Positivist vs Pragmatic Classification Theory - yes, that's it
A long strange trip - reading about citations in Ange. Chem. then tried to find reference, then got only to the TOC page, so then started browsing and ran across...
Hjørland's readers digest version of classification theory (thank you! everyone go read the whole thing, it's short and I'll wait):
Hjørland, B.(2008). Core classification theory: a reply to Szostak. JDoc 64, 333-342: DOI:10.1108/00220410810867560 find
I know next to nothing about classification theory (so Mark can help me
!) - but I really hate some of Clay Shirky's throw off statements regarding LCSH and why it is broken vis tagging. One of his arguments (actually confusing LC call numbers with LCSH in some places) is that that system fails in describing all of man's knowledge. Of course it does, that's not what it's intended to do.
Anyway - I've lacked the terminology for my point but I think I've found it in this excellent classification theory for dummies - this builds on current understandings of knowledge representation and social studies of knowledge instead of some of the superficial things some people like to pretend are reality:
Any work on any subject is always made from a point of view, which may be uncovered by analysis (e.g. a feminist point of view or a “traditional” or an eclectic point of view). The same is the case with any classification. Ørom (2003) uncovered underlying points of view in major library classification schemes with regard to arts. Although it is often difficult to uncover the underlying point of view, it is meaningless to claim that is does not exists. “Objectivity” and “neutrality” are not attainable and are also problematic goals from the pragmatic point of view. Any given classification will always be a reflection of a certain view or approach to the objects being classified.
The (false) belief that there exist objective criteria for classification may be termed “empiricism” (or “positivism”), while the belief that classifications are always reflecting a purpose may be termed “pragmatism”.
Classification systems that do not consider the different goals and interest reflected in the literature of a given domain are “positivist”. Two documents may “resemble” each other in many different ways, and there is no neutral ground on which to choose, for example, “a proximity measure”
Hjorland argues that there can be no objective or neutral classification system because we always see things through a lens (my words) and choose words based on our purposes - and this is as it should be. Specialized language develops for a particular use, with particular meaning within a discipline (or other groupings of people).
I'm all about classifying things for a purpose. While there is some beauty in a perfectly described resource (which is not possible), librarians catalog or index resources to provide access -- so that users can answer questions and fill their information need. There is some aboutness there, but it's also: "who can this help? What questions can be answered by this? For what searches should this appear as a result?"
Likewise, when we're doing natural language search in free text (like using a web search engine) we try to find and use words from the domain of the information we're seeking. The other morning I happened (finally) upon the "correct" term the people in the domain use, and all of the sudden, tons of relevant hits when using what looked like a synonym to me retrieved few decent results. (luckily someone had used my terms and the correct terms).
Slight problem with the author's reference to chemistry - read the nano registration thread on Cheminf-L