How to classify things?

This post was based on a video, which was part of a small series of videos that I posted on LinkedIn, based on some questions that I ask myself based on the studies and research that I have been doing, mainly instigated by reading the book The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences by Michel Foucault. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences by Michel Foucault. As I read, I began to question myself and ask a few questions, including:

How do we name, determine, classify, and identify things in the world how do we name things? How do we put them in a box as we think about them?

The Theory of Faceted Classification

In my studies on the foundations of librarianship and information sciences, I came across a concept called Faceted Classification, created by a critical theorist in our area, Ranganathan.

Faceted classification is an information classification system and was developed by S.R. Ranganathan, an Indian librarian 1930s. The most vital point of this system is its multidimensional approach to organizing information. It allows an information object to be classified in many ways rather than assigned to a single fixed “point” in a classification hierarchy, which puts it beyond its time.

Our famous Indian librarian introduced the concept of “facets” to represent the various characteristics of an information artifact. If we can freely define what facets are, we can say that they are clear and mutually exclusive categories that can be used to classify an entity.

For example, a book can have facets for author, subject, publication date, and format.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but faceted classification is beneficial in digital information environments, despite being created long before the internet. In these connected environments, where users have information needs and need to search and navigate information in many different ways, understanding the facets involved broadens our vision.

Thinking in facets allows us to create a more flexible and intuitive organization of information, improving accuracy in searching and retrieving information from our systems.

Ranganathan created faceted classification theory very concerned with the organization of a universe, a knowledge domain. So it’s beneficial for us who need to organize information for digital projects restricted to more specific domains, right?

Here are three recent scholarly publications on Ranganathan’s faceted classification:

I want to highlight the article by Yunseon Choi, which discusses how to make faceted classification more acceptable on the web, as it falls within our area of interest. Faceted classification is compared to ontologies, which are another way of organizing information on the web. Choi explores the many ways to improve the acceptance and effectiveness of faceted classification in online environments.

The Knowledge Organization

We’re starting to optimize for digital platforms.

So what is this domain of knowledge, and how is it organized? What entities are part of it, and what names does the industry use so customers can find what they are looking for?

And for these users, what does it mean in this context?

Please realize that we have many questions when analyzing the domain of the project we are creating; this is where Ranganathan’s work comes in.

Ranganathan was very concerned with the fundamental categories of the universe of knowledge, and the objective was precisely that: to organize knowledge within this idea of the totality of ideas preserved by human beings.

This goal looks pretty close to what Google created for itself: Organize all the information in the world. No wonder I keep saying that Google is a great library and the algorithm is the librarian.

But bringing these ideas to our optimization work, when it comes to organizing a project’s information (creating thesauri, taxonomies, ontologies, optimization strategies, and information retrieval), we can use Ranganathan’s ideas and think in facets:

How is this domain of knowledge organized?

What are the concepts, terms, and entities that are part of it?

What names does the industry use and how does it relate to my concepts and terms?

And do customers use those same names when they search because I want them to find them on my site?

They seem like rhetorical questions, but each one will help you model the information according to the objectives of your client’s website, making it much easier to find and significantly increasing the efficiency of your work.

The Dynamics of Knowledge

I understand that through generating knowledge, the ideas are conserved by the human being; Knowledge can be defined as perceiving or understanding through reason and experience.

Within this dynamic, things change, happen, create facts, and execute processes. So this dynamic between things, facts, and processes, each with its specificity, generates the changes and evolution of knowledge.

Knowledge Dynamics is a concept that refers to the way knowledge is acquired, shared, used, and developed over time. It encompasses a variety of processes, including learning, innovation, dissemination of information, and the evolution of ideas and practices.

Within this idea of knowledge as the totality of ideas conserved by human beings, I reflect on the importance of organizing entities, or as I called it in the title of this text: classifying things.

The Evolution of Naming

We have things happening within this logic, and facts are constantly created. Everything is in constant motion. And what are the processes in this scenario? We saw a dynamic in the generation of information that generates knowledge, so going back to the beginning of my first questions.

We have the process of naming things, entities as we call them; we have a determination in these nominations, and if this environment of human knowledge is regularly evolving, I understand that one conclusion is obvious:

Concepts, definitions, classifications, and nominations are updated all the time, either by those who use them or by those who create them. In this process of naming information, we are all agents and users within this environment of information retrieval in digital environments.

We are actors in the generation of knowledge, in this “totality of ideas” conserved by human beings, which almost all of humanity uses and updates.

Conclusion and Final Reflections

Within the process of change, or constant updating, I understand that the name given to a specific thing is initially adequate but subject to inadequacy depending on the domain of knowledge where it is inserted and is updated.

When processes are no longer needed or need to be updated, we may face a change in concepts, terms, and entities and how they are named and defined.

In the video below, the past me stated that he didn’t have answers to these questions, which has changed and updated because now I already have some. Some come from studies in Librarianship, others from other areas. But anyway, this subject is under construction for me, still an open question: How to classify things?

Semantic Questions is a series of videos with questions I ask myself and share with you. In this video, I ask myself: How can we classify things?

Alexander Rodrigues Silva

Alexander Rodrigues Silva

Consultor SEO

Especialista SEO, consultor internacional SEO e autor do livro SEO Semântico: Fluxo de trabalho semântico. Sou um defensor da Web Semântica e Bibliotecário em formação, com mais de 20 anos de experiência no Digital. Trabalho com Search Engine Optimization desde 2009, sempre buscando alinhar a experiência do usuário a estratégias como Marketing de Conteúdo, otimizando o investimento em SEO.

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