The Organization of Knowledge: Volume 12

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Caught between Global Structures and Local Meaning


Table of contents

(9 chapters)

The purpose of the chapter is to argue for a twofold understanding of knowledge organization: the organization of knowledge as a form of communicative action in digital culture and the organization of knowledge as an analytical means to address features of digital culture.

The approach taken is an interpretative text-based form of argumentation.

The chapter suggests that by putting forward such a twofold understanding of knowledge organization, new directions are given as to how to situate and understand the activity and practice of the organization of knowledge in digital culture.

By offering the twofold understanding of the organization of knowledge, a tool of reflection is provided when users and the public at large try to make sense of, for example, data, archives, search engines, or algorithms.

The originality of the chapter is its demonstration of how to conceive of knowledge organization as a form of communicative action and as an analytical means for understanding issues in digital culture.


The purpose of this chapter is to suggest a genealogy of the concept of information beyond the 20th century. The chapter discusses how the concept of information culture might provide a way of formulating such a genealogic strategy. The chapter approaches this purpose by providing a general narrative of premodern information cultures, examining works on early-modern scholars and 18th century savants and discussion of what seems to be a Foucauldian rupture in the conceptualization of information in 19th century England. The findings of the chapter are situated in the thinking that a genealogy of information would reveal that information had specific purposes in specific settings.


This chapter demonstrates how the University of Waikato in New Zealand adapted a global standard (the Library of Congress Classification) for local use by inscribing topics related to and about Māori history and people.

The findings are the result of using library catalogs and classifications as primary historical documents.

The University of Waikato’s classification simultaneously uses and implicitly critiques a universal system written from a U.S. vantage point. It seems to acknowledge the benefits and necessities of using a globally recognized standard, as well as a need to inscribe local, anticolonial perspectives into that system.

The research relies on historical documents, and some aspects related to purpose and attribution are difficult to ascertain.

The local adaptation of the Library of Congress Classification may serve as a model for other local adaptations.

This may bring new dimensions to thinking about colonialism and anticolonialism in knowledge organization systems. It contributes to ongoing conversations regarding indigenous knowledge organization practices.

Although scholars have examined Māori subject headings, research on local shelf classifications in New Zealand have not been objects of study in the context of global and local knowledge organization. This chapter brings an important classification to light.


This chapter reviews the historical tension between global and local interests in library classifications. More specifically, this chapter presents the concept and characteristics of the reader-interest classifications as they were reported in the literature of the past century, including its alleged advantages and detected shortcomings, in order to discuss their presence and consequences in current cases of reader-interest classifications such as BISAC. Following an implicit post-structuralist approach, issues such as the role of standardization and centralization in these projects, the focus and philosophy underlying the construction of these classifications, and the underlying global interests of the book industry are analyzed in order to determine the social consequences and viability of these local classifications. It is concluded that libraries that consider adopting a reader-interesting classification must really think of the interest of the users (in plural) and not only of the global book industry that dominates the development of the standards.


This research demonstrates that the combination of two methodologies to describe photographs — Nobrade and Sepiades — together with the contextualization and identification of the content informational model of the photograph facilitates the reconstruction of institutional memory. This exploratory research based on case study adopted a set of metadata from Nobrade and Sepiades aiming at the organization and availability of the set of information extrinsic to the 20 portraits of the rectors of the Federal University of Pernambuco from 1946 to 1971. For the contextualization of this period, some of the events that occurred in Brazil were highlighted, as they influenced the academic environments during the Democratic Period and the Military Regime. The description of the photography was made in four parts: first part was called administrative dates resulting in the photo identification information; second part was the provenance data, that is, data about its origin and context; third part was composed of the technical data of the photograph; and fourth part was composed of the image data which contains information about the content of the photograph. The second and fourth parts using context and content information enable the photograph to be understood beyond what can be seen and contribute to the reconstruction of institutional memory. This research contributes to the elaboration of a documentary system using a combination of methodologies, focusing on photographs, not only as an institutional technical activity, but also as an activity necessary for the reconstruction of the institutional memory.


The purpose of this chapter is to characterize knowledge organization (KO) as a field that is affected by geographic and diachronic variations in such a way that the recognition of a slanted KO could be considered an ethical option in the KO theory and practice. KO can be considered a dynamic social product that reflects a construction that is altered in space and time. Slants are inherent to any organization of knowledge and are manifested in multiple dimensions. There is a need to find a balance between the respect for the local specificities and the necessity of global access to information. Conceptual and terminological time and space slants in KO are presented. Examples of possible day-by-day searches are analyzed in order to evidence the different cultures that are involved in the different social-linguistic characteristics. The recognition of time and space as operational axes for an ethical approach to a slanted KO is important because: (a) it tries to intervene in represented and possibly disseminated biases that are practiced so far; (b) it recognizes the coexistence of diverse groups and communities, with local characteristics, meanings, and idiosyncrasies, that will need to communicate with each other in global information systems of information; and (c) it can promote an intercultural ethics of mediation, culturally warranted, in order to avoid cultural damages and to guarantee that descriptions can reflect the past while keeping an eye in the future, based on KOS whose functionality remains over time.

Cover of The Organization of Knowledge
Publication date
Book series
Studies in Information
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN