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Taxonomy: Dewey on it’s way out?


This is pretty powerful stuff. From the advent of science (well sort of real science but they had magic mixed in *laughs*) in the middle ages, humanity has been cataloguing the world slowly. It’s like we are little bots running around looking for similarities and differences, as a way of understanding how life works.

Then we put our findings in books which, guess what? we catalogue again. All those lists of lists, classifying, numbering, a place for everything and everything in its place. If you don’t understand that Dewey is the numbering system in libraries, wiki it?

Well, Wall Street Journal has an article:

Discord Over Dewey

A New Library in Arizona Fans a Heated Debate
Over What Some Call the ‘Googlization’ of Libraries

But it’s what’s missing from the library that has drawn the most attention: Perry abandoned the Dewey Decimal Classification System for its books, whose spines instead carry labels with plain-English subjects such as “history” and “weddings.” Instead of locating books by the traditional numerical system, patrons use a computerized catalog to find out which subject a book has been filed under, and then follow signs posted throughout the library. Many visitors skip the catalog altogether, and just head for the aisles that interest them.

It’s kinda hard for me to justify to you – instinct I guess. But this sort of change can be a tipping point. Not to imply that taxonomy doesn’t have a place – both are good – however, rigid taxonomy to tagging folksonomy is one way of interpreting this article. We stop rigidly defining the world according to other people’s – or even the collective- agenda and find our own language to assimilate what we are seeing, deciphering and understanding. A physical expression of an inner shift? Too much for a Sunday morning? Ok, I’ll go make us a cup of tea while you read the papers. 🙂

Laurel Papworth

Named by Forbes™ Magazine in the Top 50 Social Media Influencers globally, named Head of Industry, Social Media (Marketing Magazine™) and in the Power150 Media bloggers (AdAge™). CERT IV Training and Assessment certified trainer (Diplomas and Certificates etc) Adult Education. Laurel has manager Facebook Pages for Junior Masterchef, Idol, Big Brother etc. and have consulted on private online communities for banks Westpac, not for profits UNHCR & governments in SE Asia. Lecturer, social media, University of Sydney for 10 years and Laurel has 11,000 online students. Laurel Papworth personally connects to 6 million followers online and has taught around 100,000 people in the last 10 years how to be social media managers.

3 thoughts on “Taxonomy: Dewey on it’s way out?

  1. Hmmmm, this innovation could have been influenced by a traditional book store as much as google or tagging. I worry about the latter, cause as hard as I try I cannot keep my del.icio.us bookmarks organised and have to search my bookmarks for things I have tagged! Any librarians reading?

  2. From my PoV I think it is definitely the tagging. I use Tiddlywiki for research notes and tags are definitely the way to go to organise information but after a while I am beginning to realise that once you get more than c 20 pages and 40 tags they need to be organised in themselves and also standardised otherwise I cannot remember them properly. Which leads to pages of tags or some other way of logically organising them. Which leads to a cataloguing system – thus we are back at Dewey.

    The problem with Dewey is that it is such a complex system (I know I have a second hand copy which someday I am going to use to organised my 100+ saved PDF’s).

    We’ll end up with the Dewey catalogue of tags

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