Some things read this week, 11 – 17 November 2007

Sunday, 11 Nov

Harris, Roy. The Language Connection: Philosophy and Linguistics. Bristol, U.K: Thoemmes Press, 1996. [Re-reading]

  • Introduction
  • Ch. 1: Questions about language

Rheingold, Howard. “The First Hacker and His Imaginary Machine” from Tools for Thought. [For LIS452]

Miksa, Francis. “The Genius of Library Cataloging and its Possible Future.” An Address for the ALA Lecture, GSLIS, UIUC, 6 March 2006.

Audio for this lecture is on the Lecture Archives page. Scroll down to the 2nd from the bottom of 2006. Notice lots of other interesting things on the way.

I do know of a link to this paper as a Word doc but I do not know if I can share it. If you are particularly interested let me know and I will inquire. Or a search may just turn it up. [Sorry! It cannot be shared, although hopefully Fran will be publishing it. Listen to the lecture which is pretty close to the paper.]

Discusses “the genius of cataloging,” which is the creation of an intellectual space. Also discusses the thicket of our current system, how we got here, and describes that system as “the one given system.” Other topics include Charles Amni Cutter, “full-bore cataloging,” informational objects, informational object users, and informational object systems and agencies. Then takes a look at the present day and what can be done to revitalize our catalogs via a revitalization of cataloging.

Highly recommended.

Monday, 12 Nov

Harris, Roy, and George Wolf, eds. Integrational Linguistics: A First Reader. 1st ed, Kidlington, Oxford, UK: Pergamon, 1998. [Re-reading]

  • Ch. 5: Language and Writing
  • Ch. 6: Language and Society
  • Postscript

Bentley, Jon. “Thanks, Heaps.” programming pearls column in Communications of the ACM 28(3), March 1985: 245-250.

Tuesday, 13 Nov

Harris, Roy. The Language Connection: Philosophy and Linguistics. Bristol, U.K: Thoemmes Press, 1996. [Re-reading]

  • Ch. 2: Speech and its Parts

Sturgeon, Roy L. “Laying Down the Law: ALA’s Ethics Codes.” American Libraries November 2007:56-57.

A low quality article that complains about the lack of attention paid to professional ethics in our literature. If many of them are like this one that is a good thing. Actually, though, I could suggest a few decent ones.

One of the worst things about this article is not the author’s fault. It just ends mid-sentence. If the article is continued on another page we get no indication from AL.

Haha. This article is listed under “Professionalism.” Irony is what gets me out of bed every morning.

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

  • Ch. 1: Introduction: Information Seeking and Subject Representation [re-read]
  • Ch. 2: Subject Searching and Subject Representation Data

Wednesday, 14 Nov

Van de Sompel, Herbert and Carl Lagoze. “Interoperability for the Discovery, Use, and Re-Use of Units of Scholarly Communication.” CTWatch Quarterly 3(3), August 2007.

For Metadata Roundtable today.

Wednesday- Thursday, 14 – 15 Nov

Harris, Roy. The Language Connection: Philosophy and Linguistics. Bristol, U.K: Thoemmes Press, 1996. [Re-reading]

  • Ch. 3: One-Dimensional Speech [Wed.]
  • Ch. 4: Logical Loopholes [Thur.]

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

  • Ch. 3: Subject Analysis and Knowledge Organization

Thursday, 15 Nov

Bigge, Ryan. “The Official Typeface of the 20th Century.” Pertinent & Impertinent at The Smart Set. Found via 3 Quarks Daily.

Beauchamp, Gorman. “Apologies All Around: Today’s tendency to make amends for the crimes of history raises the question: where do we stop?” The American Scholar, Autumn 2007. Found via 3 Quarks Daily.

Borgmann, Albert. Crossing the Postmodern Divide. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

  • Ch. 1: Closure and Transition.
  • Ch. 2: Modernism

Friday, 16 Nov

Harris, Roy. The Language Connection: Philosophy and Linguistics. Bristol, U.K: Thoemmes Press, 1996. [Re-reading]

  • Ch. 5: Wordy Redefinitions
  • Ch. 6: Conveying Thoughts
  • Ch. 7: The Plain Truth

Saturday, 17 Nov

Thagard, Paul. “Coherence, Truth, and the Development of Scientific Knowledge.” Philosophy of Science 74(1), January 2007: 28-47.

An attempt to rehabilitate the relationship between truth and coherence. Having spent a decent amount of time on one of the proponents of a coherence theory of truth [Word doc] amongst many other discussions of truth over the course of a degree in philosophy I found this interesting. Based on my understanding of current philosophy of science, and the parts which I accept, I would have to say that something along these lines is correct.

It is nice to have it spelled out but, in my opinion, it is sort of anti-climactic. That is, it seems to be inherent in the current definitions of truth, theory and related concepts within philosophy of science.

My one main disagreement with Thagard is with his assumption “that natural science is the major source of human knowledge” (29). A broader view of knowledge would probably not affect his theory, but it would make it more inclusive. He does allow for “people’s ordinary knowledge” (44) but this kind of labeling I find demeaning. If you really have a view of knowledge that draws a vast gulf, or at least makes qualitative judgements, between so-called scientific and “ordinary” knowledge then suck it up and declare them to be different and find new terms for one or the other, or both. But as long as you allow people to have ordinary knowledge then I must question on what possible grounds one can claim “that natural science is the major source of human knowledge” (29)?

The journal Philosophy of Science is frequently of great relevance to our field. This issue, 74(1), January 2007, alone also has articles on “Evolution and the Explanation of Meaning,” how models represent by allowing “surrogative reasoning,” pragmatic classification, and scientific realism.

Long before reading any Hjørland I was of the opinion that much of philosophy, in particular issues in epistemology, is of direct import to all areas of librarianship. Reading Hjørland has only deepened that belief.

Borgmann, Albert. Crossing the Postmodern Divide. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

  • Ch. 3: Postmodernism.

“It’s a metaphor, if you know what I mean”: DDC’s fundamental flaw

you could always hear the rub squeaking
of those two tree limbs
’til one day one of them came down
taken down by the wind
but on the one that’s still there
you can still see where the bark was
rubbed bare
it’s a metaphor
if you know what i mean

Ani DiFranco ¤ “how have you been” ¤ out of range

Today I discovered a, perhaps the, fundamental flaw in DDC. There is (practically) no concept of metaphor.

I was cataloging a German book on Metapher which had no Dewey number in the record so I turn to the Relative Index and flip to m…e…t…a…p…h…o. Uh. Huh? Wait. “m” “e” “t” “a” “p” “h” “o”. Blink. Turn away and look back. Try again. Question my sanity and/or my spelling. And slowly realize that metaphor just ain’t to be found in the Relative Index (print DDC22). Knowing full well that this concept has been around for a day or two, I fire up WebDewey to see if there is something more up-to-date. In the Relative Index I find zip, nada, zilch. Try in the Schedules. I think I got 3 possibilities, all of which are possibilities but not necessarily good ones.

Head over to ClassWeb and put the LCSH “Metaphor” into the LCSH–DDC mapper and get 10 possible numbers. Much better, although many of those were only slight variants. Looking at these actual numbers in the Schedules, in most cases, still left one with no idea they were looking for the concept metaphor.

Now, I am well aware that metaphor would (should) show up in many places in the DDC Schedules based on the way DDC is constructed. But there is practically no explicit mention of it anywhere.

While it may be possible that we could have natural language without metaphor, it would certainly not resemble anything humans know as language for the last 2 millennia or more. Nor is classification even possible without metaphor.

Yes, my claim as to the, or even a, fundamental flaw may be a tad strong, but I still find this immensely disturbing.

Another disturbing thing I noticed today was the wholehearted amoral stance DDC takes on occasion. For instance, see this sequence:

304.6 Population
304.66 Demographic effects of population control efforts
304.663 Genocide (Class here ethnic cleansing)

On what level exactly is genocide a population control effort? (except in a very euphemistic sense)

Of course, there are 1000s more of these sorts of things that are amiss, along many dimensions.

Some days and for some items DDC and LCSH work just fine. But on other occasions the utter failure of being able to adequately express a topic in one or the other (or both) is incomprehensible and frustrating.

I do love cataloging and classification. I just wish we had some better tools, much better rules, and systems that took advantage of the work we do and did amazing things to present our resources to our users after they had (reasonably) easily found them.

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

Questions:

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.

Some things read this week, 14 – 20 October 2007

Saturday, 13 Oct

Goody, Jack. The Interface Between the Written and the Oral. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

  • Preface
  • Ch. 1: The historical development of writing (Sat-Sun)

Highly recommended by Dr. Hjørland in several places.

Chen, Hsinchun. “Semantics Issues for Digital Libraries.” In Harum and Twidale, Eds. Successes & Failures of Digital Libraries. 35th Annual Clinic on Library Applications of Data Processing, 1988: 70-79. [Not yet in IDEALS, but will be.]

Sunday, 14 Oct

Zelle, John M. Python Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science. Wilsonville, Or: Franklin, Beedle, 2004. [LIS452 text]

  • Ch. 11: Data Collections

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

  • Ch. 14: Classes and methods
  • Ch. 15: Sets of objects
  • Ch. 16: Inheritance
  • Ch. 8 List

Hjørland, Birger and Karsten Nissen Pedersen. “A substantive theory of classification for information retrieval.” Journal of Documentation 61(5), 2005: 582-597. doi: 10.1108/00220410510625804

Assorted draft standards and proposals for standards as part of my ASIS&T Standards Committee work.

Sunday – Monday, 14 – 15 Oct

Goody, Jack. See above.

  • Ch. 2: Literacy and achievement in the Ancient World (Sun-Mon)
  • Ch. 3: Africa, Greece and oral poetry
  • Ch. 4: Oral composition and oral transmission: the case of the Vedas
  • Ch. 5: The impact of Islamic writing on oral cultures
  • Ch. 6: Literacy and the non-literate: the impact of European schooling

Monday, 15 Oct

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

  • Ch. 9: Tuples
  • Ch. 10: Dictionaries

Love, Nigel. “The Fixed-Code Theory.” In Harris, Roy, and George Wolf, eds. Integrational Linguistics: A First Reader. 1st ed, Kidlington, Oxford, UK: Pergamon, 1998.

Tuesday, 16 Oct

Goody, Jack. See above.

  • Ch. 7: Alternative paths to knowledge in oral and literate cultures
  • Ch. 8: Memory and learning in oral and literate cultures: the reproduction of the Bagre

Hjørland, Birger. “The Concept of ‘Subject’ in Information Science.” Journal of Documentation 48(2), June 1992: 172-200.

Wednesday, 17 Oct

Santana Martinez, Pedro. “Some comments on the relations between organised knowledge and language: Rhetorical devices and the role of semantics.” In Inchaurralde, Carlos (Ed.) Perspectives on Semantics and Specialised Languages. Universidad de Zaragoza, Departamento de Filología Inglesa y Alemana, 1994: 147-153.

Book as a whole cited in this book by Hjørland in “Domain analysis in information science: Eleven approaches — traditional as well as innovative.” Journal of Documentation 58(4), 2002: 443 re semantics and specialized languages.

Goody, Jack. See above.

  • Ch. 9: Writing and formal operations: a case study among the Vai (with Michael Cole and Syliva Scribner)
  • Ch. 10: The interface between the sociological and psychological analysis of literacy (Wed-Thu)

Dillon, A. (2007). “LIS as a research domain: problems and prospects.” Information Research, 12(4) [Available at http://InformationR.net/ir/12-4/colis/colis03.html]

Found via Caveat Lector.

Friday, 19 Oct

Goody, Jack. See above.

  • Ch. 11: Language and writing
  • Ch. 12: Recapitulations

As I said above, this book is highly recommended by Dr. Hjørland in several places. I concur. I must say that the last few chapters, especially those read this morning, have resonated greatly with me. Perhaps this is due to my reading them after making a comment at Pegasus Librarian‘s post, “Desperately Seeking Search Boxes,” earlier this morning.

There are clearly other reasons, too. Some personal. Some due to much overlap I see between Goody, Hjørland and Harris. I may well need to re-read this book with a definite view to issues such as the Googlelization of search, IM, Twitter, and so on.

Hjørland, Birger. “Nine Principles of Knowledge Organization.” Knowledge Organization and Quality Management (3rd ISKO Conference, 20-24 June 1994). Advances in Knowledge Organization v.4, 91-100.

This article also resonated deeply with me re my comments at Iris’ place and on the “one search box to rule them all” phenomenon. I’ll pull out a few quotes that directly and/or indirectly address this issue.

For practical purposes, knowledge can be organized in different ways, and with different levels of ambition: … (93).

Any given categorization should reflect the purpose of that categorization. It is very important to teach the student to find out the lie of the land and apply ad hoc classifications, pragmatic classifications or scientific classifications when each kind of classification is most appropriate. … It is very important that you teach how to exploit subject-information already at hand, … (94, emphasis in original).

Different approaches, “paradigms” have different implication for categorization. There is no “a priori” scientific method of classification/categorization (96, emphasis in original).

The concept of “polyrepresentation” is important (96, emphasis in original).

To a certain degree different arts and sciences could be understood as different ways of organizing the same phenomena (97, emphasis in original).

It seems as if the priorities become more and more short-sighted, that less efforts are made to develop long-sighted, well-organized and well-cared for bodies of knowledge and literature (98).

Instead, IS much have a much more limited and humble scope: help facilitate the fruitful principles of knowledge organization and avoid the unfruitful ones by analyzing the different criteria for knowledge organization developing in all kinds of human activities, as well as their implicit or explicit goals, functions and consequences (99).

All of these address fundamental issues with the “let’s just give ‘em one search box ala Google” approach, especially in the context of higher education. If we are not going to require that students learn something about the ways in which knowledge is structured, and why, then why are we allowing them into colleges and universities? Why are we even continuing such an institution if this is not a, and perhaps the, fundamental goal of said institution?

And, yes, I would argue that this needs to happen at a much earlier stage of education. We are a long way from that desiderata, though, so it seems to me that this should be the main idea to be imparted by a college education.