Monday, 18 June
Hjørland, Birger. “Semantics and Knowledge Organization.” ARIST 41 (2007): 367-405.
Cited by Zhang, J. (2007). Ontology and the Semantic Web. Proceedings of the North American Symposium on Knowledge Organization. Vol. 1. Available: http://dlist.sir.arizona.edu/1897
As much as I need to summarize this for myself I have run out of time, so:
The aim of this chapter is to demonstrate that semantic issues underlie all research questions within Library and Information Science (LIS, or, as hereafter, IS) and, in particular, the subfield known as Knowledge Organization (KO). Further, it seeks to show that semantics is a field influenced by conflicting views and discusses why it is important to argue for the most fruitful one of these. Moreover, the chapter demonstrates that IS has not yet addressed semantic problems in systematic fashion and examines why the field is very fragmented and without a proper theoretical basis. The focus here is on broad interdisciplinary issues and the long-term perspective (from intro, 367).
It is fairly reassuring to know that I have read about half of the sources he cites as “addressing semantic issues in KO and IS” on p. 370.
It is less reassuring, on one hand, to have this and particularly the other Hjørland article below reinforce my belief that Information Science is not a science. On the other, it is nice to know that someone with far more stature in the field feels the same way. [By the way, I also do not believe that most of modern experimental physics is science, but for different reasons. These views are when I am using “science” in a narrow sense.]
Houston, Ronald D. and Glynn Harmon. “Vannevar Bush and Memex.” ARIST 41 (2007): 55-92.
Stumbled over when copying the previous article above.
Actually quite good. I was really quite torn with myself as I was copying this, but I knew I ought to make the effort to learn a bit more.
Karen, I highly commend it to you. Also commended to others but Karen has been the one here making me think deeper about my views on Bush and AWMT.
This review examines the history, historiography, influences, and apparent misunderstandings surrounding Vannevar Bush’s memex concept and discusses the the manner in which the literatures of information science and other areas have cited the memex and its central idea of knowledge management (KM) by associative trails. The review also challenges the central memex premise that the mind works exclusively through associative thinking by reviewing some competing psychological movements and theories that emerged before and after Bush framed the memex concept (1st paragraph of intro, 55).
The article focuses on Bush’s distinction of personal KM and shared KM in the memex as a primary contribution. It also takes pains to point out Bush’s subsequent downplaying of the technological side and his emphasis on associative trails/thinking.
To provide a short[er] overview I will list the section headings: Introduction; Bush on the Memex; Challenges to Bush’s Associative Thinking Premise; Interpretations of the Memex Legacy; Some Early Reactions to the Memex; Positive Reactions to the Memex: The 1960s and 1970s; The Memex Inspires: 1962 Onward; Apparent Misinterpretations: 1965 Onward; The Memex in ARIST, 1966-2005; The Hand of Mammon: 1985 Onward; Vannevar Bush Reanimated; Memex Influence on Shared KM and the World Wide Web, 1993; The Influence of Memex on Literary Theory; Some Recent Influence of AWMT on Marketing Thought; Memex in the Library; Influence of Memex on Education; Summary and Conclusions; and Epilogue.
Some of my favorite quotes from the article:
“The memex concept and its underlying assumption that the mind works only or essentially through associative reasoning have had a broad, enduring impact throughout information science” (55). Can you say, “Understated?”
“On one hand, associationism has proved to be enormously successful in explaining many thought processes and in providing a basis for hyperlinking and Web technologies; as a consequence, the current task is often seen to consist in building on that associationist infrastructure. On the other hand, some observers have argued that new technologies and approaches are needed to compensate for the shortcomings of Web associationism” (60).
“The memex’s legacy also rests in part on the subsequent conflation of its analog ideas with their digital realizations some decades later” (emphasis in original, 61). I’ll leave it to you to read the article and find out Bush’s views on digital computers, but this is a key point.
“In other words, Bush appears to have served as something of a godparent to the godparents of Berners-Lee, the father of the Web” (68). Please notice the relationship here; it is neither direct nor lineally descendant.
“As documented in the pages of ARIST, then, authors writing about some 25 information science topical areas have acknowledged the memex. In some cases this was simply paying homage to Bush’s notion of the memex, largely as a matter of scholarly ritualism” (72). Oh, yes, because scholarly ritualism lends serious credence and authority to an argument. Michael Gorman, please come smack me down for having the audacity to doubt that scholarly ritualism serves any real intellectual work in the transmission of ideas and knowledge.
“First, we can safely say that the legacies of Bush and his memex endure and remain positive despite their 60-year journey over rocky roads. Although controversies may continue about whether Bush’s concepts or technologies were original, or about his true place in history, his AWMT article retains its inspirational magic” (81). While inspiration is a mighty fine and important thing, magic has no place in IS as a discipline; notice the second letter in that acronym. The art and science of information science need to work together to provide the illusion of magic and wonder for the user, when possible. And while we are users of our own systems and need to be inspired, those of us working in this area have already “peeked behind the curtain” and need to finally fully step behind it. Magic has little place back here.
“Second, although some textbooks since 1995 have tended to credit AWMT as a key root or origin of information science, personal computers, the Internet, the Web, and hypertext, that position distorts the historical record” (81). Amen! Read the article to get more perspective on this.
“Breakthoughs often consist of new syntheses or Gestalten that are more than the sum of their parts: The memex qualifies as such a breakthough” (82). Read the article to find out why I scribbled “kind of humorous, considering …” in the margin.
“Sixth, as argued earlier, authors who cite Bush, AWMT, or the memex need to do so less ritualistically, more critically, and for substantive reasons” (83).
I highly recommend this article; in particular, to LIS students or to anyone who thinks they need to drop a Bush citation in something. I am glad I took the time to read it and have no doubt that I will revisit it at some point.
And while my views on Bush and the memex are quite a bit more nuanced now than prior to reading this, I will still make fun of you if you simply add a ritualistic or uncritical reference to Bush in something. That is perhaps all I ever really meant, but this article has given me a much clearer idea of what constitutes an uncritical reference.
Tuesday, 19 June
Dewdney, Patricia and Gillian Michell. “Asking “Why” Questions in the Reference Interview: A Theoretical Justification.” Library Quarterly 67 (1), 1997: 50-71.
Citation provided to me by Christina Pikas via email 17 June due to our comments re theories of communication back on my David Bade LC WG posts, in particular for the Grice reference. She says I “opened up a bag of worms with this one” but she also knows I like to be schooled. 😉 Thanks, Christina.
This is a valuable article, which if it had been assigned in my reference class I might not be saying things like, “We really never discussed the reference interview.” Of course, this is a small part of reference interviewing, or so I imagine, since it only deals with “why” questions.
Christina “assigned” it to me due to the Grice reference and the accompanying section on “Cooperative Discourse” (55-57).
… the preceding analysis drawn from linguistics, philosophy, and cognitive science shows that “why” questions are unlikely to work well in the reference interview because they are perceived by the user as ambiguous, intrusive, or irrelevant. Furthermore, because “why” questions invite false inferences, both the user and the librarian tend to violate the rules governing cooperative behavior (62).
Contextualization, neutral questioning, and help chaining are suggested solutions to the problem of “why” questions.
I do believe that these ideas are important in communication, but I also have some doubts about how relevant this is to my (attempted) critique of Bade’s attempt at communication as I said at some point in that earlier conversation. Useful reading, nonetheless.
Frohmann, Bernard P. [Really is Bernd; just using the data on the article itself.] “An Investigation of the Semantic Bases of Some Theoretical Principles of Classification Proposed by Austin and the CRG.” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 4 (1), Fall 1983: 11-27.
Cited by Hjørland above with multiple references, including: “Frohmann (1983) has discussed the semantic bases and theoretical principles of some classification systems. His is one of the few papers in IS to recognize that problems in classification should be seen as problems related to semantic theories” (378).
Why, oh why does CCQ no longer have articles like this?
Demonstrates that Austin’s a priori semantics for machine-based classification is unclear and that it does not both meet the CRG’s criterion of adequacy, to which Austin subscribes, or can serve the purpose of machine retrieval.
[Criterion of adequacy “states that a necessary condition of an adequate system is that it be based upon a classification of knowledge (CRG 1955, 6)” (11). Further implications of this criterion are spelled out in the paper. Full cite for the canonical CRG paper is below.]
Looks at the semantics of the Classification Research Group (CRG) and shows that they are an a posteriori semantics; that is, “the semantic relations between terms are not given a priori but depend upon human activities. Since there is no a priori restriction upon the way human beings employ words in linguistic practices, there is no way to determine semantic relations between terms other than to look and see how people actually employ words” (13).
Then demonstrates that Austin clearly subscribes to an a apriori semantics; that is, “that there are context-free, or subject-neutral, generic relations” (19), according to which the hierarchies are given a priori by the meanings of the terms involved” (21).
A Wittgensteinian criticism is then leveled against Austin’s semantics. Frohmann points out that even if his argument is sound [I believe it is], “it does not follow that an information retrieval system cannot be both machine-compatible and adequate” (26).
Highly recommended for anyone interested in semantics of classification systems and information retrieval.
And CCQ, please ….
[Classification Research Group. “The Need for a Faceted Classification as the Basis of All Methods of Information Retrieval.” UNESCO document 320/5515 (International Advisory Committee for Documentation and Terminology in Pure and Applied Science). Paris, 1955.]
Wednesday, 20 June
Beghtol, Clare. “Classification for Information Retrieval and Classification for Knowledge Discovery: Relationships between “Professional” and “Naïve” Classifications.” Knowledge Organization 30 (2), 2003: 64-73.
Cited by Smiraglia (2007) “Performance Works: ….”
Examines the purposes, methods, similarities and differences between “naïve” and “professional” classifications.
In this paper, classifications for information retrieval are called “professional” classifications because they are devised by people who have a professional interest in classification, and classifications for knowledge discovery are called “naïve” classifications because they are devised by people who have no particular interest in studying classification as an end in itself (abstract, 64).
Despite liking the ideas in this article, I’m still not comfortable with these labels, especially since the 2 types of classifications serve different purposes. Could not a professional in another discipline just reverse the labels? What makes classification for info retrieval more professional than classification for knowledge discovery? Just because it is what “we” have been doing for so long now? One could easily argue that classification for knowledge discovery is epistemologically superior to classification for IR, and thus more “professional.” Anyway ….
There are important ideas in this mini “naïve” classification of classifications. Yes, I think one would have to agree that this is a “naïve” classification. Read the article and you’ll understand why; in addition to the fact that it isn’t a classification for IR.
This is an initial exploration of “naïve” classifications “to see how authors characterize their purposes and what classificatory methods they use” (65). The initial list of purposes includes:
- discover gaps in knowledge
- fill gaps in knowledge
- reconstruct historical situations and evidence
- facilitate integration and communication of findings
- suggest revisions or amplifications of accepted classifications (66)
These are not meant to be mutually exclusive and certainly not meant to be exhaustive. Examples of a “naïve” classification fitting each of these purposes is given.
Methods of construction are similar despite the differences in purposes. Beghtol claims two major implications follow from this funding.
- Need to examine whether “naïve” classifications may support information retrieval (as a purpose).
- Further comparisons will provide insights into their relationships; how different environments account for flexibility or rigidity, for one.
There are several other ideas in the paper, but I will leave it to you find them.
For those interested in classification, highly recommended.
ISO/IEC FDIS 13250-2. Information Technology — Topic Maps — Part 2: Data Model. 2005-12-16.
For Topic Maps class.
Thursday, 21 June
ISO/IEC FDIS 13250-3. Information Technology — Topic Maps — Part 3: XML Syntax. 2006-06-19.
For Topic Maps class.
Hjørland, Birger. “Fundamentals of Knowledge Organization.” Knowledge Organization. 30 (2), 2003: 87-111.
Cited by Smiraglia (2007) “Performance Works: ….”
Read this article! I do not fully agree with everything he says, but he is generally spot on.
Demonstrates that the filed has been driven by information technology and is “largely atheoretic and fragmented” and, thus, it is “difficult to sketch the more theoretical and scientific progress in this field” (88).
As a theoretical concept, “information” tends to move LIS and KO towards theories about control, feedback, coding and noise in transmitting messages, while “document” tends to move LIS towards theories about meaning, language, knowledge, epistemology and sociology. Therefore, in LIS there may be a whole paradigmatic conflict hidden in those words (90).
What an excellent analysis, and I certainly know which side of that conflict I want to work on. Such an analysis has serious implications in issues of power, control, and basic rights, also.
I love some of the distinctions that he rejects as basic methodological ones, such as machine-based methods vs. “manual” methods, or quantitative vs. qualitative methods (104). He also claims that, “In general our knowledge of how humans classify is limited” (104). As a footnote in this area (fn12) he has a comment regarding the need to record and qualitatively discuss our disagreements in the literature so that we may truly learn. Amen!
Smiraglia, Richard P. “Whither Knowledge Organization?: An Editorial.” Knowledge Organization. 33 (1), 2006: 8-10.
Found while getting the Dahlberg from last week.
OK, need to check the formatting and this has to go to press; ready or not.