social epistemology

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Fri 10 Jun 2005 - 03:07:20 GMT

  • Next message: rhinoceros: "Re: social epistemology"

    Has anyone heard of Jesse "The Mind" Shera a well known guru of Library Science from yesteryear that had some notion of social epistemology and some serious opinions on classification? I've been reading some books by him and I've been saying to myself "Man this stuff, though dated, is really relevant to memetics.'

    I think one of his peeves with the Dewey and Library of Congress systems was that they don't represent knowledge in a natural manner. They pretty much suffice for locating a book, but that's about it. It's something like imposing a unidimensional tag upon a polydimensional object (ie- a book) that has more aspects than can be addressed (pun intended) with these extant classification systems. From what I hear those in the know prefer LC to Dewey.

    A book tends to be hybrid of multiple thought strands, so how the heck do you adequately represent that with an address label that will reflect its proper place in the natural order of human thought? Should a book on computer software applications for business be placed with the computer books or the business books? I think Shera had talked a little on how to represent a tree which begs the obvious question of whether we put tree books in with botany, gardening or lumber stuff. But if its a juvenile fiction book about a talking tree the point is moot.

    Not sure library materials taxonomy has the exact same problem set as the classification and systematics of living organisms (extant and extinct) but there could be some overlap. Horizontal transfer in some living taxa must be a seeming parallel of that of the content in books and other media (let's get John Wilkins and Vincent Campbell to collaborate on this one).

    But what the heck is a "book". Must it be paperbound with yellowing pages or can it be represented online
    (like e-books or pdf files)? Could a laptop with files representing various books then be considered a
    "coffee table book" if you tend to keep it there? Is a CD or cassette representation a "book". Why do they abridge them so? How can two cassettes adequately represent all the information an author originally intended to convey that would require at least 10-15 cassettes or more to be unabridged? The medium truncates the message or distorts it beyond recogniion when we see how books have been transformed into movies (see my ruminations on the Koji Suzuki Japanese horror theme about the angry girl in the well for a perfect example of this).

    And does what a given book means to me overlap significantly with what it means to you? Does the process of thought dovetail sufficiently with the way books are organized in the stacks of a library? Are libraries stuck in the rut of dated and artificial classification systems that don't reflect the way we think, but it would be too expensive to switch, something like the QWERTY phenomenon? OTOH why switch to a more natural system if the prevalent ones work for the task of finding what you're looking for?


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