There Is No Utopia

By | September 30, 2014

All utopias are depressing because they leave no room for chance, for difference, for the ‘miscellaneous’. Everything has been set in order and order reigns. Behind every utopia there is always some great taxonomic design: a place for each thing and each thing in its place. (Perec P.191)
As soon as I read this passage, I asked myself “But doesn’t classification put things in their place?” I’m not an organization freak. But when I see disorganized files in my Google Drive, I just want to create a new folder and put related files in it because it is visually pleasing and easier to find files later on. How depressing is it? But then I have a folder for files that cannot be sorted. Yes, this is the “miscellaneous” category. Because of this folder, I can make my Google Drive look clean. Inside the “miscellaneous” folder, there is no order just a chaos of unrelated files which I will probably not review for a long time but I keep them anyway. Even with my organized folders, other people might find them confusing or misleading because those files are not for others to see therefore it is ok to make sense only to me. However, people who classify books for other people need to make sure that classification is easy to understand. When I read about Anthony Panizzi’s intention to create a better system for library catalogs, I was impressed by his passion for making “the structure of the library more transparent.” He was doing something physically inactive but he tried to change the system of the library to make knowledge more accessible to “common readers”. It is amazing that I still get to see what he has done out of his passion today. However, there are different classifications introduced after Panizzi. I am intrigued by Ranganathan’s facets classification system. “Multidimensional subject classification” has no fixed place unlike the utopian order. This system reminds me of how I search on Google. I don’t care about order of words, especially nouns because the results are most likely the same. This flexibility of search allows me to see more results but also brings up unrelated webpages. I have to mine through the results but I don’t mind it because the results from the utopian classification probably limits the results and doesn’t give me a chance to mine and filter what I need.

One thought on “There Is No Utopia

  1. shannon Post author

    This theme of classification’s “audiences” or “publics” — i.e., whether we classify to aid *others’* discover, or our *own* memory and discovery — seems to have captivated several of your classmates this week, too!
    We’ll want to consider, too, the different metaphysics, politics, ontologies, worldviews, etc., embodied in different classification systems.


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