North American Symposium on Knowledge Organization

June 18-19, 2009

Syracuse, New York


Abstracts of Presented Papers



The data-information-knowledge-wisdom hierarchy and its antithesis

Jay H. Bernstein, Kingsborough Community College


The now taken-for-granted notion that data lead to information, which leads to knowledge, which in turn leads to wisdom was first specified in detail by R. L. Ackoff in 1988.  The Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom hierarchy is based on filtration, reduction, and transformation.  Besides being causal and hierarchical, the scheme is pyramidal, in that data are plentiful while wisdom is almost nonexistent.  Ackoff’s formula linking these terms together this way permits us to ask what the opposite of knowledge is and whether analogous principles of hierarchy, process, and pyramiding apply to it.  The inversion of the Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom hierarchy produces a series of opposing terms (including misinformation, error, ignorance, and stupidity) but not exactly a chain or a pyramid.  Examining the connections between these phenomena contributes to our understanding of the contours and limits of knowledge.



Treatment of georeferencing in knowledge organization systems

Olha Buchel & Linda L. Hill, The University of Western Ontario


Recent research projects in North America that have advanced the integration of formal mathematical georeferencing and informal placename georeferencing in knowledge organization systems are described and related to visualization applications.



Tensions between language and discourse in North American knowledge organization

D. Grant Campbell, University of Western Ontario


This paper uses Paul Ricoeur's distinction between language and discourse to help define a North American research agenda in knowledge organization.  Ricoeur's concept of discourse as a set of utterances, defined within multiple disciplines and domains, and reducible, not to the word but to the sentence, provides three useful tools for defining our research.  First, it enables us to recognize the important contribution of numerous studies that focus on acts of organization, rather than on standards or tools of organization. Second, it gives us a harmonious paradigm that helps us reconcile the competing demands of interoperability, based on widely-used tools and techniques of library science, and domain integrity, based on user warrant and an understanding of local context.  Finally, it resonates with the current economic, political and social climate in which our information systems work, particularly the competing calls for protectionism and globalization.



Classical pragmatism and its varieties: On a pluriform metatheoretical perspective for KO

Thomas M. Dousa, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Pragmatism is a metatheoretical perspective within knowledge organization (KO) deriving from an American philosophical tradition active since the late 19th century. Its core feature is commitment to the evaluation of the adequacy of concepts and beliefs through the empirical test of practice: this entails epistemological antifoundationalism, fallibilism, contingency, social embeddedness, and pluralism. This article reviews three variants of Pragmatism historically influential in philosophy—Pierce’s scientifically oriented pragmaticism, James’s subjectivist practicalism; and Dewey’s socially-directed instrumentalism—and indicates points of contact with KO theories propounded by Bliss, Shera, and Hjørland. KO applications of classical Pragmatism have tended to converge toward a socially pluralist model characteristic of Dewey. Recently, Rorty’s epistemologically radical brand of Neopragmatism has found adherents within KO: whether it provides a more advantageous metatheoretical framework than classical Pragmatism remains to be seen.        



Evolutionary order in the classification theories of C. A. Cutter & E. C. Richardson: Its nature and limits

Thomas M. Dousa, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


In recent years, evolutionary order has been used as the favored mode of determining class sequence by classificationists using integrative levels as a theoretical framework for classification design. Although current advocates of evolutionary order are based in Europe, use of the concept in library and information science (LIS) can be traced back to two North American pioneers in classification theory, C. A. Cutter (1837–1903) and E. C. Richardson (1860–1939). Working in the heyday of evolutionism and influenced by the developmental classifications of the sciences of Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer, Cutter and Richardson introduced evolutionary order as an explicit principle into LIS classification theory, defining it as encompassing a conceptual progression from the general to the specific, the simple to the complex, and the past to the present. This idea proved influential, being appropriated by later theoreticians like H. E. Bliss; it also reinforced the realist tendency of early LIS classification theory. However, for Cutter and Richardson, application of evolutionary order to bibliothecal classifications proved problematic. Cutter applied the concept inconsistently; Richardson viewed it as theoretically ideal, but subject to so many exceptions for pragmatic reasons that it could not be attained in practice. Cutter’s and Richardson’s use of evolutionary order reveals the tension between enunciating a principle of classificatory ordering in theory and applying it in practice.         



Melvil Dewey's ingenious notational system

Rebecca Green, Dewey Decimal Classification, Online Computer Library Center, Inc.


Historically, the notational system of the Dewey Decimal Classification provided for non-institution-specific, relative location shelf arrangements, thus substantially reducing bibliographic classification effort.  Today its decimal notation continues to provide the classification scheme with flexible granularity, is hospitable to expansion, expresses relationships, interfaces well with modern retrieval systems, and is internationally understood. 



User-Centered Paradigm to Cataloging Standards in Theory and Practice: Problems and Prospects

Gretchen L. Hoffman, Texas Womans University


Dervin and Nilan’s (1986) article, “Information needs and uses,” has been an influential article in Library and Information Science (LIS), because it calls for a paradigm shift in LIS away from research that focuses on systems and standards to research that focuses on users. This article also has been influential on library and information practice. Librarians and other information workers are called on to be user-centered and place users at the center of library programs and services. Conforming to the user-centered paradigm, however, has been problematic for broad representational systems, like library cataloging, that must meet the diverse needs of global users. Despite calls to focus on users, the cataloging field has not taken a user-centered approach in research or in the development of cataloging standards. Instead, the responsibility to meet users’ needs has been placed on cataloging practitioners, who are encouraged to customize bibliographic records to meet their local users’ needs. Dissertation research by Hoffman (2008) suggests that catalogers are limited in their ability to customize bibliographic records, because catalogers do not know who their users are and cannot identify their users’ needs. In addition, library administrators discourage customization in favor of efficient cataloging processes. There are limits to LIS’s user-centered paradigm in the area of cataloging, and perhaps it needs to examined and reconsidered. Is the user-centered paradigm still applicable to cataloging? How should cataloging meet users’ needs? This paper will examine the problems of the user-centered paradigm in cataloging.



North American facet heritage: Past lessons as pathways for contemporary exploration?

Kathryn La Barre, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


This paper will contrast the broad contours of Ranganathan’s legacy in North America with a general assessment of contemporary North American facet applications. It will also offer a potential model for contemporary researchers that will outline heritage facet-analytical protocols currently in use.



The KO roots of Taylor's value-added model

David M. Pimentel, Syracuse University


The model developed by Bob Taylor for his book Value-Added Processes in Information Systems (1986) has been highly influential in the field of library and information science.  Yet despite its impact on the broader field, the potential of the Value-Added Model has gone largely unexplored by knowledge organization researchers.  Unraveling the history behind Taylor’s development of the model highlights the significant role played by professional indexers.  The Value-Added Model is thus reexamined for its potential as a flexible framework for evaluating knowledge organization systems.



Modulation and specialization in North American knowledge organization: Visualizing pioneers

Richard P. Smiraglia, Long Island University


Pioneers are those who, in some way, lead their peers to new destinations. In the evolution of a domain, the pioneers might very well be those who have followed a theoretical principle in some particularly ardent manner, thus leading the rest of the domain toward an evolving research front. The present paper is an attempt to use the tools of domain analysis to diachronically analyze the domain of knowledge organization as it is evolving in North America. That is we use bibliometric tools to identify the axes that define North American knowledge organization and its scientists, who are its pioneers. The evolution of a North American chapter of the International Society for Knowledge Organization (ISKO) marks a growth in coherence of a long active research area.  An interesting research question is: what are the characteristics of North American scholarship in knowledge organization? Author co-citation analysis of North American authors whose work appeared in the journal Knowledge Organization is contrasted with author co-citation analysis of authors from outside North America. North American leaders are clearly identified, and some themes—such as knowledge organization online—that are emergent topics in North America are identified.