Tunneling for rabbits

How far down the rabbit holes can I fall, and can I then tunnel between them whilst still falling?

Do I deserve my “little ducklings” or would I be better served by spectators at my self-immolation?

I offer the ducklings/spectators the option of deciding for themselves and changing their minds as they see fit, just as I reserve the right to change what I think I’m doing here.

I’m not sure that I’m really ready for this (the announcement, not the work) but I have decided on the topic for my CAS project, which since it came “soon enough” in the semester has changed my topic for my bibliography in Bibliography class this semester.

For Bibliography I had decided, and significantly begun, on the (primary) English-language publications of Dr. Birger Hjørland. Based on my wide-ranging interests and readings of the last several months I had been attracted to more and more of his articles and ideas. He also has a fairly representative list of publications available on his website, though it is not complete. A few A&I searches, luck, and ensuring that the “right people” know of my interest and I quickly have a pretty close to exhaustive list. Much of it is available electronically and much more will be as soon as Knowledge Organization gets online. I now have almost everything printed or photocopied and in 2 large binders (except for his book which remains pristinely non-hole punched).

I was really looking forward to (and had begun) reading this substantial amount of material chronologically. How many of us have ever had the opportunity to do such a thing and literally observe (as much as possible via published output) someone’s views develop over time?

But a choice of CAS project topic forced a shift. As I said previously (and even earlier in other venues), one of the possible things to address during Bibliography was “compiling my working bibliography for my CAS project.” But as the semester began I still had no idea what I was going to do for my project.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I “knew” my topic. But it has taken several weeks and multiple conversations to go from the idea that my topic could only be addressed as a dissertation, to it being doable if I take the “long route” to finishing my CAS by getting a job first, to “Suck it up, dude! You can do this in a semester” to “Yes, I have it and damn it, I’m excited about it!”

So what is my topic? Well, I actually did a better job giving it away the other day than I feel up to at the moment. But simply put, I am going to attempt to apply Integrationism to the field of LIS [see both links for more details.]

What does this mean for my immersion in Dr. Hjørland’s work? At least two points come immediately to mind. First, of the major epistemological viewpoints or “paradigms” in LIS, I see his approach “(the ‘sociological-epistemological paradigm’ or the ‘domain analytic approach’)” (Hjørland, 1998, 611) as the only one (currently) capable of embracing an integrationist perspective. Second, it is a handful of his articles which have seriously allowed me to see (or perhaps crystallize for me ) some of the overarching themes, stances, viewpoints, paradigms, and so on in our field. Thus, much of his work remains critically important to my further work and, in particular, to my CAS project topic.

For instance, I took myself out for dinner and drinks this evening and read the intro chapter to his book (1997) and took notes. There are several places where his language practically screams Integrationism.

As for my bibliography itself, it has gone from being boldly reaching in quantity but well defined and bounded to highly amorphous and about as vaguely defined as possible. But I absolutely adore Dr. Krummel for allowing me to take this route. I have not completely shifted to Harris (and/or Integrationism) as that is a much bigger topic for a bibliography. What I am theoretically focusing on at the moment are the points of contact between Harris and Hjørland. Depth and not quantity is the operative word now. Quality was always the operative word and still is.

Dr. Krummel said he is completely unconcerned about the number of entries that are in the final bibliography and that my focus is on the direct points of contact while including and defining the grey areas to either side as best as I can. That leeway and trust seriously frees me up to do some important exploratory work. I can read the things I was reading anyway, albeit in a different light, and include the things I consider important without having to worry about reading pretty much a whole body of work.

Have I leapt in over my head? Again? Probably. But I am fired up about this whole project! Hell, I even seem to be turning into a proper researcher and doing well thought out searches, considering what kind of sources I need for each aspect of my project, talking to subject librarians, and so on.

I have been making so many book purchases lately that the credit union contacted me to make sure someone hadn’t stolen my debit card info. I have mostly been buying Harris books, but I ordered 2 proceedings last night with papers by Hjørland in them. In most cases I have library copies available and even in my possession. But I want and/or need these for myself.

Today I had another productive conversation with Kathryn because she is my advisor and because Dr. Krummel insisted that I keep in touch with her about all of this. What an easy demand to meet! 🙂 As my ideas have been coalescing to morphing to coalescing again I have been wavering about whether I was going/needed to meet with Dr. Hjørland one-on-one when he comes to visit soon. Today I scheduled this meeting.

Now I have an ambitious list of things to address in preparation for making this a productive meeting for both of us. I need to read some of and re-read some others of Dr. Hjørland’s publications, same for Harris, hopefully have a productive talk with The Improbable Don Quixote, make some short overview sketches, and try to have a short overview document of “the issues” as I see them for Dr. Hjørland’s convenience a day or two in advance.

Yeah.” Anyone got a match?

Seriously though. I am absolutely stoked! Perhaps I’m just too stupid to be more than a itty-bitty bit concerned about what I’m getting myself into. Perhaps I expect too much of myself. But I want this.

I do not expect to revolutionize the world or even LIS. I certainly do not expect to solve anything. Even if I managed the first I wouldn’t accomplish the second. But I can do a good job of laying out what I see as a major problem area in our field. I can point to some overlap and points of contact between two major theoreticians.

Best of all possible outcomes? Who knows?

Success? Spark a few interests and start a conversation. That is what I am aiming for. Well, and a tad bit of learning for mself along the way. 😉

The upside for the moment is that it keeps me out of the biblioblogosphere for a while. Perhaps a very good thing? Cause some of you folks … yeah, I got some things to say and they may not be exactly endearing. But some of you really need to come down off your high horses. Sure, you’ve got some valid points but it simply is not the case that we all learn the same nor is it always the case that trying to take a middle road or questioning is meant to be obstructionist. The place has become mighty fractious (and worse) again. Disagreement I like. Veiled name-calling, belittling, “just get on board,” and “my way is the right way” are not disagreement and they are certainly not discussion. They are condescending, they are threatening, and they are wrong. OK, done.

See what I mean? Probably best I have no time to get into all this at the moment.

Hjørland, Birger. “Theory and Metatheory of Information Science: A New Interpretation.” Journal of Documentation. 54.5 (1998): 606-621.

Hjørland, Birger. Information Seeking and Subject Representation: An Activity-theoretical Approach to Information Science. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1997.

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.

Some things read this week, 9 – 15 September 2007

Thursday – Sunday, 6 – 9 Sep

Capurro, Rafael and Birger Hjørland. “The Concept of Information.” ARIST 37, 2003: 343-411.

This is an excellent and lengthy review article on the concept of information. It is much broader in coverage than just IS, though, looking also at the concept interdisciplinarily and, in specific, in the natural sciences, the social sciences and humanities, and in LIS.

It is, as one might imagine for a lit review, full of useful sources. My only complaint—and it is mostly inwardly focused on my monolingualism—is that the authors cite a lot of German sources, including some of the more interesting sounding ones. [I know David, it is not too late to learn.]

For instance, although I did not fully accept some of the ideas attributed to Weizsäcker, I can fully accept these ideas:

Finally, Weizsäcker points to the “unavoidable circle” between language and information; that is, between word plurivocity and conceptual univocity, as a characteristic of exact thinking. The reason is that we are finite observers and actors within language as well as within evolution. We cannot, in Kantian terms, understand things as they are in themselves and therefore we never have fully univocal concepts (Weizsäcker sources omitted, emphasis mine, 363).

Contrast this with this view from Priss, commented on here.

The advantage of formalizations, however, is that notions are defined with absolute precision within the formal realm and that they therefore may be implementable in software (draft 12).

The implications of Weizsäcker’s comment run deep for machine inferencing.

There are even a fair few decent looking sources for the more politically active/socially conscious amongst us. For example:

Braman supposedly shows the different approaches to defining information for policy makers and how this is, in fact, a political decision (373-74).

Braman, S. (1989). Defining information: An approach for policymakers. Telecommunications Policy, 13 (1), 233-242. This article is also cited on p. 345 and on p. 346.

“Romm (1997) shows that serious ethical implications are involved in defining something as factual as opposed to meaningful” (387).

Romm, N. (1997). Implications of regarding information as meaningful rather than factual. In R. L. Winder, S. K. Probert & I. A. Beeson (Eds.), Philosophical aspects of information systems (pp. 23-34). London: Taylor & Francis.

Lengthy, but recommended.

Sunday – Saturday, 9 – 15 Sep

Harris, Roy. Introduction to Integrational Linguistics. 1st ed, Kidlington, Oxford, UK: Pergamon, 1998.

Read chaps. 1-5.

Wednesday, 12 Sep

Harel, David. Computers Ltd.: What They Really Can’t Do. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. (Text for LIS452)

Read ch. 1. [book arrived late.]

Saturday, 15 Sep

Downey, et. al. How to Think Like a Computer Scientist (2nd ed). at Open Book Project. (Text for LIS452)

  • Ch. 3: Functions
  • Ch. 4: Conditionals and recursion
  • Ch. 5: Fruitful functions
  • Ch. 6: Iteration

I actually read a lot more this week but it was mostly a different kind of reading as I began work on my bibliography. More on that topic later.

Information; the idea


What the hell is it? What has been thought about it? How has it been theorized? In which disciplines has it been used as a concept? Do we even need it as a theoretical concept? Might we be better of without it?

It seems that I have acquired another area of deep interest. Perhaps some of you could have predicted it—based on much of what I have been reading lately—before I even admitted it to myself. Once you see this week’s upcoming “Some things read…” post—and it is only Monday—it will be fairly evident.

Sure. I meant to “go in deep” and do a bit of reading in this area as I saw fit…

“…you’ll be the keeper of your Holy Grail…”

Pavlov’s Dog. Episode. Pampered Menial.

Sorry, minor musical interlude.

…but I hadn’t quite intended to head so far down the path. Honestly, I think pretty much everyone in our field ought to be seriously concerned with information as a concept. Reading an article or two (Buckland, probably) is simply not enough; as canonical (and good) as they may be.

I forced my way through Raber’s The Problem of Information and tracked down and read many of his very productive sources. If only his book read as well as some of the sources.

While reading Raber I serendipitously stumbled across (that is, I picked the print journal up off the shelf to leaf through) an article by Birger Hjørland in JASIST 58 (10) 2007. I commented on this article, which is a critique of a concept of information put forth recently by Marcia Bates, in my “Some things read this week, 5 – 11 August 2007” post.

Imagine my utter surprise and absolute delight when cleaning out the spam caught by Akismet a few days ago (1 Sep) to find a comment from Dr. Hjørland. He suggested that I send a letter to the editor of JASIST outlining my critique of his view to which he might offer a rejoinder. Wow!

Note: A proper theory of information needs to account for why a comment full of links about licking … ,well, you get the idea, gets through to moderation but a comment from one of our leading researchers with no links gets caught by the spam filter. [Although, perhaps not a theory of information for LIS.]

Lesson to the less “important” among us to check our spam filters and not just automatically trash everything.

As it is, my critique is only of one very small part of his paper. It is also an idea that I have read in many places, and has direct corollaries in other views within theories of information.

That is, that information is that which answers a question (his use) or it is that which reduces uncertainty. I maintain that information can just as often and easily cause an increase in uncertainty and/or generate more questions than it answers, if it even answers any.

In fact, if information did not cause uncertainty or generate questions, would we not quickly satisfy all of our information needs? Whoa! Sorry, just finally verbalized that. Is this so patently obvious that it is rarely acknowledged in our theories?

Anyway, I may well end up doing my bibliography on the concept of information in LIS. So much for doing something that I already have a lot of work done in. Oh well, I’m well on my way as it is.

Some things read this week, 20 – 26 May 2007

Sunday, 20 May

Harris, Roy. The Language Machine. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987.

Read chap. 4-5, but over 2 separate occasions.

Jacob, Elin K. “Communication and Category Structure: The Communicative Process as a Constraint on the Semantic Representation of Information.” Advances in Classification Research, Vol. 4. Proceedings of the 4th SIG/CR Classification Research Workshop, held at the 56th ASIS Annual Meeting, Columbus, OH, October 24, 1993. Medford, NJ: Information Today, 1995: 81-99.

I was excited to read this based on some of my recent readings via David Bade, as it makes use of Grice, Wittgenstein and others as it takes on the “classical theory” of categories and standard theories of communication. In the end, it was rather disappointing. It was of some value, though, as it provided me a bit more familiarity with some of these ideas.

Relies heavily on psychology and although it mentions a recent research program (1993) it barely mentions it. There is also really nothing to directly tie the ideas into LIS and especially to classification. Poorly proof-read and the content is somewhat repetitive and a tad rambling.

categories, communication, classical theory of categories, essential features, intension, extension, family resemblances, Wittgenstein, Grice, Putnam, reference, causal theory of reference, psychological essentialism, Saussure, Shannon and Weaver, Sperber and Wilson, conduit metaphor, Cooperative Principle, cognitive constraints, Chomsky, Freyd, graded typicality effects

Paglia, Camille. Break, blow, burn. 2005. Read:

Emily Dickinson, “The Soul Selects Her Own Society.”

William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming.”

Lakoff, George. Women, Fire and Dangerous Things, ch. 16

Monday, 21 May

Soergel, Dagobert. “The Many Uses of Classification: Enriched Thesauri, Ontologies, and Taxonomies.” In Efthimis N. Efthimiadis, ed. Advances in Classification Research, Vol. 12: Proceedings of the 12th ASIST SIG/CR Classification Research Workshop, held at the 64th Annual ASIST Meeting, November 2-8, 2001, Washington, DC. Medford, NJ: Information Today, c2004: 1-28.

This is a great intro article to (some of) the ideas of Terminology Services. It gives a clear exposition of the uses of thesauri and the potential benefits to users in the computing environment in which we find ourselves. I wrote on the paper when I finished it that it is an “Excellent “starter” article.”

It lists 7 areas where thesauri can be of immense value, but only covers the first 6 due to space limitations.

  1. Convey meaning, orientation, and structure. Definitions.
  2. Provide rich relationships. Give facts.
  3. Support exploration and browsing, creativity, problem solving, planning, and design, both individual and collaborative.
  4. Support knowledge-based assistance for indexing and searching, behind the scenes or collaboratively with the user.
  5. Link to thesaurus entries from text. Link from one thesaurus into others. Construct an integrated access system to many thesauri.
  6. Assist users in maintaining their own thesauri. Collaborative development and maintenance of thesauri.
  7. Support semantic structure and processing, for example by agents, to unburden users from many task (as in the Semantic Web) (Figure 2., p. 2)

Discusses display issues throughout, providing examples where possible. In fact, the article is much shorter than the page length suggests due to so many illustrations.

Some of the comments that really stuck with me:

Knowledge organization systems (thesauri, classifications, ontologies, etc.) can do much more than support indexing and searching. They can help people to explore a domain, make creative connection between concepts, and solve problems (20). [Hell yeah! These are the sorts of things I want to facilitate by working in this area.]

Many users keep their own information systems. Actually just keeping track of email, bookmarks, files, and such becomes a problem. So users need their own personalized thesauri just to mange their own information. … Users would be well served by a system that, … puts together the results in a draft thesaurus, and then assists the user in editing and further customizing this draft thesaurus (28).

The classification researcher must be a renaissance person. Doing research about and building classification requires knowledge of many fields, many of which both contribute to knowledge about classification and use classifications (28).

Soergel goes on to list these as “the most important areas related to building and analyzing knowledge organization systems” (28):

  • Principles of classification and knowledge representation
  • Philosophy, esp. ontology and epistemology
  • Cognitive psychology, the workings of the human mind
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Linguistics
  • Instructional design, document design, interface design. Information architecture
  • Markup languages and data structures and their standards (XML, RDF, Topic Maps, thesaurus standards, lexicographic standards) and how they interact with display
  • Software considerations for thesaurus-building systems
  • Last, but not least, domain knowledge, often in multiple disciplines (Fig. 22, p. 28)

Exciting stuff, boys and girls! Are you prepared? Are our schools preparing new professionals to do this work?

This article should be required reading in thesaurus construction classes and in any other courses with a section on thesauri.

classification, thesauri, display, functions, meaning, multidimensionality, concept maps, disciplinary domains, context domains, definitions, relationships, indexing, searching, query term expansion, linkages, personal thesauri, Yahoo!, AAT, AOD Thesaurus, MeSH, UMLS, MedIndex

Harris, Roy. The Language Machine. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987.

Read chap. 6.

Tuesday, May 22

Jacob, Elin K. “Classification and Categorization: Drawing the Line.” In Kwasnik and Fidel, eds. Advances in Classification Research, Vol. 2: Proceedings of the 2nd ASIS SIG/CR Classification Research Workshop, held at the 54th ASIS Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, October 27-31, 1991. Medford, NJ: Learned Information, c1992: 67-83.

Cited by Uta Priss, “Multilevel Approaches to Concepts and Formal Ontologies,” p. 95. Read 16 May 2007.

Takes on the conceptual confusion surrounding classification and categorization, which are often conflated as being synonymous. Covers the classical theory of categories and the research (and resulting theories) that has undermined it. Suggests that the conflation of these two concepts is partly responsible for “the apparent failure of the classical theory to account for the instability observed in category membership” (67). Uses Keil’s notion of a communicative constraint to help understand the relationship between these two concepts.

The possibility that categories function in accordance with classical theory at one level while exemplifying aspects of instability, graded structure, and fuzzy boundaries at another should encourage researchers to set aside, for the moment, the emphasis on category structure and to focus their attention, instead, on the generation of cognitive categories and on the role(s) performed by these idiosyncratic categories in the processes of cognition and communication (81).

This is the 2nd article that I have read in as many days that claims that the classical theory of categories “rests on the assumption that intention and extension are synonymous: Being a member (extension) of a particular category entails possession of an essential and defining character (intension)” (69). Well, OK to the 2nd clause; that is simply definitional. But these claims are bugging me, nonetheless.

I think it must be because the writers are speaking “in the vulgar” as we took to calling it in Ontologies. Clearly, a member of a set is not synonymous with the characteristics which put it in the set in the first place. It possesses those characteristics; it is not those characteristics. Perhaps it would be better to say that the entities in a category are coextensive with the set of entities which bear the defining characteristics. Even that is rather loose, but seems somewhat better to me. Maybe Aristotle would claim the entity is synonymous with its essence, but probably only in a narrow sense and not in all senses. Maybe some later categoricians would, too. But I doubt anyone subscribing to the classical theory since the rise of set theory and logic would be so sloppy, if pressed. Perhaps this is a minor point, but considering the pains the author went to to pull apart the concepts of categorization and classification I find it hard to believe that they made this conflation.

classification, categorization, definition, arrangement, classical theory of categories, essential features, intension, extension, graded typicality effects, family resemblances, Wittgenstein, category construction, communicative constraint, Keil

Beghtol, Clare. “Mapping Sentences and Classification Schedules As Methods of Displaying Facets.” In Raymond Schwartz, ed. Advances in Classification Research, Vol. 6: Proceedings of the 6th ASIS SIG/CR Classification Research Workshop, held at the 58th ASIS Annual Meeting, Chicago, Illinois, October 8, 1995. Medford, NJ: Information Today, c1998: 1-11.

Compares the analytico-synthetic methods developed by S.R. Ranganathan and L. Guttman in bibliographic classification systems and in the behavioural sciences, respectively, with a focus on display issues.

facets, mapping sentences, classification, classification schedules, Ranganathan, Guttman, analytico-synthetic methods, displaying facet structure, library science, behavioral sciences, CC, BC2

Harris, Roy. The Language Machine. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987.

Read ch. 7 and re-read the epilogue.

Thank you, David!

I must say that the lengthy paragraph on page 172-173 caused me to shudder to the core of my soul both times I read it; even more so the 2nd time having the full impact of the book behind it. I will most certainly be reading much more Harris.

Highly recommended! And do begin with the Epilogue.

Wednesday, 23 May

Crawford, Walt. Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change. A Cites & Insight Book, 2007.

Read chapters 1-5. Am liking it quite a bit so far, but that was expected. Unfortunately, I cannot comment on how it would seem to one who doesn’t read library-related blogs. Only a few friends have shown up so far, but it’s comforting nonetheless.

My only small gripe (so far) is that while the UI Current LIS Clips does show up in the index, neither Sue Searing or Karla Stover Lucht do, although they do in the text (54). Of course, if I didn’t know these folks personally I probably would not be looking them up. A very small gripe, though.

Thursday, 24 May

Crawford, Walt. Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change. A Cites & Insight Book, 2007.

Read chapters 6-8 in AM. Chap 9 in afternoon. Chap 10 in evening.

Albrechtsen, Hanne and Elin K. Jacob. “Classification Systems as Boundary Objects in Diverse Information Ecologies.” In Efthimis N. Efthimiadis, ed. Advances in Classification Research, Vol. 8: Proceedings of the 8th ASIS SIG/CR Classification Research Workshop, held at the 60th ASIS Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, November 1-6, 1997. Medford, NJ: Information Today, c1998: 1-16.

Uses Star’s notion of a boundary object to provide a dynamic role for classifications “in supporting coherence and articulation across heterogeneous contexts” (1). Also makes use of Nardi & O’Day’s idea of diverse information ecologies. Divides the epistemological approaches to classification in to two broad categories: Rational/Empirical and Historicism/Social Constructivism.

Argues that classificatory work is changing from a monolithic, top-down imposed structure to a more emergent, flexible and heterogenously accommodative form. When I look at Figure 1. Epistemologies for development of classification systems I can only agree that the Historicism/Social Constructivism side has far better answers to questions of basic view of knowledge, concepts, language and dialogue, info systems and their designers. While the chart is of necessity an oversimplification, it is the case that knowledge is historically, culturally and socially determined and is not infallible and objective. Concepts are culturally determined, domain-dependent and dependent on experience and use and are not objective modules of knowledge. And so on (14).

But I’m really beginning to have an issue with many of these articles, especially conference papers. Maybe I’m wanting more from them than what they are really designed to do. Maybe they are really just teasers and are not supposed to actually give any real information regarding what presenters are claiming. But as much as I love the theoretical ideas, I want to know what is actually being done with the theory. Is there anything being done? Perhaps this article is unfair to pick on for this specific fault because it is primarily theoretical, although it does report on two projects that supposedly involve their ideas. More in that in a moment.

Maybe a better example is Jacob’s “Communication and Category Structure: The Communicative Process as a Constraint on the Semantic Representation of Information,” found above. It goes on for several pages about some interesting ideas and then at the very end in a matter of sentences mentions that there is this research project. I could find many more examples of the same, and it isn’t all conference papers either. Where can one find the details?

A second issue I have with many of these articles (again, not necessarily only conference papers) is a lapse into flowery theoretical language. It sounds pretty and important and perhaps even meaningful until one re-reads, and re-reads, it. Then you just have to ask yourself, “Say what?” There is a better example from this week’s readings but I can’t find it quickly, so I’ll use one from the current paper.

In an information ecology, a classification system would function as a boundary object, supporting coherence and a common identity across the different actors involved. In its role as boundary object, a classification should be weakly structured in common use, while remaining open to adaptation in individual communities. Across diverse information ecologies, classification schemes would function as discursive arenas or public domains for communication and production of knowledge by all communities involved (6).

Well, after the just previous refresher by the authors on Star’s boundary objects and Nardi & O’Day’s information ecologiesI find myself shaking my head in agreement. But then I realize that this is simply definitional and is simply a recasting of the ideas inherent in these concepts into a different formulation. So. What does it mean? And, more importantly, what does it mean in practice? How is a classification scheme “weakly structured in common use?” How can it support “coherence and a common identity across the different actors?”

These are not the idle questions of a pedant on my part. I truly want to understand these ideas. I agree with a view of knowledge as socially constructed and historical. I like the concept of boundary objects and often consider myself one, to the point of seeing my professional identity and role as such. I also remember liking the concept of information ecologies from 501’s Nardi & O’Day readings, and have had their book (which I bought) on my desk to be read for a long while now.

This paper does discuss two projects in Denmark that supposedly fit their ideas (Database 2001, Book House). But while I can see how they do one one hand, I also can just as easily see that they don’t on the other. Much like my (still perhaps to come) critique of Hope Olson. It seems one wants to have their cake and eat it too. It seems that they fit their ideas because these systems were jointly designed by librarians and users using collaborative prototyping. These are important steps and ended in (one case) a classification scheme that would not fit within a disciplinary view (horses are separated from animals). The designs are visual, metaphorical, and allow for different search strategies to be employed. Again, important.

But a bit later we read, “…the Book House is a general system for fiction retrieval, which, in it s present form, cannot be customized by individual libraries to support the idiosyncratic needs of specific user communities, …” (10). Cake. And. Eating.

Nonetheless, despite my critiques of this literature in general and this article in specific, it was interesting.

classification, boundary object, information ecologies, Turing test, rationalism, empiricism, historicism, social constructivism, Star, Nardi & O’Day, Hjørland, Book House, Database 2001

Friday, 25 May

Crawford, Walt. Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change. A Cites & Insight Book, 2007.

Read chapters 11-2 in AM. Read chap 13-15 in afternoon. The End.

I hope to write a separate review of this soon, so I’ll leave off any more commenting for now.

Paglia, Camille. Break, blow, burn. 2005. Read:

William Butler Yeats, “Leda and the Swan.”

Saturday, 26 May

Harris, Roy. The Language-Makers. London: Duckworth, 1980.

Read chap. 1 and 2/3ds of chap. 2.

Relationships: a primer

This morning I actually got fresh, hot cookies straight from the oven for the 1st time in almost two years! I stepped into The Cookie Jar and saw that there weren’t any chocolate chip with walnut cookies and was immediately disheartened. Then I realized I was in a bit early and just perhaps….

Ed, the owner, came around the corner from the back and when he saw me said, “They’ve just come out of the oven.” I must have lit up like a 1000-watt bulb cause he immediately said, “I don’t think I can even handle them yet. They’d probably just break apart.” I responded with, “Ed, I don’t want you to burn yourself, but otherwise just put them in the bag. I’m just going to chew them up; I’m not putting them on display or anything.” He said that I might need a spoon and I said, “I’ll manage. Somehow.” With a huge grin on my face, of course. 🙂

I had four wonderfully warm, fresh from the oven, cookies this morning. I ate one on the way to the coffee shop and as badly as I almost needed a spoon I can guarantee you that I did not spill a crumb! They were so fresh from the oven that the other three were still warm once I finally had my coffee and got over to GSLIS.

Oops. This post wasn’t supposed to be about cookies, but it was an awesome way to start the day.

In Representation and Organization this morning, I gave my presentation about my final project all wrapped up with my book report. The book I reviewed is: Bean, Carol A. and Rebecca Green, Eds. Relationships in the Organization of Knowledge. Information Science and Knowledge Management, v. 2. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001.

My final project is an annotated bibliography of all the various and sundry things that I’ve been reading about the highly interdisciplinary—quite possibly the epitome of interdisciplinary—topic of relationships since I started down this road at the end of last fall semester. I will be turning that in some time before next Wed. at 5 PM.

So my presentation was a combined book review and very quick introdution into the broad topic of relationships.

Relationships: a primer.

It doesn’t cover near enough, nor much of anything at any kind of depth. But with only 45 minutes total to present Kathryn and I both knew that I couldn’t do much. Still, I intentionally over-designed the presentation so that folks could use it to explore a bit more on their own if they desire. I can only hope they will.

To spare you the effort, I’ll cut to the chase and give you my conclusion:

While I certainly cannot expect everyone in LIS to be enamored of every one of these types of relationships, I most certainly do expect every LIS “professional” to be concerned with the kinds that most directly impinge on their particular area(s) of expertise.

Relationships are everywhere. There is no reality without them, at least not a reality processable by humans or any other form of life as we understand it. Seeing as LIS is concerned with the recorded forms of human knowledge, they are inescapable.

We have been obsessed with “entities,” things, for far too long. Perhaps it is time we pay more attention to what it is that allows us to recognize any entity in the first place.

Yes, you know me, folks. I’m all about imposing moral imperatives on others. 😉

The semester is certainly winding down, although it’s hard to really feel that way yet. I still need to finish the annotated bibliography and the actual written book review before next Wed. morning. And I still have to revise my paper for Ontologies, sometime before the end of the semester.

I’m really glad I’m not taking a class during Summer I. So I’ll have a sort of break before the main summer session begins. Lots to do during that time frame though. Oh well.

Good luck to all students out there and here’s hoping you all can finish your semester on a high note. Or at least breathing and still on two feet. And a hearty congratulations to all the soon-to-be crowned librarians!

One semester bleeds into the next


I just emailed my seminar paper on mapping thesauri for use by interdisciplinary scientists to my professor. Fall 2006 is finally over, at least for me. I have a few friends still struggling with papers due soon. I wish them well.

The “beauty” of it all is that the new semester starts tomorrow. Where, oh where, did break go?

Now I need to get on designing and getting approval for my independent study on thesauri. I am particularly interested in interoperability and embedded services. In that regard, I will be definitely looking into both OCLC‘s and JISC‘s Terminology Services research and projects.

Once I get far enough along in my research, I would love to visit OCLC to get a first hand glimpse at some of the work they are doing. Maybe over Spring Break I can go visit my daughter in Cleveland and stop by Dublin on the way. I did make one OCLC contact while at ASIS&T 2006, so maybe…. I would absolutely love to visit UKOLN at the University of Bath, but I don’t even have a passport, much less that kind of money. 🙁

I know I promised a copy of my paper to JennyB, jennimi, and my boss at IFSI. I will get off my lazy butt after I eat lunch and watch a movie and email it to you. If I promised anyone else, please just remind me. The last few weeks have been mostly a blur. I bet what you really want is the next paper, though. I am not ashamed of this one, not in any sense, but it is also not what I really became interested in. I guess it provides a decent selective overview of interdisciplinarity and the mapping of thesauri, along with some related methods. I tried to write it in the style of an ARIST chapter, which is a new genre for me, so I’m a little hesitant to say how useful it might be for someone else. It can serve as a decent source for citations, though. And then there are the scores of others I wasn’t able to incorporate…. Ah well. Onward, if not exactly upward.

Me. I’m off to enjoy the last few hours of “break.”

Let the reading of 2007 begin…

I only have a moment as it’s time to relax before bed. I’ve been studiously busy researching for my paper on the use of multiple conceptual thesauri by interdisciplinary scientists [and yes, I’m being intentionally vague].

I have probably read, or re-read, somewhere around 8-9 articles in the last 2 days. And a dozen more in the last days of 2006. More to go, too. And some books to probe….

I’m going in to see my advisor tomorrow and have emailed Dr. Palmer, too, to see if she is around to help me focus my paper a bit. I just need to catch up with Kathryn, but also talk about an independent study for Spring, which is rapidly approaching. I also want to talk to her about my paper for Dr. Palmer. With what I’m seeing at the moment, I could continue my work on this paper for a few more hours and maybe actually say something, besides learning a massive amount more. But this paper comes first.

Regarding the post title, or motivation therefor, last night I began reading Foucault – The Archaeology of Knowledge & The Discourse on Language. I only got about 15 pages, but it’s a start. I also continued reading Epictetus’ The Art of Living yesterday.

So, I seem to be off to a good start in my reading for 2007. I just hope I’m able to process some of this….

Where I am with this semester?

590IML – Information Modeling — We got our marked exercises on conceptual modeling (ER, EER) back a couple of days ago and I was super excited to discover that I had aced it. Yay me!

I’m working on my DTD and document and got an early but nearly complete version to validate earlier today. Yay! Now I need to add an element with mixed content and maybe another attribute somewhere and then validate that. I also need to add comments for everything and then revalidate to ensure I didn’t dork anything up. I have until Monday for this.

[Right before I went to the GSLIS Holiday Party early this evening I add a mixed content section, added some mixed content to the document and validated it. I went to the party momentarily ecstatic. 🙂 Now I just have to add a few minor touches and revalidate.]

I ran into Allen yesterday and asked him about finishing the 1st assignment or what. He said just go ahead and finish it. Seems kind of silly [for various reasons], but fair, too.

590TR – Information Transfer and Collaboration in Science — I have finally found a paper topic; just a little late in the semester, which means once I get my advisor’s signature my semester will go on for just a bit longer. 🙁

My topic is, for me, a bit like climbing over the wall with the sign that says, “Here be monsters! Keep out!” Some of you might be able to guess where this is heading with all my “word issues” lately.

I am going to look at the mapping of multiple, conceptual vocabularies for use by interdisciplinary scientists. Mapping work (for various purposes) has been going on for decades now; much of it “lost,” some of it found again, much of it being redone.

The reason this “be monster” territory for me is because I have serious doubts about how well these techniques can work. I have no doubt that they can in some limited domains, but how generalizable are the techniques, intellectual or machine? Another issue is the limited number of relation types in most thesauri. Much research, in many disciplines, has gone into lexical-semantic relations. Some researchers have discovered as few as 5, 7 or 9 types of relations, while some have found as many as 400+!

I don’t know what the “real” number of relation types is, or if there even is one “true” number that holds across languages. My guess is certainly not, especially to the latter. But I am well aware that a thesaurus with only BT, NT and RT is sorely lacking in its relationships and is a poor model of the rich lexical-semantic relationship between words and concepts. But do I want to be the one coding those relationships? Hard to say, but I’m guessing ….

I also owe Carole some comments on the assigned readings for the week I led discussion since I said I would provide them.

590CS – Seminar in Classification Systems for the Organization of Knowledge — Been finished. Ha ha ha. Now that‘s funny! One is never finished with Pauline. 😉 I’m still doing thesaurus work since early summer and I’m now hip deep in CS stuff, and it seems like I will be for many a year. 🙂 So, yes, class is over and I got an A, but the work continues …. I am so blessed to be able to learn from, and be guided by, Pauline.

Dang! I need to get my coffee date scheduled.

Oh, on a non-school note, it’s official … I am a member of the ASIST Standards Committee.

Tentative ASIS&T Schedule

ASIS&T 2006 starts in a week in Austin, Texas. My professors, my advisor, Dean Smith whose class I broadcast, and others from GSLIS will all be there. I just sent in my dues for my 2nd year in ASIS&T a few days ago. Having just gotten my ALA renewal, I can say ALA will be a tougher choice; will probably drop ACRL. Add LITA? Don’t know yet.

Here’s a possible and tentative schedule that will end up deviated from for my visit to Austin:

Sun Nov 5th

New Members and 1st Time Attendee’s Brunch

Plenary Session: Albert-László Barabási

Theoretical Topics in FRBR (CR), Allen Renear (moderator), Jonathan Furner, Jerome McDonough, Carl Lagoze

Welcome Reception and SIG Rush — 69th Annual Meeting

Mon Nov 6th

The I-School Movement (ED), Andrew Dillon, Harry Bruce, Michele Cloonan, Leigh Estabrook or Linda Smith, John King, James Thomas, Ray von Dran

Forgetting and (Not) Forgotten in the Digital Future (HFIS), Howard Rosenbaum (moderator), Jean-Francois Blanchette, Michael Curry, Leah Lievrouw, Ronald Day

Designing for Uncertainty (USE), Theresa Dirndorfer Anderson, Marcia Bates, Jennifer Berryman, Sanda Erdelez, Jannica Heinstrom

*Philosophy and Information Science: The Basics, Don Fallis, Jonathan Furner, Kay Mathiesen, Allen Renear

Marcia on use or philosophy with Furner and Renear? Tough one.

Toward a General Approach to Information Organization (CR), Francis Miksa, William Moen, Joseph Tennis, Frank (Little Bear) Exner

Alumni Reception — I’ll be representing our student chapter at this.

Tue Nov 7th

Paul Otlet, Documentation and Classification (HFIS, ED), Boyd Rayward, Jonathan Furner, Kathryn La Barre

Building a Digital Teaching Commons to Enhance Teaching and Learning: The MERIC Experience and Challenges, Ingrid Hsieh-Yee, Sherry Vellucci, William Moen, Francis Miksa, Diane Hillmann

Awards Luncheon

*Education for Digital Librarianship: Employers’ Needs and How They Can Be Addressed (DL, ED), June Abbas, Kyung-Sun Kim, Barbara Wildemuth, Youngok Choi, Javed Mostafa, Kristine Brancolini, Jeffrey Pomerantz, Abbie Clobridge

New Theoretical Approaches
Conception-based Approach to Automatic Subject Term Assignment for Scientific Journal Articles, Eunkyung Chung, Samantha Hastings
Formal Definitions of Web Information Search, Su Yan, Lee Giles, Bernard Jansen
*Modeling Our Understanding, Understanding Our Models – the Case of Inheritance in FRBR, Allen Renear, Yunseon Choi

Collection Analysis
Mapping Interdisciplinarity at the Interfaces Between the Science Citation Index and the Social Science CItation Index, Loet Leydesdorff
Trailblazing Through a Knowledge Space of Science – Forward Citation Expansion in CiteSeer, Chaomei Chen, Xia Lin, Weizhong Zhu
Collection Definition in Federated Digital Resource Development, Carole Palmer, Ellen Knutson, Michael Twidale, Oksana Zavalina

This one’s kind of tough. I much prefer the New Theoretical Approaches but need to be concerned with the 1st two in Collection Analysis for my 590TR paper in a few weeks. Oh well, we’ll see.
Annual Business Meeting

SIG CON: Come see the lighter side of ASIS&T!

Wed Nov 8th

Personal Digital Collections (DL), Deborah Barreau, Christine Borgman, William Jones, Cathy Marshall, Luz Quiroga
Plenary Session: Susan Dumais, Senior Researcher, Adaptive Systems and Interaction Group at Microsoft Research

Historiography of Information Science (HFIS), Michael Buckland, Julian Warner, Geoffrey Bowker

A Semiotic View of Information – Semiotics as as Foundation of LIS Research in Information Behavior, Sheng-Cheng Huang
Weak Information Work and “Doable Problems” in Interdisciplinary Science, Carole Palmer
Data Realities in Plural Contexts – Appraisal of a Definition [of Social Informatics], Fletcher Cole

Access to Scientific Data (pt 2) – Panel Two will focus on the micro-level: emerging structures at the discipline or personal level to facilitate archival and promote use of data sets and collaboration among scientists.
President’s Reception

Looks like more than enough to do. And this leaves out all of the interpersonal stuff; possibly the most important.