I had a very interesting conversation with Vikram from infoMENTUM – The Enterprise Content Management Services team the other day. He has been working with complex taxonomies in large organisations for several years and was kind enough to pass on some very handy tricks of the trade. He is an advocate of relational taxonomies, particularly for global organisations who need to have one unified “corporate voice” but also need flexibility and localisation to serve the differing needs of particular regions and communities.
Library of Congress Photos on Flickr should be an interesting experiment in how well social tagging can sort out content. It meets the criteria of having a lot of content that is currently very hard to find, and comprehensive recall is not essential (if some photos remain unfindable despite the social tagging, it’s a shame but not a disaster). The Library presumably has decided it would rather have any tagging than none and is reluctant to spend money. It also has a high profile and most likely the good will of the experienced taggers of the Flickr community. I would think it would also provide the librarians with a good starting point for organising their image metadata if they decide they want or need to do some more formal sorting out further on down the line. Definitely one to watch.
A linguistic mapping experiment. This article from The Journal of Cognition and Culture describes how Olga Stepanova and John D. Coley devised two linguistics experiments to show that Russian and English terms for jealousy and envy are not equivalent. In English “jealous” covers both (broadly) being jealous of a relationship between other people and being “envious” of a quality or possession belonging to another person but Russians have two terms that are not interchangeable. English speakers were far more likely to rank descriptions of “jealousy” situations and “envy” situations as similar than Russian speakers were. Interestingly, Russians who had learned English were less likely to note a clear distinction between the two terms than the monolingual Russians, suggesting that learning English had introduced some conceptual “blurring”.
Conceptual mapping strikes me as a subtle but important issue for taxonomists. It is obvious that mapping in multilingual environoments can be problematic, but presumably the conceptual “blurring” that bilingual people experience can happen within information domains in a single language. In other words, just knowing that other people use a term to mean something different opens up broader categorisation possibilities. Trivially, if you don’t know something has an alternative meaning you will only indicate one place for it in a taxonomy, but conversely knowing the alternative adds a layer of complication to work through. It’s an issue that seems obvious from practical work, but I am always reassured to see experiments supporting apparent common sense.
Research Methods in Information by Alison Jane Pickard (2007–Facet publishing), is a worthy reference tome covering topics from the various research paradigms through to how to present a dissertation. It reads primarily as a textbook for students, but would be a handy resource for anyone new to research.
A bizarre classification game from the University of Montreal. There are some wonderfully inventive classifications that make mine look really unimaginative!