Archive for the ‘otlet’ tag

Who wrote Aristotle? Boyd Rayward, of Course.   no comments

Posted at 7:34 pm in authorship

As a KO scholar enamored of what domain analysis can reveal, and unphased by the challenge of unindexed source material, I spend way too much time manually indexing things like conference proceedings. This always means reformatting and “cleaning” something like 1200 citations at a pop, to get them into some form that can be manipulated or mined for statistical parameters.

It’s a wonder I don’t get whiplash from all the shaking of my head that goes on during these sessions. Of course, as a journal editor I experience a lot of errant citing practice as well. At least in that case I have the prerogative to require the author to do it over and get it right.

I remember when I was a masters student at Indiana University a zillion years ago; one of my scholarly mentors explained to me how to prepare notes when engaging in literature review. She said, open the book and place it on the table at the right of your typewriter. Put a new sheet of paper in the typewriter and before you do anything else type out the elements of the citation for the book. Then you’ll always have them. And then, as you read along (instead of highlighting or underlining, which not only destroys the text, but which you can never find again anyway) as you come to something interesting type the page number then just type out the text. When you’re finished, you’ve got block quotes or potential paraphrases ready to insert into your analysis, together with the appropriate material for text references. Now, I don’t expect everyone reading this to rush out and buy typewriters, but I do commend the method to you. It has served me well for decades.

What is not appropriate is to just cite willy-nilly to show you did some searching. And what is just plain wrong is to cite from online citations instead of directly from the source material. (Note to authors: we know when you’ve just plopped citations in from citation databases or from software because when we convert your text to edit it all of the citations either disappear, or, they become URLs and we can’t edit without opening hundreds of windows. Don’t do that!)

A key point to keep in mind is that the purpose of a citation is the same as the purpose of a precise methodology and that is replication. Another scholar should be able to follow your path by finding the sources you cite, precisely.

So I won’t tell you what I’ve just been indexing so as not to embarrass anybody (not that you won’t be able to guess), but here are some of the more interesting things I discovered:

§Aristotle. Aristotle is important to knowledge organization, I give you that. But nothing he wrote is likely your actual source. This resource: is cited as:

Aristotle. 1994. Metaphysics, trans. W.D. Ross. The Internet classics archive. Cambridge: MIT.

Why? The date is the date of publication of the resource, not the date of writing. “Aristotle. 350BCE” is not an appropriate reference.

§OCLC is not an author. Well, usually. You don’t have to cite OCLC if all you’ve done is make reference to it in your text. Let’s say you’ve written “Often, in bibliographic utilities like OCLC’s WorldCat, [blah, blah, blah ….].” That does not require a citation in the reference list. What you can do, although even this is not really necessary, is place the URL in parentheses in the text: “Often, in bibliographic utilities like OCLC’s WorldCat (, [blah, blah, blah ….].” Don’t litter your reference list with URLs of websites from which you have not cited or paraphrased. On the other hand, if you are citing something specific, then please follow the general instructions for doing so.

§Reprints should be described using their own details of publication. Here is the classic example from my own writing: Wilson, Patrick. 1978. Two kinds of power: an essay on bibliographical control. Berkeley: UC Press. Reprint of 1968 ed.

§Works by classic authors, contained in anthologies, are described as chapters in the books in which they appear: Otlet, Paul. 1990. The science of bibliography and documentation. In Rayward, W. Boyd, ed., International organisation and dissemination of knowledge: selected essays of Paul Otlet. Amsterdam: Elsevier, pp. 71-86.

(Note, it is very impressive that you know this was written in 1903, but the date for the citation is the date of publication of the resource in which you read the material.)(Note 2, just think how Boyd Rayward, a really nice guy, would feel seeing his name next to a 1903 publication date!)

I’m thinking it would be fun for a doctoral seminar to give them this particular set of citations and give them fifteen minutes to figure out what the real citations should have been so they can actually lay hands on the resource. Hmmmmm.

Written by lazykoblog on August 3rd, 2014

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More Otlet … a lot more!   no comments

Posted at 6:03 pm in facets,interdisciplinarity,KO

It was recently my great honor to participate as an examiner in defense of a new Ph.D. dissertation by Wouter Van Acker, at the University of Ghent in Belgium. Interestingly enough, the dissertation was produced in the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning, Faculty of Engineering and Architecture. The title of the work is Universalism as Utopia: A Historical Study of the Schemes and Schemas of Paul Otlet (1868-1944).

I want to draw attention to the work in a couple of ways. First, I think the dissertation is not to be made public through deposit, so we should make all conscious efforts to urge the author to publish the work. It is an immense synthesis of Otlet’s career, and includes many illustrations from his papers at the Mundaneum and elsewhere. There is immense value in both the compilation and the sensitive synthesis. So, keep an eye peeled for dissemination of this work. I won’t even attempt to review the work here, but I do want to draw attention to it.

I was interested as a participant to see how wide-ranging a discussion we had about the disciplinary roots of this research. Of course, many of Otlet’s “schemes and schemas” were systems for knowledge organization. As I read the dissertation, and as I pondered how to participate in the conversation, I kept reminding myself that the document was not produced in an iSchool division of knowledge organization, because it might well have been. Certainly much of the work of Otlet, even that explicitly directed at the founding of a world-city, was essentially an extension of knowledge organization. What I take, then, from the conversation, is a renewed sense of the critical importance of knowledge organization as substrate for everything else.

I also was quite specifically interested in the physical specifications of space for knowledge repositories. That is, Otlet’s ideas about how to organize everything, from a seaside resort to a movable museum, reflected a sense of the human in the physical space surrounded by knowledge, and thus the organization of the knowledge was more than just an abstraction, it was also structure in which human activity could take place. That was a pretty common idea, I think, at the turn of the 20th century. We see it in Martel’s 7 Points for the Library of Congress Classification, for instance. And there are many other examples of classifications designed to fit specific physical spaces. KOS as architecture, literally, in other words. I think there is a fascinating set of historical hypotheses in there somewhere.

Questions also arose about the UDC, and based on my work with the Knowledge Space Lab (tracing the growth and evolution of the UDC over time;, I found myself wondering about dimensionality and facets. That is, if faceted KOS have the possibility of facilitating multidimensional knowledge representation, and I’m certain they do, then why do we get the usual list of suspects in the UDC (space, time, language, and so forth). I think my question is too ill-formed as of yet, so I’ll have to beg your indulgence while I ponder what it is I really mean to say here. My colleague Charles van den Heuvel suggested the mutildimensionality was there, not in the specific elements of the facets but rather in their potential for multiple combination. We’ll see where this leads us.

Perhaps on a more humorous note, I was quite impressed with the process. There were two defenses (2!), one private and one public. The public defense was quite formal, and I might add I enjoyed it immensely. Here are some photos of the event:

Finally (for now), congratulations to Wouter Van Acker for a brilliant defense of a magnificent piece of research.

Written by lazykoblog on November 29th, 2011

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Grocery store science*   no comments

Posted at 1:29 am in mass hysteria

Okay, everybody listen up: I’m sick and tired some four decades after I signed on, to still hear people talk about our parent field as library science.

There is no such thing as library science.

There never was any such thing as library science. What would that be? How to make the bricks especially heavy because there are books inside?

Go ahead, call me a crank. But the field, now, in the year 2011, is called “INFORMATION.” In some circles it is called “INFORMATION STUDIES” which is thought to cast a broader net. But there is no such thing as library science.

I’m not even going to go into the details here. You should have done this reading decades ago. But if you didn’t, go now to Rayward, W. Boyd. 1983. “Library and Information Sciences: Disciplinary Differentiation, Competition, and Convergence,” in The Study of Information: Interdisciplinary Messages ed. Fritz Machlup and Una Mansfield, pp. 343-405; and, Rayward, W. Boyd. 1998. “The History and Historiography of Information Science: Some Reflections.” In Historical Studies in Information Science, ed. Trudi Bellardo Hahn and Michael Buckland. Medford, N.J.: Information Today, pp. 7-21.

While you’re at it, read the whole Machlup and Mansfield book. Get a glimpse of how the domain of INFORMATION grew inter- and intra-disciplinarily.

Then, do yourself a favor and read Richardson’s history of the Graduate Library School at Chicago: The Spirit of Inquiry; the Graduate Library School at Chicago, 1921 – 1951. Foreword by Jesse H. Shera. ACRL Publications in Librarianship, No. 42. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982.

While I’m at it don’t skimp, go now to: Introduction to library science: basic units of library service. Littleton, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1976; and then to: An epistemological foundation for library science. Cleveland, Press of Western Reserve University, 1965.

Then go here: .

Then think about looking at Pierce Butler’s book Introduction to Library Science (1933).  You will see that it was an attempt to place the discipline of libraries into the academy; the bringing of science (i.e., logical positivism) to the table was how it was to become a “science.” Read the whole book. It  is not about a science of libraries. It is about how to bring scientific thought to the problems of managing libraries. Decades later, Shera is still trying to make the same case, but with greater elan.

But, it all comes down to what we now call our brave new world of INFORMATION STUDIES.

And then, if you think you really have covered the map, go to the original source and read: Otlet, Paul. 1934. Traité de documentation: le livre sur le livre, théorie et pratique. Bruxelles: Editiones Mundaneum, Palais Mondial.

Here you will see, laid out in excruciating detail, the parameters of what we now know as INFORMATION, which is a branch of scientific inquiry.

*An old joke; do you think the science of running a grocery store is “grocery store science?” If so, you probably don’t want a medical doctor when you are deathly ill, you probably would prefer a doctor of hospital science.

Written by lazykoblog on January 25th, 2011

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19th century lenses (originally posted 3-12-2010)   no comments

Posted at 10:12 pm in phenomenology

I guess I’m fairly often overheard saying I became a historian because I got so old I remember everything. It’s a little bit true. After all, I learned to catalog using AACR1 (blue cover) writing on 3×5 cards; then graduated to typing on 3×5 cards, that would go off to another division someplace to be reproduced. I then became a librarian at Illinois where we had legions of card typists who did that part; we the catalogers would type on worksheets, which gave us more space for our reviewers to write in red ink all over our cataloging. “No double punctuation!” When major changes came–such as the shift from “negroes” to both “Blacks” and “African-Americans” in LCSH, we had to pull thousands of cards, and all of the main entry cards that went with them, erase, and re-type and refile them. We had truly armies of card filers in every division of the library whose job was all day long just to file the thousands of cards we produced every day.

That was the information society as people in cataloging knew it (in part) in the 1970s. All of that has passed away into the dimness of memory. And yet what a feat of engineering it took for those armies of people, all of whom understood the physics of the syndetic structure of the catalog, to maintain bibliographic control.

History is useful of course, not just for telling the story of the past, but for understanding the present and the future as well. We are situated historically in every moment, and the better we understand the circumstances of that situation the better job we will do pushing society and our own domain forward.

I am doing a lot of work right now on 21st century phenomena with lenses produced in the late 19th century. Their usefulness became clear only once technology brought us to this point. Yet these thinkers–specifically Otlet, Peirce, and Husserl are the folks I’m working with at the moment–saw clearly how the problems that engaged them were historically situated. Well enough that when the time came we discovered the lenses they’d provided.

Written by lazykoblog on November 17th, 2010

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