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Sorting and Classification

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Book Review Sorting things Out Monothetic & Polythetic Classification

Classification as a form of Abstraction

Personality Classification

Differentiated Service

Identity-Differentiated Business Services

Differentiated Security

The Ethics of Discrimination

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Monothetic & Polythetic Classification

veryard projects > modelling > classification > monothetic & polythetic

One of the ways we simplify and make sense of the world is by dividing people and things into classes.
Defining a class in terms of specific features 
Features common to all members of a given class
Defining a class in terms of characteristic features 
Features likely to belong to an object of a given class

Information Scientists have usually assumed class membership can be defined monothetically, despite Wittgenstein’s famous counter-example, based on his definition of the class GAME.

Whereas operational entity types (such as EMPLOYEE) can usually be defined monothetically, strategic entity types (such as COMPETITIVE THREAT) often cannot.  The natural definitions of such entity types may include words like ‘typically’.  To avoid this, the model may fall back on definitions that make the adhoc judgement explicit, by specifying a judge, or a judging process.  (“A competitive threat is anything identified by the strategic planning director as a competitive threat.”)  However, it is still useful to document the characteristic features.

The behaviour of an entity is usually a characteristic feature, rather than a specific feature.  Thus it is usually inadequate to define a class merely in terms of what it does (or what its occurrences do).  This can be like defining a dog as something that eats dogfood. A good definition of a class specifies what it is (or what its occurrences are).

A definition of a class in terms of what the occurrence might do (as with COMPETITOR or DANGEROUS DOG) is even more difficult to treat objectively.  What the marketing department (or the dog-catcher) needs is a way of recognizing members of the entity type before they display the potential behaviour.  Thus DANGEROUS DOG may have to be defined by specific characteristics, such as breed or size.  COMPETITOR may have to be defined in terms of those characteristics that make an organization capable of mounting a competitive threat, rather than in terms of competing products already on the market.
On This Website Identifying competitors (Understanding the Business Issues)
Information Modelling Workshop (Understanding the Analysis Techniques)
Internet Classification Society of North America
Books R.R. Sokak & P.H.A. Sneath, Principles of Numerical Taxonomy.  W.H. Freeman, San Francisco, 1963
Rodney Needham, Against the Tranquility of Axioms, University of California Press, 1983.

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Book Review

veryard projects > modelling > classification > Bowker & Star

Geoffrey C. Bowker & Susan Leigh Star. Sorting Things Out: Classification and its Consequences. 

MIT Press, 1999.

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But why do I have to classify which 
edition you might want to look at?

Analyses categories and standards from a sociological and ethical perspective. Inspired by Foucault, the authors show how classification invisibly orders human interaction, and explore the moral agenda of classification.
Other Reviews Review by Terrence A. Brooks, School of Library and Information Science, University of Washington

Review by Elizabeth R. Lorbeer, Collection Development Librarian, Library of Rush University, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center

Tool Tinderbox: Sorting Things Out

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