Archive for the ‘KO’ Tag

False taxonomy

In The Economist for June 23rd 2018 a fascinating article appeared in a column headed “French Connection” and titled “Forget McKinsey: A Gallic Intellectual is the key to controlling how businesses are perceived.”

I was surprised, then, to discover as I read along, that the entire article was about the power of taxonomy. Lights went off in my brain and I was very excited to see something about the actual work of knowledge organization appearing in the pages of The Economist.

My excitement was short-lived, however, as I got all the way to the end of the article finding absolutely no mention of the domain of knowledge organization, ISKO, and no reference to any of the very active authors in knowledge organization in general and not even to any of those writing about taxonomy.

The article describes how businesses variously make use of taxonomies, not only in the conduct of their day to day business but also in controlling how they are perceived–“digital” and “high-tech” are exciting and “traditional” is not, or so it seems from the article. The French connection, such as it is, is through Foucault, who is explicitly named. Of course, many of us in KO-land cite Foucault, teach Foucault, and regularly introduce new students to the intracacies of The Order of Things and The Archeology of Knowledge. Sigh ….

In this morning’s opening keynote at the 15th International ISKO Conference in Porto, Portugal, David Bawden pointed to just this article as an example of how ubiquitous knowledge organization is, thus reminding me I had been carting the actual paper article around with me for two weeks waiting to feel like blogging about it. (Bawden’s talk was titled “Supporting truth and promoting understanding: knowledge organization and the curation of the infosphere,” and it appears on pages 17-22 of the conference proceedings).

One reason I had not yet posted on this was that I’m of two minds about it. First, I am offended that The Economist‘s author did so little research that ISKO and KO and all of our large and growing body of literature was utterly ignored. Shame on The Economist.

But of course, it also is up to us in ISKO to raise the bar a bit and make our voices heard outside of our own tribe. How to do this is perplexing. Even as we now talk about the silos of disciplinary academia still we cling to our own pretty tightly. More sighs ….

Well, let us enjoy the fact that the stuff of our labor made it into a business column in an international news magazine. But let us also accept this challenge to do what we can to see that we heighten awareness of our existence and productivity as a domain.

Some proper references:

Bawden, David. 2018. “Supporting Truth and Promoting Understanding: Knowledge Organization and the Curation of the Infosphere.” In Challenges and Opportunities for Knowledge Organization in the Digital Age: Proceedings of the Fifteenth International ISKO Conference, 9-11 July 2018, Porto, Portugal, ed. Fernanda Ribeira and Maria Elisa Cerveira. Advances in Knowledge Organization 16. W├╝rzburg: Ergon Verlag, 17-22.

Foucault, Michel. (1966) 2001. The Order of Things: An Archaelogy of the Human Sciences. London: Routledge.

Foucault, Michel. 1972. The Archeology of Knowledge and The Discourse on Language. Trans. by A. M. Sheridan Smith. New York: Pantheon Books.

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Posted July 9, 2018 by lazykoblog in ISKO, KO, taxonomy

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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.)

References

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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