Class Reflection – Categorization

First, it’s important to admit when one is wrong. I was wrong. It was TOO windy to have class outside. At the same time, that alternate classroom was enough to induce nausea, migraines, and claustrophobia. The discussion topic, however, was pretty something that I’ve pondered in the past. “Who makes up these classifications?” I hope that we spend more time talking about the difference between categorization and classification because it seems like a very rich line of inquiry. I wish that we had emphasized more of the subjectivity that goes along with categorization and how any discussion of it is truly an exercise in negotiated vocabulary. My category of “dogs” is different from your category of “dogs” and we’re actually only agreeing on the very basic physical nature and behavior of “dogs.” I’ll never understand everything that fills your “dog” category and vice versa. I enjoyed the discussion of the various types of categories – natural, artifactual, and nominal. It seemed like “nominal” categories were the hardest to understand although perhaps my favorite. As we were talking about categorization vs. classification, I was trying to think of how the two might actually work together. My first thoughts were about interlocking bricks, but that analogy didn’t accurately reflect rigidity of classification and the squishiness of categorization. What I finally ended up with was this. Categorization is something like one of those fiber optic lamps. Each of the little fibers is a category. Classification is more like the interlocking brick (like a Lego) with pegs on the top and holes on the bottom. The brick and the fibers don’t naturally fit together, but if you were to gather a fiber or a small bundle of fibers, you could insert it into one of the holes on the bottom of the interlocking brick. You might even, after some work…and some creativity, be able to balance an entire brick on top of several fibers or bundles of fibers. In the same way, classification systems can be supported by categorizations, but it’s always a little tenuous. Those fibers aren’t rigid and are sometimes downright un-cooperative. It’s also important to note that the classification system has a very difficult time supporting a model for categorization (without a glue gun or the like).

During the whole discussion, I kept asking myself “what does this mean to me?” “What are the implications of this for my future in library science?” I think the answer is…partial and evolutionary as it is…that I HAVE to recognize that we all categorize and I have to be skilled at determine, at least in part, the difference between my “dog” category and your “dog” category so that I can more fully appreciate what you’re saying about dogs and more effectively communicate what I’m saying about dogs. I also need to recognize that, while classification systems are useful, they are incomplete and sometimes inadequate as tools for bundling information. It will be quite a remarkable dance once we learn all the steps (and then there will be new steps to learn).

Btw, I added a note during class that reads “It’s funny that it seems like we’re trying to classify categories.”


One thought on “Class Reflection – Categorization

  1. Josh says:

    Good thoughts. I’m sorry about the class and the wind. Hopefully I wasn’t contributing to it with my hot air :). I like your last question and response. This is always an important question to ask. In essence, the question of classification vs. categorization is a fundamental question throughout this course. If you look back, you will see if popping up all over.

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