Classification and Accumulation

By | September 30, 2014

“The Industrial Library” and “Think/Classify” have a very important theme in common: the apparent need to classify and organize.
The more “stuff” that is one place the more accessible is has to be. At least, that is the trend in “The Industrial Library” and catalog systems. For example, Panizzi introduced “call numbers” in order to “make the structure of the library more transparent, so that readers could mine collections themselves” (170).  Where Dewey’s system “allows for access through multiple points of entry” (174).  Where Ranganathan’s system supports “descriptions based on multivalent characteristics” and “allows for a multidimensional subject classification that assumes a particular orientation on the part of the user without imposing a deterministic subject hierarchy” (178-9). Each of these classification systems have one thing in mind, and that is to make material as accessible as possible. It is important to realize, however, there is a “subject” creating these classifications, bringing in their own bias.
In Perec’s essay “Think/Classify,” he discusses the overwhelming need to organize and classify personal items, which in his opinion, are never organized sufficiently in the section “How I Classify”. He states, “Like everyone else… I am sometimes seized by mania for arranging things. The sheer number of things needing to be arranged and the near-impossibility of distributing them to any truly satisfactory criteria” (196).  Unlike the library, personal classification is not (usually) standardized, but most of us try to make sense of our own stuff, only to be disappointed. At least, whenever I try to organize my own belongings (clothes, junk, etc.), I start off strong, I have a system in place, but then I come to items that “don’t fit” and I put them aside or try to make them “fit” and a week later, everything is in shambles again. However, no matter how many times my own organization fails, I keep trying.
These two pieces make it apparent that with the more stuff we accumulate, the more we feel we need to classify to make sense of the things, and we will continue to do so as long as we accumulate (virtually and materially).

One thought on “Classification and Accumulation

  1. shannon Post author

    You’ve highlighted some disparate — and perhaps competing — motivations for classification: to aid in discoverability and access for *others* and/or for *oneself”!


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