19.249 many taxonomies

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sun, 4 Sep 2005 00:01:43 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 249.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: Dino Buzzetti <buzzetti_at_philo.unibo.it> (38)
         Subject: Re: 19.240 many taxonomies vs the massively encoded

   [2] From: Eric H. <eric.homich_at_utoronto.ca> (15)
         Subject: Re: 19.246 many taxonomies vs the massively encoded

         Date: Sat, 03 Sep 2005 07:08:11 +0100
         From: Dino Buzzetti <buzzetti_at_philo.unibo.it>
         Subject: Re: 19.240 many taxonomies vs the massively encoded


I am very glad you raise this point:

> Markup, our flavour of the decade, seems to promote an
> excessive tendency to cement in whatever we know how to describe.
> We've got to move on. But how?

Well, it would take long to answer. Let me just hint to what I have
in mind. Take the title of Lynne Truss' bestseller on punctuation:

     (a) Eats, shoots and leaves .

You may be puzzled and remove the comma to realize that we are talking
about a panda, who indeed

     (b) Eats shoots and leaves .

By reading (a) you are puzzled because you assume that the comma,
actually *markup* (I spare the argument to prove it), is part of
the text. And it is, actually. As it is also a metalinguistic
device to assign (b) one of two possible interpretations. As
soon as you do it, you assume that your diacritical sign (or tag,
for that matter) is part of the text.

My surmise is that markup is a diacritical sign to distinguish between
alternative interpretations, or taxonomies. Just as relatively late
in the history of writing, spaces have been introduced between
characters to distinguish words. One tries to freeze a mobile
and basically indeterminate thing such as text, but hardly:
                    text is not self-identical ,
as Jerome McGann has nicely put it.

My point is that we have to accept this basic fact and come to
realize that markup is essentially ambiguous and indeterminate like
text. And try to put this indeterminacy to good use by developing
appropriate tools to deal with it. Otherwise we have to resign
to markup overload and to live with fixed taxonomies.

The same would apply to ontologies, now so popular, but I dare not
say it too loud...

Yours, -dino buzzetti

Dino Buzzetti                       <buzzetti_at_philo.unibo.it>
Department of Philosophy
University of Bologna               tel.    +39 051 20 98357
via Zamboni, 38                     fax                98355
I-40126 Bologna BO
         Date: Sat, 03 Sep 2005 07:09:21 +0100
         From: Eric H. <eric.homich_at_utoronto.ca>
         Subject: Re: 19.246 many taxonomies vs the massively encoded
Dear Humanists:
The following article may provide some fodder for discussion (note:
it's a PDF):
One of my first reactions to reading this is that our products should
be designed by those who use the products rather than those who know
the technology. This of course, is a prime theme of HCI, but still
sadly lacking in practice.
A good overview of classification is given in "Sorting Things Out:
Classification and Its Consequences" by Geoffrey C. Bowker & Susan
Leigh Star.  MIT Press, 2000.
Eric Homich
PhD student
Faculty of Information Studies
University of Toronto
Received on Sat Sep 03 2005 - 19:12:20 EDT

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