Archive for the ‘concepts’ tag

Iconic Knowledge, Iconic KO*   no comments

“Iconic .…” According to the Oxford English Dictionary Online the word means “Of or pertaining to an icon, image, figure, or representation; of the nature of a portrait.” The first usage reported there was in 1656. OED also has variant definitions for “use in worship” and Semiotics. Ah, there we are: … “pertaining to or resembling an icon” (first usage reported in 1939. And finally: “designating a person or thing regarded as representative of a culture or movement; important or influential in a particular (cultural) context.” WordNet has: “relating to or having the characteristics of an icon.”

We all know, I hope, what an icon is. I have many that I have collected on my travels to Crete. In Orthodox spirituality, these icons are pathways to prayer. It is a bit difficult to explain, but the idea is that in praying with an icon (by focusing on the figures in meditative prayer) the saint in the icon is able to enter your consciousness and become a vector for your prayer.

The word has become ubiquitous in the news these days, to mean “emblematic.” I have to laugh, because once not so long ago when I used the word “iconic” in a manuscript I was told it would not be understood by LIS readers (people, mostly, with PhDs). At the same time I was writing regularly for the Philadelphia Gay News with instructions to write at a fourth grade reading level, and of course, the word “iconic” was part of that vocabulary. Well, we hear the word constantly these days. Unfortunately, that means it has lost a lot of its meaning as it has become colloquially “iconic.” It should mean “stands for a gate to spirituality.” Too often instead it just means “looks familiar.”

In KO what does the word mean? In KO it preserves aspects of its original connotation: something precious that is a gateway to better understanding, particularly with regard to visualization of culturally representative entities.

How do we at IKOS turn our own work into iconic work? We are rooted in empirical methods. Our work is eminently replicable. We report our references impeccably. For us, references are the evidence that what we describe is truly representative of a concept. Dahlberg implied and other since have written that the concept was the “atomic” element of knowledge organization (Dahlberg 2006; Smiraglia and Van den Heuvel 2013). This means that concepts paint pictures in people’s brains, those pictures are shared culturally, and from the very tiniest impression (what Peirce (1991, 181) might have called a “representamen”), the shared conception grows. There is “cultural synergy” (Smiraglia 2014)—the concept enters a knowledge organization system (KOS) that is itself a cultural disseminator and thus the concept becomes part of the cultural consciousness. This is then the iconic status of a concept.

At IKOS we are dedicated to sorting out the particularities of concepts, including the concept of “iconic.” We invite you to help us reclaim this critical term from public incoherence.


Dahlberg, Ingetraut. 2006. “Knowledge Organization: A New Science?” Knowledge Organization 33: 11-19.

Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “Iconic,” accessed 12 October 2019.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. 1991. Peirce on Signs: Writings on Semiotic, ed. by James Hoopes. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Pr.

Smiraglia, Richard P. and Charles van den Heuvel. 2013. “Classifications and Concepts: Towards an Elementary Theory of Knowledge Interaction.” Journal of Documentation 69: 360-83.

WordNet. Search 3.1, s.v. “Iconic.”accessed 12 October 2019.

*Published in print as: Smiraglia, Richard P. 2019. “Iconic Knowledge, Iconic KO.” IKOS Bulletin 1, no.1 : 6-7.

Written by admin on October 10th, 2022

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Concepts   no comments

Posted at 3:29 pm in Uncategorized

I wrote an article about concepts, and it was recently published after much ado of various sorts, so I want to bring it to the attention of anyone who might happen on this blog.

A good while back I was working on a collaborative project that involved a lot of conversation about concepts, and I said at one point something along the lines of how interesting it would be to see what early information science pioneers thought about concepts. I actually proceeded soon after that to acquire the entire run of American Documentation in digital form from the ASIST Digital Library, and I carried out various analytical procedures using what might today be called basic text mining. I gathered every instance of the stem “concept” and its relatives, and so on. The details are in the article of course.

Along the way I realized what I was looking at was more than just a community comprehension, but that there was a sort of background story as well. I tried using the analysis to lead me to clues about the discourse, and that’s where I found some exciting influences. No spoilers here–it’s in the article.

Here is the abstract:

Concepts are central elements of knowledge. This article reveals some of
the historical contours of the use of “the concept” in information by delving into
the evolution of the use of the term in American Documentation, the first formal
journal of information science in North America. Discourse in American Documentation
about “the concept” was critical to the development of machine searching to
have a concrete definition of a concept. Metaphors used to visualize the role of
concepts range from multidimensional arrays to lights shining in the darkness of
semantic space.

The article is “The Evolution of the Concept: A Case Study from American Documentation = L’évolution du concept : une étude de cas tirée de American Documentation.”
Not to worry it’s all in English. It appears in Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science 42, nos. 1-2 (2018): 113-34.

Written by lazykoblog on May 12th, 2019

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What a concept!   no comments

Posted at 12:39 am in Uncategorized

I recently completed a rich analysis of the entirety of American Documentation in order to trace the evolution of the concept of a concept across that era of the growth of the emerging field of information science. I wrote a short paper on the subject for CAIS 2014 (available here:

The “abstract” is this: A core entity of information science is the “concept.” Agreement on the basic definition as a mental construct representing a concrete instance, conceals divergence in understanding of the nuances. A case study of the domain’s nascent era represented by American Documentation reveals some of the contours of the terms evolution.

There were lots of fun things to be encountered in those years of AD, and I was going to upload some photos of things like the rapid selector and Termatrex and so on, until I went to do so and found all of those “further reproduction prohibited” notices. Oh well. The whole run is available to ASIST members in the ASIST Digital Library.

I thought it was fascinating to see how interwoven knowledge organization was in those early days of documentation into information science. There was a lengthy evolution of something called “the duality concept,” which was an expression of the dichotomies between known-fact and browsing, between simple and complex terminology, and thus between isolate and hierarchy.

Stay tuned: a lengthy journal article is forthcoming.

Written by lazykoblog on August 5th, 2014

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Perception (originally posted 1-25-2009)   no comments

Posted at 10:07 pm in phenomenology

Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth ….

Okay, so I’ve been working with noesis, which is a matter of perception. The work all boils down to a basic question: how do we organize knowledge conceptually so long as every concept is perceived differently by everybody? The answer is that the whole process is a huge and constant brain-massage, wherein we shove a little to the left and then a little to the right and back and forth and on and on, trying to get everybody to agree to a common set of perceptions. Which, of course, was the idea behind universal KOS.

I thought this cartoon was perfect:

Written by lazykoblog on November 17th, 2010

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