Annotated Sorting

September 28, 2006 at 1:02 pm Leave a comment

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

p.150 Residual categories (“other”) [in a classification system] tend to fix the maximum level of granularity that is possible.  The advantage is that they can signal uncertainty at the level of data collection.  The disadvantage is the temptation to overuse them if lazy or rushed.

p.152 “boundary objects” do not claim to represent universal, transcendental truth; they are pragmatic constructions that do the job required.

p.159 In the face of incompatible information or data structures among users or among those specifying the system, attempts to create unitary knowledge categories are futile – parallel or multiple representational forms are required. 

Too few categories will result in information that is not useful – too many categories will result in increased bias or randomness on the part of those filling out forms.  Five million categories may be more ideally scientifically accurate, but not usable. 

At the level of encoding, tools need to be sensitive to the working conditions of those encoding the data.  Imposed standards will produce work-arounds…because they cannot account for every local contingency, users will tailor standardized forms, etc., to fit their needs. 

Identify granularity and encode it where appropriate.

Match the structure of the information system mediating among diverse participants with information needs taking mismatches and world views into account.

p.192,3 Textures of Technical Networks, Crystallization Processes Lynch 1995?

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Entry filed under: Sorting things out.

Active reading The only good classification is a living classification

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