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‘Classic’ vs. 'freely' faceted classification

Claudio Gnoli of the University of Pavia in Italy and Chair of ISKO Italy, explored the relative merits of classic 'faceted classification' (FC) and 'freely faceted classification' (FFC). In classic FC, the facets (and their relationships) which might be combined to express a compound subject, are restricted to those prescribed as inherent in the subject area. FC is therefore largely bounded by and restricted to a specific subject area. At the other extreme, free classification (as in the Web or folksonomies) allows the combination of values from multiple, disparate domains where the relationships among the elements are often indeterminate, and the semantics obscure. Claudio described how punched cards were an early example of free classification, and cited the coordination of dogs : postmen : bites as one where the absence of defined relationships made the semantics ambiguous.

Claudio identified himself as being a member of a band of 'heretics' prepared to regard classification as applying to 'phenomena' rather than the 'disciplines' which were the focus of traditional classification theory. This stance recommends an approach combining the best of totally free classification and classic FC, which he dubbed 'freely faceted classification'. In FFC, facets from different domains of phenomena could be freely combined and the adoption of rules governing citation order could help to make meanings clearer. He proposed that Integrative Level Classification (ILC), whereby phenomena are organized in order of increasing complexity (e.g. atoms > molecules > cells > organisms) could serve as a useful framework.

The increasing interdisciplinarity of IR needs was illustrated by a screen shot of the BioAcoustic Reference Database (BARD). While the notation might be expressive, it was not intuitive. The adoption of mark-up conventions for notation offers a possible solution to the problem of expressing semantic relationships, but the resulting character strings are not intuitively meaningful. In BARD, the obscurity of the notation is ameliorated through the use of PHP scripts to synthesize verbal descriptions which are displayed alongside the classmarks of items in search result sets.

Claudio concluded that FFC has great promise, but a number of problems remain to be resolved in 'taming complexity'.

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Talk
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English
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