Interdisciplinary aspects of Knowledge Organization
Knowledge is not first and foremost organized in libraries or by librarians. A much more adequate picture of the state of affairs is described by Wallerstein (1996, p. 30):
"Thus, between 1850 and 1945, a series of disciplines came to be defined as constituting an area of knowledge to which the name “social science” was accorded. This was done by establishing in the principal universities first chairs, then departments offering courses leading to degrees in the discipline. The institutionalization of training was accompanied by the institutionalization of research: the creation of journals specialized in each of the disciplines; the construction of associations of scholars along disciplinary lines (first national, then international): the creation of library collections catalogued by disciplines” (emphasis added).
This example shows that knowledge organization in libraries is a reflection of the establishment of concepts and knowledge structures in other parts of society, for example, in the universities. The connection to universities (and other institutions of higher learning and research) is substantiated in the role of such institutions to produce the knowledge, which is later organized in libraries. This was recognized by the founders of knowledge organization who realized that the organizing of books in libraries must be based on the organization of knowledge, such as this is revealed in scientific publications.
This example shows that if library classification should be up-to-date is should reflect the current organization of the scientific and scholarly disciplines. In other words: the serious study of library classification should be based on, among other things, knowledge about the social organization of knowledge in institutes of higher education, disciplines and journals. The social organization of knowledge is studied by disciplines such as the sociology of knowledge (including the sociology of science), the history of knowledge (including the history of ideas and the history of science). All this may be termed the social organization of knowledge and it is clearly relevant to Library and Information Science (LIS). LIS is also contributing to these fields, for example with bibliometric studies.
There is, however, also fields which study what has been termed the intellectual organization of knowledge (cf., Whitley, 1984/2000). When scientists produces models of parts of the world (e.g. zoologists of the animal world or physicists and chemists of the chemical worlds), such models are not social models, but ontological models. Although social constructivists might claim that such ontological models are in reality purely "social constructions" (and thus not based on a reality outside the social world) they are at least only indirectly (if at all) reflecting a social organization of knowledge. The intellectual organization of knowledge is first and foremost reflected in theories and concepts (conceptualizations), why the study of knowledge organization within LIS must include the study of theories, conceptualizations and concepts. LIS classification of knowledge is also based upon scientific models of reality. This is evident, for example, in the classification of biology and chemistry.
The tendency within LIS have been positivist in the sense that knowledge claims have been confused with knowledge without much concern with controversies and different conceptions. A paper such as Ørom (2003) can be taken as a model for how LIS should relate to different theories and conceptions (and thus to different ontological models of reality).
Different disciplines have different perspectives on how knowledge is basically organized:
Cognitive science and psychology look at knowledge representation and organization “in the head” and the way it organized there. The concept is often regarded as the basic organizational unit of knowledge.
scientists look at how knowledge may be represented and organized in
Philosophy organizes knowledge in ontological
theories, e.g. whether physical and mental phenomena belong to the same
categories as Karl Popper’s theory of three worlds: the physical world, the
mental world and the world of “objective knowledge”. A well-known
neopositivist theory is that knowledge is organized in systems that may be
reduced to each other so that all knowledge in the end is physical knowledge.
(E.g. psychology may be reduced to physiology that might be reduced to
chemistry and finally to physics).
Educational science looks at how knowledge may be organized in teaching
disciplines and in curricula (learning plans). (Teaching disciplines may or
may not correspond to scientific disciplines)
Linguistics look at knowledge organized in
different kinds of words, sentences and texts.
Library science focuses on knowledge organization
in and between libraries on shelves or in catalogs and databases. E.g. the
organization of knowledge in public libraries, research libraries and
national libraries. A broader view might include other “memory institutions”
such as archives and museums.
Documentation focus on the organization of
knowledge in primary, secondary and tertiary subject literatures, their
genres and kinds of documents.
Bibliometrics may organize documents in clusters
based on, for example author-co-citations.
Economics look at how knowledge is organized in
relation to production, consumption and economic development.
Sociology (and economics) tends to view knowledge
as it is organized in the social division of labor. Jürgen Habermas, for
example, described media (and indirectly KO) in relation to his model of the
History of science look at knowledge organization
in scientific disciplines and specialties closely associated with the
organizational structures of universities and higher education.
History of ideas look at knowledge as organized in
traditions and theories.
Critical research may se knowledge as organized in ideologies. Karl Marx thought that knowledge is organized according to class interests: The dominant knowledge representing the interests of the ruling class.
Wallerstein, I. (1996). Open the Social Sciences, report of the Gulbenkian Commission on the Restructuring of the Social Sciences. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
Whitley, R. R. (1984). The Intellectual and Social Organization of the Sciences. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (2nd ed. with a new introduction 2000).
Ørom, A. (2003). Knowledge Organization in the domain of Art Studies - History, Transition and Conceptual Changes. Knowledge Organization, 30(3/4), 128-143.
Last edited: 06-05-2006