Classification in a social world: bias and trust

Jens‐Erik Mai (Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Publication date: 7 September 2010



The purpose of this paper is to establish pluralism as the basis for bibliographic classification theory and practice and examine the possibility of establishing trustworthy classifications.


The paper examines several key notions in classification and extends previous frameworks by combining an explanation‐based approach to classification with the concepts of cognitive authority and trust.


The paper presents an understanding of classification that allows designers and editors to establish trust through the principle of transparency. It demonstrates that modern classification theory and practice are tied to users' activities and domains of knowledge and that trustworthy classification systems are in close dialogue with users to handle bias responsible and establish trust.


The paper establishes a foundation for exploring trust and authority for classification systems.



Mai, J. (2010), "Classification in a social world: bias and trust", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 66 No. 5, pp. 627-642.

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Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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