18th Annual SIG/CR Classification Research Workshop, 20 Oct 2007, Milwaukee, WI

This was an all-day workshop focusing “on the enduring aspects of classification/subject analysis and the presence of those aspects in commonly used methods, especially those we encounter in our daily lives” (program). Papers are available in DLIST.

Welcome from Joan Lussky, Program Chair.

Keynote, Hope Olson, “Cultural infrastructure: the story of how classification came to shape our lives.” [Word doc available at DLIST]

3 main features of classification:

  • mutually exclusive categories
  • teleology
  • hierarchy

Mutually exclusive categories

  • began (traceably, at least) with Parmenides – “what is is, what is not …”
  • Jean d’Alembert – Preliminary Discourse to the Encyclopedie – impenetrability
  • Durkheim & Mauss – determined lines of demarcation

Teleology – Plato

  • not sure of the direct connection on this one as got caught up in her loose use of “teleology” and made no notes here. People are certainly free to do what they want with words, but if they are going to take a technical word from one domain and use it differently in another then they ought to carefully explain what they mean by it. Dr. Olson uses “teleology” frequently but with what meaning exactly? If she means that all classifications have a purpose then that is, no doubt, very true and important to remind people of. But that use is vastly broader than what Plato meant and would be much more clearly conveyed by simply saying that all classifications have and serve a purpose. This kind of (mis)attribution of a newer use of a term or phrase to someone previous is something Dr. Olson perfected in The Power to Name. It is also what caused me to stop reading a bit over halfway through.

Bacon – Hegel – Harris – Dewey

Aristotle – Hierarchy via Syllogism

more on hierarchy

classificatory tentacles reach beyond philosophy

Classification is ubiquitous – lots of interesting stuff on planetary classification, hurricane classification(s), race and vital statistics, the ICD, American Time Use SUrvey’s Activity Lexicon, etc.

Where next?

  • non-bibliographic classifications give insight to classificatory structure
  • some research has already begun, e.g., Cheryl Knott Malone on the NAICS


Barbara Kwasnik – planets – instances vs. classes

Dagobert Soergel – mutual exclusivity is almost always artificial. (Amen!)

Cherly Knott Malone – planet example is great in relation to Hope’s early work, i.e., the “classical planets” are those from Earthling’s perspective

Morning lead speaker, Emma Tonkin, “Signal and noise: Social construction and representation.” [Word doc available in DLIST]

Em had to rush through her presentation in spots and there is much on language in it so I will sit down and give it a close reading before commenting on it. Based on the presentation I can and will recommend it.

Pengyi Zhang, “Supporting sense-making with tools for structuring a concept space: A proposal for design and evaluation.” [Word doc available from DLIST]

Not much to say on this one based on the presentation. Could be a good idea but we are a long way and several design cycles away from anything that does better than just getting in the way. And what about non-web-based sources?

Tiffany Smith, “Cataloging and you: Measuring the efficacy of a folksonomy for subject analysis.” [Word doc available at DLIST]

Compared LCSH versus top tags for 5 books in LibraryThing.

Five minute madness – descriptions of the posters and why we should be interested in them

Hur-Li Lee, et. al. “Reflecting and shaping world views: Historical treatments in classification.” [Word doc available at DLIST]

Erik Mitchell, “Organization as meta-literacy: Evaluating student use of metadata and information organization principles in the classroom.” [Word doc available in DLIST]

Bradley Wade Bishop, “Organizing geographic information: the creation of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure.” [Word doc available in DLIST]

Melinda Whetstone, ” Status of health information classification for consumer information retrieval.” [Word doc available in DLIST]

Lunch and posters

Thomas Dousa, “Everything old is new again: perspectivism and polyhierarchy in Julius Otto Kaiser’s theory of systematic indexing.” [Word doc available at DLIST]

Excellent paper and presentation that shows the value of a century old view of indexing that has much relevance for today due to its view of perspectivism and polyhierarchy.

Mikel Breitenstein, “Push and pull in ‘the attention economy.'” [Word doc available in DLIST]

While interesting, what was the connection? Sure, on one description we do live in an attention economy. But seeing as it was pointed out that this view “presents a questionable world social model” and that it “separates need from want,” that is, the “poor need attention” and the “wealthy want attention,” why should we in IS consider it a valid model in any respect? And, again, what is the connection to classification?

Afternoon break

Afternoon lead speaker, Corinne Jörgensen, “Image access, the semantic gap, and social tagging as a paradigm shift.” [Word doc available at DLIST]

Semantic gap takes many forms – her use is as the difference between the description of an object in different languages, e.g., a picture of an apple vs. a histogram of the image. [Except while a photograph may qualify as a description of the object photographed, it is debatable. In what way can a histogram of a photograph be said to be a description of the apple?]

Images are multivalent

While I am not a physicist by any means, uses “entropy” in a way completely counter to my understanding, and to the use by Bates in her 2005 and 2006 articles on the definition of information. Is this another case of people expropriating concepts from other domains and then using them in ways in which they were not meant to be used. My guess is that her use comes via or through the Shannon model of communication and gets torqued in that way.

Caroline Beebe, “Bridging the semantic gap: exploring descriptive vocabulary for image structure.” [Word doc available in DLIST]

Disconnect between the:

  • physical data (binary code)
  • conceptual interpretation (intellectual code of the searcher)

Cheryl Knott Malone, “When more is better: a counter-narrative regarding keyword and subject retrieval in digitized diaries.” [Word doc available in DLIST]

“Just read it.” Well, no. Read it and think about it.

Wrap-up: Lussky, Jörgensen, Olson, Tonkin

Jörgensen: Due to entropy, the organization of information causes loss of information [see my comment above on her paper]. What are the limits of each technique?

Olson: Two themes:

  • Context (social, cultural, individual, disciplinary)
  • Structure, or lack thereof

So, “how are context and structure related?”

All in all, an interesting day.

ASIS&T 2007 Annual Meeting

It’s Sunday morning and I’ve been in Milwaukee since Friday evening. Had a longish, but nice drive up with fellow student Tom Dousa. Lots of great conversation and if I could only remember 10% it would be most useful. Of course, the most useful 10% would be even better. Tom is incredibly brilliant and is interested in many of the same, or overlapping, things as me.

Yesterday was the 18th Annual SIG/CR Classification Research Workshop and then the Happy Hour at the Historic Turner Restaurant. Free drinks and great company. I hung out with Christina Pikas, Amy (UIUC LEEP), Jacob (UW), Tom (UIUC), Linda (Kent?) and other people who popped in an out. After a couple drinks, Christina, Linda, Amy, Tom and I went to Mader’s for German food where we continued the wonderful conversation.

I only have one complain so far and that is there no free wireless on the conference floor! The conferences title this year is “Joining Research and Practice: Social Computing and Information Science.” Social Computing? What versions of social computing thrive without internet access. One can supposedly rent a wireless card for $10/day from the conference hotel, but I also heard that they ran out of wireless cards. This is during the pre-conference; just wait for everyone to get here for the main conference!

I love you ASIS&T but this is simply inexcusable! Luckily we have a free wired connection in our hotel room (not the main conference hotel) although it is spotty. Glad to have it though.

All of the papers/presentations from SIG/CR CRW are supposed to end up in DLIST and they have certainly started showing up there.

Oh. One more complaint which has nothing to do with ASIS&T proper is that my camera shutter (outer one) broke yesterday so I won’t be getting many pictures. 🙁 This is the same problem that the previous one! Grrr! I’m pretty sure this one ought to still be under the extended warranty so Staples will be seeing me when I get back. Unfortunately, that means almost no pics from the conference or Milwaukee.

Well, that’s enough blather for now. I’m going to head over to the main conference hotel and hang out and maybe see some folks.

Is it now the right thing at the wrong time, or…

… the wrong thing at the right time, or, perhaps, can it just be there are too many right things to do at overlapping right times?

I know I haven’t fully explicated my bibliography topic yet but a potential change has arisen already. This change is both negative and beneficial; as most changes are. [And as many who ardently advocate for change seem too often to ignore.]

I have chosen a “topic” of immense interest to me which will also allow me to pursue it (reading sequence, primarily) in a fundamentally different way. The topic is (much of) the work of one specific author who writes in areas of immense interest and importance to me. They often write about the larger issues, or at least situate their thoughts in context with the larger issues, argue for making our epistemologies (and assumptions) explicit, and argue for an explicit epistemological basis which I am clearly drawn to.

This person is also going to be visiting GSLIS in the near future and will also be at ASIS&T Annual. This will provide me several opportunities to talk with them. And while at ASIS&T I will also be able to speak with some of the other folks with whom my author has been engaged with in their own slice of “the grand discussion.”

I have spent quite a few hours and a score or two of $$ collecting, adding to Zotero, and printing the fairly sizeable output of my author, along with beginning my reading program “from the beginning,” as one might say.

Sounds just about perfect, doesn’t it? What could possibly be wrong?

Well, I am a CAS student, which means I have to do an 8 semester hour “project” as a capstone to my degree. I had always been hoping to do something a tad (or lot) more projecty than a large paper. The large paper was always, of course, a fall back since one of those is always imminently doable.

The final eight hours are the CAS project, a substantive investigation of a problem in librarianship or information science, which is followed by a final oral examination [from the CAS program description].

When I first signed up for Bibliography this fall several months back I was hoping to know what my project was going to be so I could work on my lit review, in particular. I began the semester without a project topic (as I was fully afraid that I might).

As many of you know—from my reading lists and otherwise—I maintain several deep interests at the same time. I imagine many of you do, too. That is one of the stereotypical traits of librarians that gets far less airplay than, say, love of cats.

Back in May or so, David Bade turned me on to the Oxford linguist/philosopher Roy Harris. [Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, David!] I have since read 6 of his books and am currently reading a 7th. I also have 4 more sitting at home. I have recently ordered 3 others from Amazon (2 have arrived).

Harris is a leading figure in integrational linguistics or, simply, Integrationism.

While I have some recorded stabs at thesis or problem statements [that I’m not ready to share], it ought [it seems to me] to be abundantly clear to everyone that everything we do in libraries, librarianship, and/or information science is based upon the use of language. I have so far found no way in which to take this as completely uncontroversial.

In some ways, though, it may not be entirely self-evident. On this point, I am a bit divided. I cannot personally see how it could not be self-evident, but I am unsure whether that is the case for everyone [in LIS].

Subject description and assignment, indexing, thesauri and ontologies (controlled vocabularies of all types), information retrieval (of any kind), librarian as intermediary/gatekeeper, relevance, user query statements, query expansion, …. Really, is there anything we do which is not based upon the use of language?

Honestly, that question is a little naïve. The same could be asked about lots of arenas of life. But considering how vastly broad the domain of LIS is—both theory and practice—I can think of nothing so completely dependent on language.

So the question now becomes, “What is the LIS view(s) of language?” Once we admit to the radical dependency upon language for a field involved in the use of recorded data/information/knowledge this seems a fairly basic question. Have any of you ever asked it?

On the [what I consider to an extremely off-] chance that you’ve ever asked it of yourself, did you ever try to get outside the “metalinguistic framework” of the educated Westerner (or of orthodox linguistics, which is founded on the same)? Did you even try to try to answer it based simply on your supposedly naïve sense of being a lay user of language? Probably not, to either of those questions.

The integrational critique has serious implications for our discipline. Deeply fundamental implications. If I thought I was the person to even begin to address them I would petition to change to the Ph.D. program immediately. Unfortunately [in this case], I am not even remotely as bright as some of my friends seem to think. If I was then perhaps I could actually produce a dissertation that was one of the rare few that actually adds to scholarship. I would so love to be able to do so. But, it is not to be. I am simply not this bright.

I can easily see how wedded our field is to orthodox linguistics, I can easily find examples across every aspect of our field to show this is the case, I can (soon) produce a good overview of the integrational critique of orthodox linguistics, I can see many of the implications this critique holds for our field.

Unfortunately, I cannot see them to the depth to which they truly go. Nor can I yet even begin to see what choice we have but to act as if orthodox linguistics is “correct” in our actual practice. And while I do think this admission is a start, as it implies that we’ve acknowledged the issue of reliance on a completely bankrupt theory of language, I do not particularly want to argue for a [further?] separation of our theory from practice.

I want to be able to “see” what a full embrace of integrationism might mean for the theory and practice of LIS! And without other people paving much of the way I am simply not that person. I certainly do not know all of my limits but this is one of them.

Based on my applying for jobs before I was particularly ready to [I’d prefer to be done with this degree] the question of how exactly I would finish my CAS [time frame, mostly] arose. I have a total of 5 years [started May 2006] so the 8 hr. project could be done over an extended period. Over the last few months as this issue arose in my mind—and I read more and more Harris books—I came to think that maybe it could be addressed if I took the longer route inherent in starting a job before completion. I thought that I couldn’t possibly do it in a semester. But after my talk with my advisor the other day I have decided that, yes, I can.

So. Perhaps I have my CAS project topic.

Without going into any more detail [I hadn’t intended to. Yet.] it seems to me that I ought to switch my bibliography topic to Integrationism and Harris in particular.

What to do? What to do?

I imagine that I will still be really interested in my first topic for quite a while. I even think that if there is a way to “harmonize” integrationism and LIS then this author’s views are the (currently) only beginnings.

If I change my topic then I will certainly still be able to engage with my author while visiting us (as I had fully intended before I chose the topic anyway!) and at ASIS&T. My questions will just take a broader focus than before. While the $ spent on printing would become a currently “unnecessary” expense I really have no problems with it. It is all in binders in (primarily) chronological order and will be easily accessible in the future. At hand, so to speak.

Long and perhaps rambling. But maybe now you see the context for the opening questions. It seems to be another case of too many right things to do at overlapping right times. 🙁

How is one to do the right thing at the right time when they conflict with what is actually doable?

Sure. I could put off the reading of more Harris until after the semester. Except for it isn’t happening that way. Or I could just keep on with my pleasure reading of Harris and put the more serious considerations off for spring. But unlike my current author, Harris has written both a ton of articles and a ton of books. I really need to be paying better (i.e. explicit, notated) attention to where I see connections between Harris and LIS.

What am I to do? It’s not too late but a decision needs to be made.

Wistful and confused

I know I’ve been pretty quiet lately. Lots going on and not so well physically. I just seem to stay sick anymore.

Lots of things happening, though.

Bibliography class

I have a topic for my Bibliography class and I’m making great progress collecting things and entering them into Zotero. I’ve read a few previously and I read the earliest one Monday eve. I’m not yet ready to discuss my topic here for a couple reasons, but I will. As for the fancy web-based ideas I’m not counting on them happening for this project.

I am excited about being able to read this body of literature chronologically, though. It will be a vastly different experience from my normal habits.

I am focusing on one author and will attempt to situate his work (0verall themes, where drawing from, where pointing to) within the overall context of our discipline. I am starting to get a grasp on some of the overall themes, “paradigms,” and so on in the field thanks to all my reading. I hope to write an introductory essay that will sketch some of this out while firmly situating my author’s perspective(s) within it.

Zotero and Web of Knowledge/Science

Anybody out there using Zotero also using ISI’s Web of Knowledge/Science and able to get usable citations out and into Zotero? Zotero’s site claims they work with ISI but I have been unable to get anything out that Zotero will recognize.

Programming class

Just getting started with Python was really kicking my butt until yesterday evening, but I finally made a breakthrough and then made some real progress. I’m pretty sure I met all the requirements for my 1st program and it’s 9 days early. 🙂

I doubt it will stay this way but here’s hoping there’ll be similar breakthroughs.

Job applications

Due to budget issues, the position I was asked to apply for was put on hold until February at the earliest (along with a few other positions). I’m not sure how I feel about this exactly, but it does complicate life some. For one thing, as much as I would love the other position I applied for, I only did so because I was applying for the other. I figured that if I was applying for a job before I was really ready to then I might as well apply for a second. And since the second seemed perfect, well….

That job is at a much smaller school, though, so I imagine they are having a hard time getting the search committee together to meet at the start of the fall semester. As much as they wanted someone to start right away they may not be able to pull that off.

And if anyone from this school is reading, I am perfect for your job and would love to work with you. My above comment is only in relation to the actual decision to begin applying and not about choosing what to apply to.

The P-word

The P-word has been cropping up a lot again lately. I have also discovered an interest that is easily P-level work—if I am capable of it—and which is really calling my name. I feel like I need to strap myself to the mast and plug my ears.

[Had a nice talk with my advisor today (most of this post was written last night) and the P-word has again been banished. Whew! In fact, despite my earlier concerns over doing this topic as my CAS “project” we have decided that it is a wonderful fit.]

Confusion reigns.

Ex moving away

Friday evening I’m heading to Normal to help my ex and her boyfriend load up a moving van for their move to Georgia (his home). They’ve been talking about this for a while now and it’s finally truly happening.

I’m not sure how I feel about all this. I know I’m supposed to hate my ex but I don’t. In fact, I love her very much (and her boyfriend). We are all good friends. No; I am not in love with her and have not been for well before we were divorced. But she is important to me.

Since Sara went off to college over 5 years ago, the ex has been my only family member living anywhere near me. Heck, I have been using her as my emergency contact since she was by far the closest to me physically. Now I’m truly going to be all alone in the (local) world.

I don’t like it.


Karla and I did our best to get the ACRL student chapter reinvigorated this year, and while we seemed to have lots of people interested in academic and research libraries at orientation and Orgapalooza we played hell getting people to volunteer to be officers. Elections finally opened yesterday. Yay!

Karla and I both have a lot of things going on in our lives and we have given and given over the years. We did what we could this year out of a feeling of duty. [And I despise duty ethics!] We are the only two long-term members still around and we want to see this chapter flourish again and, perhaps, spawn a few others. While neither of us is interested in being officers, we can (and will) provide lots of guidance and even spearhead a few things. We started seeding the ACRL@UIUC Moodle space with suggestions and started collecting meeting times that would work for folks once we had officers to get things moving.

  • Interested in the 1st year academic librarian experience? Who do you think knows most of the 1st year academic librarians at UIUC? They were (mostly) Karla and my classmates.
  • Want to visit the Circus Collection at ISU, or ISU as a possibly more typical academic library setting than UIUC? Who worked there for 6 years and still has lots of friends there?
  • Interested in the idea of the Information/Learning Commons or gaming in academic libraries or any of the other innovative things happening in the UIUC Undergraduate Library?

We can do much of this legwork and/or putting people in contact with the right people. So I’m very glad to see us moving forward.

Good and bad

As usual, there is much not being said although, in this case, most is on different but related topics.

Clearly there is much good in amongst the bad. And this is not to claim that there is no middle. Me; I’m no 2.0topian nor a Luddite. There is a middle, or should I say there are middles?

I am grateful for friends, near and far. I am grateful to have an advisor who doesn’t push me to do things I’m not ready to do, but who believes in me nonetheless.

ASIS&T Annual 2007 is soon and I’ll get to see some of those dear far friends. I’ll also get to rub elbows with some of the “names” in our profession. Hopefully this year I’ll be a little less shy about approaching some of them. [Reminder to self and others: They have always been gracious.]

I just wish I could be well for a while.

And I sure as hell wish I hadn’t “woke up” to find myself all alone (in a direct sense) this close to the mid-century mark.

Confused and wistful; wistful and confused. Pick one.