All cataloging practices and standards examined, east or west, ancient or modern, exhibit a similar obsessive attitude toward the imposition of an author, be it only a name or a culturally identified entity responsible for the work. In fact, the study demonstrates that as far as cataloging is concerned authorship is the role that is represented rather than any true intellectual responsibility.

A third paper has been accepted for an issue of Library Trends.

CRM as footprints of knowledge (originally posted 1/24/2009)

In the exercise of developing the CIDOC-CRM it became apparent that using the ontology to map information objects would reveal certain patterns of entities, properties, and relationships.
Furthermore, these patterns, when analyzed, reveal essential footprints of information objects. That is, like a genome, a CRM mapping records the essential informative properties of mapped
objects. The region for research here is pure theory. What categories can be observed among mapped information objects? When is a sailor’s deck-log like a terracotta hut urn? I have constituted a research team and with a very small grant from Long Island University we have begun developing techniques for mapping, and a calculus for data-mining the maps in order to generate clusters (or classes) of information objects. We had one poster at the ISKO conference this summer (“Classifying Information Objects: An Exploratory Ontological Excursion,” by Sergey Zherebchevsky, Nicolette Ceo, Michiko Tanaka, David Jank, Richard P. Smiraglia, and Stephen Stead. Poster presented at 10th International ISKO Conference, Montreal, 5-8 August 2008). The poster can be seen here (or have a look at these pdfs from ISKO and ASIST).

mining_asist08

Classify_ISKO10

Posted November 18, 2010 by lazykoblog in cultural heritage, epistemology

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Hjorland’s Lifeboats (originally posted 1-5-2009)

Birger Hjorland and his colleagues have created several lifeboats. You can find them here:

http://www.iva.dk/jni/lifeboat/

http://www.iva.dk/bh/lifeboat_ko/home.htm

http://www.iva.dk/bh/Core%20Concepts%20in%20LIS/home.htm

Here is a note from Dr. Hjorland (isko-l 9-03-2006):

The site is intented both to be my own working space, a source for my own students, and a source for everybody that might find it useful for their own research, teaching and practical work.
As you see it is overall very comprehensive and ambitious. It is not however finished, and it is not intended ever to be finished. It is intended to grow, to function as my own memory about bibliographical references, links, full-text sources, definitions, quotes and data that I encounter in my reading and scanning and which I believe I will need in the future (or might be helpful, in student projects etc).

Some parts of it will, however, be relative finished. When I prepare lectures, I place bibliographical references, definitions, quotes and data for the students and provide a list of the pages I am referring to in my teaching. This way, I hope to gradually build up a textbook, or some textbooks of an interactive nature.

If you consider when a single entry is dated you will observe, that many entries are updated very often. If a student ask a question, if i read something in a journal, if somebody discuss with me (or send a friendly or an angry message) I often update some entries. Of course this is a very demanding task, and I always need to do more work, that time allows me to do. So, please do not be angry because you feel something is missing, but suggest how you would like it changed.

Signed contributions from you are also welcome. The intention is to make a tool that might help bring us forward by working together. I believe such a tool is much needed.