The only good classification is a living classification

September 29, 2006 at 1:10 pm Leave a comment

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

p.230 A category can be non-existent until and unless it is socially created – given a name [names are power].

p.254 Classification schemes always have the central task of providing access to the past.

p.257 Total recall, in individuals or organizations is neither desirable nor possible.  Rediscovery might be easier than remembering or changing and organization’s identity = forgetting we’ve always done it that way.  Two types of organizational forgetting: clearance – a barrier in the past so no info can leak to the present; erasure – the ongoing destruction of selective traces in the present.

p.260 New classification schemes effectively invalidate much previous knowledge by creating new sets of categories.  Yet they seek to draw on the authority of the out-dated knowledge while simultaneously supplanting it.  The purpose of a fish trap is to catch fish.  When fish are caught the trap is forgotten….  The purpose of words is to convey ideas.  When the idea is grasped the words are forgotten.  Seek those who have forgotten the words.

p.268 The kind of memory that is encoded in an organizations files for the purpose of a possible future reconstruction could be called potential memory.

p.281 Information (Bateson definition) is about differences that make a difference.  If it moves, count it.  If you can’t see it moving, forget it.

p.290 One of the interesting features of communication is that…to be perceived, information must reside in more than one context.  We know what something is by contrast with what it is not.  Silence makes musical notes perceivable. [reminded of discussion from the CPU blog and ‘spaces’ and discussion in Levy’s Scrolling Forward with regard to the lack of spaces between words in early books, and even the space around letters!]

p.294 Communities of practice or social worlds is a unit of analysis that cuts across formal organizational institutions like family and church, and other forms of associations such as social movements: a set of relations among people doing things together.  We are all members of social worlds or communities of practice.

p.295 Membership in a community of practice can…be described as the experience of encountering objects and increasingly being in a naturalized relationship with them.  From the point of view of learning-as-membership and participation…the illegitimate stranger is a source of learning [this same concept is stressed in The Wisdom of Crowds: when a crowd loses its diversity it becomes biased and not wise].

p.297 Boundary objects are those objects that *both inhabit several communities of practice and satisfy the information requirements of each of them.  Boundary objects are thus both plastic enough to adapt to local needs and constraints of the several parties employing them, yet robust enough to maintain a common identity across sites.  That are weakly structured in common use and become strongly structured in individual site use.  These objects may be abstract or concrete.

p.299 Objects become naturalized over a period of time.  The more natural an object becomes the more invisible it is. It sinks into routinely forgotten memory.

p.301 Cyborg Handbook, Gray, 1995?

p.321 It is important in the development and implementation of classifications that we [avoid] trying to emulate a distant perfection that on closer analysis turns out to be just as messy as our own efforts.

p.326 The only good classification is a living classification.

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Entry filed under: Sorting things out.

Annotated Sorting Excel vs. Access (reprise), context, and SharePoint

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