Culture and epistemology in Knowledge Organization (KO)

Rationalists view in KO are based on the ideal of universal classifications that are independent of languages, domains and cultures. The UDC, for example, owe much of it popularity to the idea of language-independent classification codes.


Pragmatic, historicist, hermeneutic, activity theoretical and paradigm-theoretical views, on the other hand, are based on the view that the way knowledge is created, used, organized and shared depends on the cultural context, the domain, the perspectives and the "paradigm" on which they are based and constructed.  The ideal is not KO that is universal and independent, but KO that reflects the values and purposes of the context for which they are constructed.


Shiri (2005): "Culture and epistemology are closely related. The way knowledge is created, used and shared depends on the culture".


Domain Analysis is probably the only approach to KO which has paid explicit attention to culture and epistemological issues. Other approaches are more or less dominated by ideals of standardization and universalism based on rationalist and empiricist epistemologies.







Bourdieu, P. & Wacquant, L. (1992). An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  pp12-3


Durkheim, E. & Mauss, M. (1963). Primitive Classification. Translated by Rodney Needham. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Hjørland, B. & Nissen Pedersen, K. (2005). A substantive theory of classification for information retrieval. Journal of Documentation, 61(5), 582-597. Click for full-text pdf Click for summary of arguments


Ibsen, A. (2004). Classification of classification. Culture Matters, Class Weblog for Soc 508 at the University of Arizona


Shiri, A. (2005). Culture and epistemology, role and functions of the organization of information.


Srinivasan, R. (2007). Ethnomethodological architectures: Information systems driven by cultural and community visions. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 58(5), 723-733.


See also: Culture (Epistemological lifeboat); Domain Analysis as an approach to KO;

Universal model (Core concepts in LIS).





Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 25-02-2007