Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ 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.

Cataloging rules, Michael Gorman, memories ….

I’ve been working quite a lot lately with RDA, and that also means working with AACR2. (A paper called “Bibliocentrism Revisited” was presented at the 3rd Milwaukee Conference on Ethics in Knowledge Organization; it will appear in print in Knowledge Organization later this year. I also have just taught music cataloging entirely with RDA, which was an experience, all the while rewriting Describing Music Materials, which will appear in a 4th edition conformed to RDA soon, I hope.)

Somewhere along the line one of those helpful boxes on the right of a search screen showed me an autobiographical work by Michael Gorman, Broken Pieces: A Library Life, 1941-1978. I was looking for something to read on a short trip so I ordered a copy (ALA Editions, 2011). I was surprised I hadn’t heard about the book before.

I worked for Michael Gorman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Libraries in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I was then head of music cataloging, which at various times was a department of the music library or a division of technical services (long story for my autobiography!). I remember early in our acquaintance, we met at a social event in town and chatted briefly about cataloging rules, because he was then finishing AACR2 and I was then becoming more active in CC:DA, the ALA committee that in those days was responsible for the ALA position on catalog code revision. I remember he told me he had a copy of the draft I could read through, and I remember that I did read through it and was startled at all of the uproar about basically nothing.

I also remember that when the Library of Congress decided not to implement AACR2 for awhile (3 years eventually), he decided we would go ahead at UIUC. This was remarkably problematic for music cataloging, because rules for the construction of music uniform titles had changed, and rules for name headings had changed. It meant we had to recreate authority records for almost everything for awhile, because unlike book libraries where the imposition of old name headings helped ease the way, we had a smaller set of composer’s names for whom every record had to change and every work needed a new uniform title. Nobody else in the world was interpreting AACR2, and that meant we had to go it alone for rather awhile. And that meant our productivity plummeted. I do remember the pivotal meeting where this was discussed–I’ll save that story for my autobiography too.

At any rate Michael’s book is interesting. There is rather a lot of childhood and young adult narrative before he gets to the “library life” part. His stories about moving from England to Champaign-Urbana are fascinatingly funny. I was living there at t he time, of course, and remember it well. But then there is quite a lot of fascinating detail about his work in public libraries as a young man, and about the technology then in use in the 1960s and 1970s. His narrative about the development of AACR2 helped me fill in some gaps in my own memories. I had hoped for rather more about his time at Illinois, but then, this narrative ends in 1978, so perhaps that will be forthcoming.

We don’t often include descriptive cataloging when we talk about knowledge organization. On the face of it, descriptive cataloging is not obviously a part of conceptual ordering. But the resource description part of it is a form of knowledge representation, and the indexing function of ordering works by name headings is form of alphabetical classification. Names of “creators” form classes, within which the titles of “works” form divisions, and the representations of specific pubilcations grouped variously form subdivisions. Insofar as works are conceptual ideations, their ordering is a form of conceptual ordering.

It is in this phase that we can understand the importance of the argument that took place around the writing of AACR2 about what was called “main entry,” because it really was about how to name these classes. There is a long history of attribution of creativity to iconic names of creators (i.e.,”authors”). How to preserve that function without the mechanical superimposition of a name above a title transcription wasn’t clear at the time. Lubetzky was both right and wrong on this; the creator-title citation was critical to keep as the name of a class of works, but the Animal Farm-ish approach to which access point was more equal than the others was not. In this RDA has made a small step forward, by separating resource description from ordering of works.

Vanishing point

Recently our research group hosted the Third Milwaukee Conference on Ethics in Knowledge Organization. It was chock full of good things, and I’ll try to write about that later.

It was the occasion of the publication of our group’s second book Ontology for Knowledge Organization.

As part of the celebration we had a small “exhibit” of our two books (the other one was the 2012 Cultural Frames of Knowledge) and some example issues of Knowledge Organization together with some posters provided by Ergon Verlag.

Curiously, all of the example issues of KO and some of the “for-sale” copies of our new book vanished into thin air.

Posted June 16, 2015 by lazykoblog in Uncategorized

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

Tagged with

What a concept!

I recently completed a rich analysis of the entirety of American Documentation in order to trace the evolution of the concept of a concept across that era of the growth of the emerging field of information science. I wrote a short paper on the subject for CAIS 2014 (available here:

The “abstract” is this: A core entity of information science is the “concept.” Agreement on the basic definition as a mental construct representing a concrete instance, conceals divergence in understanding of the nuances. A case study of the domain’s nascent era represented by American Documentation reveals some of the contours of the terms evolution.

There were lots of fun things to be encountered in those years of AD, and I was going to upload some photos of things like the rapid selector and Termatrex and so on, until I went to do so and found all of those “further reproduction prohibited” notices. Oh well. The whole run is available to ASIST members in the ASIST Digital Library.

I thought it was fascinating to see how interwoven knowledge organization was in those early days of documentation into information science. There was a lengthy evolution of something called “the duality concept,” which was an expression of the dichotomies between known-fact and browsing, between simple and complex terminology, and thus between isolate and hierarchy.

Stay tuned: a lengthy journal article is forthcoming.

Posted August 5, 2014 by lazykoblog in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

just in case anybody’s paying attention

I haven’t made a new post to this blog in quite awhile.

However, I have been sitting at my desk today for seven hours now working on Knowledge Organization. I probably have another seven hours to go to get caught up. Not including editing the next issue.

Just saying ….

Posted November 22, 2013 by lazykoblog in Uncategorized

sir veigh

I have a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Let me repeat .. ok, never mind … but it does mean that a) I know the difference between a survey, which is what George Washington did, and a questionnaire, which is a survey (!) instrument; and b) I am appalled at the use of the “survey” for commercial interests. Every time I buy something I am asked to “fill out the survey, it will just take a few minutes” (add it all up, it’s hours per day!), and if I dare give someone less than a stellar rating (which I must do, if the rating is to have any meaning) I am punished by being phoned and queried mercilessly.


Posted June 21, 2013 by lazykoblog in Uncategorized

there’s no such thing as

“woken up”

the phrase is either “I woke up” or “I was awakened”

Posted June 21, 2013 by lazykoblog in Uncategorized

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

Tagged with ,

Universes, Dimensions Domains, Intensions, Extensions: Knowledge Organization for the 21st Century

At the 12th International ISKO Conference in Mysore, I gave the “keynote” address at the opening session. The preliminary text of the paper is in the proceedings, which all conference-goers received on site. Printed copies may be acquired from Ergon-Verlag in the West, or in Asia from the Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science ( or

The abstract is:

In KO there is work to solidify concept theory, which is at the core of our discipline; but there are other dimensions, as well as suggestions that classification must engage a multi-verse. This paper encompasses a domain analysis of KO as a means of visualizing the emergence and coherence of our domain, and as a way of denominating the parameters of the universe (or universes) in which our domain operates, as well as the dimensions of the operational paradigms at work. In other words, we look here at the extension and intension of KO as a domain. KO as a domain demonstrates coherence across time and across geo-political boundaries, particularly as it concerns its theoretical foundations. Consistently marked dimensions within the domain: theoretical versus applied on one continuum, humanistic versus scientific on another. These dimensions serve to maintain constructive and dynamic tension within the domain, which in turn keeps the research front constantly in a state of renewal.

In the event, I added a set of final slides, which all were versions of this illustration:

Image The four quadrants of the dark circle in the center illustrate the extension of KO, which has shifted temporally from the search for universal classification to attempts to increase interoperability, and the methodological continuum in the domain, which stretches from empirical science to humanist narrative. The background quadrants represent the shifting intension of the domain, which runs from concept theory to applied systems.

The following remarks are not in the proceedings, but were in my talk:

-we need to understand facets as more than simple categories;

-the same entity, viewed from within, or across, different dimensions, will have different characteristics and especially different contextual boundaries

-even instantiations on a time-space trajectory can be seen not as a linear sequence, but instead as points with related intellectual context but each standing in a different dimension

Knowledge Organization in the 21st Century must:

-not be constrained by shifting extensions, but embrace them as boundaries for faceted dimensions (rather than concretizing, see social tagging as a dimensional hallmark for re-perceiving indexing, etc.; use ontogenetic approaches to move KOS from concrete fixed systems to systems that are flexible in a time-space dimension, etc.

-embrace methodological pluralism by more fully embracing epistemological contexts—empiricism as qualitative, for example, or historicism as part of the time-space dimension.

Posted August 14, 2012 by lazykoblog in Uncategorized