4 March 2014 Leave a comment
Dr John Lamp (@JohnWLamp) has been navigating the seas of academia for twenty years.
An apparently aimless meandering actually camouflaged a core interest in information, how it is perceived and categorised, and the dynamics of categorisation.
In 2012, his PhD thesis “Information Categorisation: An Emergent Approach” was awarded the medal of the Australian Council of Professors and Heads of Information Systems. He can be found on LinkedIn, Twitter and lists to do with open access and research impact.
There are some fundamental problems with the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification Field of Research (ANZFoR) codes. So fundamental, that we really need to stop and go back to first principles.
Categorisation is one of the most basic things that we all do. Some of you have now categorised that statement under “things I agree with,” others as “things I don’t agree with,” and possibly many other categories.
For those of you who are thinking that you don’t categorise things: I’m sorry, but even that is putting things into a category. A very big and possibly useless category, but a category nonetheless. I often say that there are two sorts of people: those who categorise.
Categories are useful things. It’s much easier to say “I like movies in which Colin Firth acts” than to say “I like <insert a list of all the films in which Colin Firth acts>!”. They are convenient short-hand descriptions.
They also convey an additional layer of information. Reciting a list of all the films in which Colin Firth acts requires the listener to decode the common feature of all those films. The use of a category, as well as defining something, highlights the particular attribute that the speaker is addressing. In the absence of that information, the listener may inaccurately group by director, country of origin, or another attribute. Also, the list will soon date as Colin Firth acts in new films, but the category description may not have that problem.
There are some real problems with categorisation, though. Some of them relate to simple mis-categorisation (how on earth did “health informatics” end up as a sub-category of “librarianship” in the ANZFoRs?), but the real bugbears are structure and perspectives.