Archive for the ‘KO’ Category

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 ( 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:

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 ( 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

A knowledge organization tipping point?

Knowledge organization the activity–that is to say, classification, indexing, metadata and systems for their use–has been around forever. Academic development of systems for taxonomy trace to Linnaeus in the 18th century, indexing traces often to Callimachus in the third century B.C., cataloging rules have various forbears from the early printers to the French Revolution to Panizzi, Jewett, and Cutter in the mid-19th century. The application of scientific method to the problems of knowledge organization, arguably dates from the second decade of the 20th century when the Graduate Library School at the University of Chicago was created specifically for that purpose. It is from this stream that the science of fat-cards, for example, yielded understanding of sampling from frames with unequal probabilities. And it was the application of that method to the problem of instantiation in the catalog that helped unravel the problem of disambiguation created by KOSs that did not comprehend the parameters of instantiation.

Knowledge organization the science, articulated by Dahlberg in the second half of the 20th century is fairly recent but seems to be thriving, according to all accounts, with growing international conferences and globalization. There has been some confusion over the terminology. Is information organization the same as knowledge organization? Some authors say they are the same, some say there are slight differences. It doesn’t help that a key monograph by Svenonius uses “information organization” as does a core textbook by Taylor and others. Here is one potential tipping point. We must insist on the use of the correct terminology. We receive manuscripts for publication in the journal Knowledge Organization, believe it or not, that use the term information organization. We change it in editing; always. We have to insist, however, in all of the academic areas in which knowledge organization is seen either as a subset or a neighboring discipline.

My research group changed its name this week to Knowledge Organization Research Group, or KOrg for short. I was amused at the opening day of school two weeks ago when, during a doctoral orientation luncheon (which usually involves the whole school), all of our doctoral students stood up and announced they were studying KO. This week I chuckled (or should I say “lol”) when I pulled up the ASIST program and say an entire panel labelled knowledge organization. Two small wins. Not yet a tipping point.

The other place where this sort of precision is critical is in our insistance that knowledge organization and knowledge management are not the same thing. They are not, and they must not be confused. ISKO conferences must be clear about why they accept papers on that other subject (I’m avoiding the keywords here). Knowledge Organization, despite our emails to indexers and my editorials, continues to be indexed as that other subject. We must intercede, if we want to reach the tipping point. In the meantime, we have been adding keywords to our articles to give the indexers hints. (We are not using author stipulated keywords, which amusingly rarely are precise or even applicable. Instead we run each text through a term frequency tool that shows us which keywords really are in the text.)


Svenonius, Elaine. 2000. The intellectual foundation of information organization. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Taylor, Arlene G. and Daniel P. Joudrey. 2008. The organization of information. 3rd ed. Library and information science text series. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited.

Posted September 7, 2014 by lazykoblog in KO

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Journaling KO

I’ve been toying with WordStat™ software from Provalis Research again. It is very useful for the kind of qualitative analysis required in domain analysis. One valuable tool in the content analysis package is a KWIC index. Ancient students of KO will recognize that acronym for “Keyword-in-Context,” a kind of indexing once thought potentially fruitful. Here is an example including three “contexts” for the word “model” from ISKO 13’s proceedings.

A functional model of information retrieval systems
A reference ontology for biomedical informatics: the Foundational Model of Anatomy
Towards a Comprehensive Model of the Cognitive Process and the Mechanisms of Individual Sensemaking

As you see, it is very useful for comprehending the precise context of those big words that show up in the center of word clouds or the foreground of MDS plots.

However, the interesting thing I’ve just learned is that most of the presence of the term “information science” in our domain comes not from the keywords in research papers, but rather from the title of the third most cited journal in our domain JASIST (forgive me for not spelling out here, and using  that term again). Thus it is not that that term is a topic of critical interest, rather it is that as much as 20% of our research appears in a competing journal.

If our science is going to continue to thrive and grow, our authors need to stop sending their research to competing journals. Better a world in which our journal Knowledge Organization has to split into an A for ontology and a B for epistemology and a C for domain analysis, etc., than one in which the dispersion of our science hinders exploitative power and weakens the scientific structure of our domain.

Posted August 17, 2014 by lazykoblog in journals, KO

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The Core of Knowledge Organization

I famously wring my metaphorical hands about the number of authors who submit manuscripts to Knowledge Organization reporting research that is topically relevant, but showing absolutely no inculcation in the theories or values of the science of KO. Emotions range from demoralized to furious on these occasions. Fortunately, rational academic policies dictate manuscript acceptance, and in almost all cases we return these errant papers to the authors with instructions to go do their homework. Some of them do, happily.

I am in the midst of a domain analysis of the 75 papers presented at the recent ISKO International Conference in Krakow ( The complete results of that analysis will appear in an editorial in a future issue of KO. But the interesting thing I am seeing this time is that there is, indeed, a core of knowledge organization. Seventy-five papers, 1200-some citations, from 20 countries, citing over 400 journal articles, 300 books and 200 anthologies. And yet, most of the citations are to a tightly-knit intellectually coherent core of KO. Most journal citations by far (44%) are to Knowledge Organization, the majority of conference papers cited are in ISKO international conferences or regional chapter conferences, and the most-cited monographs are by Hjørland and Ranganathan.

It is good news, that there is such a strong and resilient and theoretically useful core of knowledge organization. The challenge, it seems, is to require those interloping into our topical areas to encounter our theoretical base.

Making it count 2

About ten days ago there was a breathless story on the evening news about how “more information” appearing on New York City fast food menus was not being used by consumers. Told that sandwich A had 150 calories and sandwich B had 850 they were all buying sandwich B. How could this be?, wondered the newscaster, that people overlooked “information.” All of the talking heads interviewed were chefs, consumer advocates, and dietitians.

Not one knowledge organization specialist. Not one commentary on “concepts” of food, or the problems of homonymy and synonymy and meronymy, not one comment on cognition or cognitive overload or navigating networks pathways. A missed opportunity I think; we should’ve been right there, commenting.

In last week’s Economist is a story about “Ad scientists” with a headline image that looks an awful lot like some of my WordStat™ visualizations–lots of little boxes with network lines connecting them in pretty colors; all of it cast as terminological catch in a fishnet. The story begins with the example of what happens when someone searches “tennis balls” using three different search engines. Some of the results are said to be “organic” and others are paid links.

Now, why are no knowledge organization scientists cited in this paper?

How could it be that searchers are thrown off by overload, in which case they turn to the first available organic link (Patrick Wilson’s “relevance as means-to-an-end”; cognitive overload, etc. etc.)

Sigh ….

Posted July 29, 2013 by lazykoblog in cognition, KO, ontology

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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