More Sorting

September 8, 2006 at 1:02 pm Leave a comment

More comments from from Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences by Geoffrey C. Bowker, Susan Leigh Star

p.13 Anything consistently called a classification system and treated as such can be included in the term.  [I interpreted this as ‘even if it’s not complete, act like it is, or people won’t trust it enough to use it.’  This should be ‘”Someone’s” First law.’  Someone’s Second Law might be, ‘It’s easier to edit then create.’  Get the hard work done so we at least have *something* then we can edit and tweak to our heart’s content]


  1. A set of agreed upon rules for production of textual and material objects.
  2. Astandard spans more than one community of practice (or site of activity).  It has temporal reach – it persists over time.
  3. Standards are deployed in making things work together over distance and heterogeneous metrics.
  4. Legal bodies often enforce standards
  5. There is no natural law that the best standard shall win
  6. Standards can have significant inertia and can be very difficult and expensive to change. [this might argue against Someone’s Second Law….]

p.15 [The control of standards] …is key to knowledge production as well….far more economic resources are spent creating and maintaining standards than in producing “pure” science. [searching google books is pretty cool.  You can find quotes like this if you can’t read your notes.]

Classification and standards are related in another sense, which concerns the use of a classification by more than one social world or community of practice – classifications as objects for cooperation across social worlds or as boundary objects = those objects that both inhabit several communities of practice and satisfy the informational requirements of each of them….objects that are able both to travel across borders and maintain some sort of constant identity.  They can be tailored to meet the needs of any one community (they are plastic in this sense, or customizable).  At the same time, they have common identities across settings.  This is achieved by allowing the objects to be weakly structured in common use, imposing stronger structures in the individual tailored use.  They are both ambiguous and constant; they may be abstract or concrete.

p.24 Making all knowledge retrievable and thus redebatable is an appealing solution in a sense from a purely information scientific point of view.  From a practical organizational viewpoint, however, this approach fails.

As we know from studies of work of all sorts, people do not do the ideal job, but the doable job.  When faced with too many alternatives and too much information, they saticfice.

p.25 [with the] use of hyperlinked digital libraries we…can customize our own library spaces…but this is also so much more work that we fall into a lowest level convenience classification that a high level semantic one.

p.32 “My guess is that we have a folk theory of categorization itself.  It says that things come in well-defined kinds, that the kinds are characterized by shared properties, and that there is one right taxonomy of the kinds. It is easier to show what is wrong with a scientific theory than with a folk theory.  A folk theory defines common sense itself….” – Lakoff


Entry filed under: Sorting things out.

Sorting things out Digital notes

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