Glenda Buya-ao Claborne
I consider my dMLIS program as one whole intellectual experience [see my Coursework]. All of my classes have contributed to my intellectual growth in LIS but I will highlight two in which I have produced a substantial paper related to the organization of information, particularly in online environments. These are LIS 570 - Research Methods, in which I produced a paper (with Shawn Schollmeyer) titled How do people organize their personal websites? and LIS 600 - Independent Study, in which I wrote a paper titled Linnaeus, Mendeleev, Dewey, and Ranganathan: What can they tell us about the organization of information?
I have taken graduate research methods classes before (one quantitative and one qualitative [link]) at the University of Arizona but LIS 570 was a challenging opportunity to explore a topic related to the organization of information in digital contexts. If I remember right, we barely explored the implications of the Internet and digital resources when I took graduate courses in journalism, communication, and sociology at UofA from 1997 to 1999. So much has happened with websites since then. Changes in the use of websites continue even after our LIS 570 study in the Winter of 2004, but I find my analysis of the units and functions of personal website organization still significant as I continue to study blogs and personal interfaces to resources on the Internet.
My independent study is significant because it helped me relate my interest in personal information organization to who we are as members of larger entities like groups, organizations, corporations, and societies. How can I relate the challenges in personal information organization with the challenges faced by these entities in organizing large sets of information? Information organization, especially as represented in the activities of indexing and cataloging, sounds like a very practical activity that is only secondary to more abstract intellectual pursuits. But I find its major aspects to be intertwined with centuries-old, philosophical questions regarding representation, identity, essence, and existence. The intellectual challenge felt overwhelming. How could I, within the time span of a quarter, even start to deal with such questions that have tortured, for years and years, far greater minds than mine?
But my independent study started long before the Winter 2005 quarter. The core course in organization of information - LIS 530 (taught by Allyson Carlyle), which I took in the Spring 2004 quarter, laid down the foundations for understanding the subject in LIS. In that same quarter, William Jones suggested reading up on Linnaeus or Mendeleev or some other examples of organizing information. Over the summer of 2004, I read Gordin's (2004) biography of Mendeleev, Blunt's (2001) on Linnaeus, and several books on knowledge representation (particularly one by Sowa). In Fall 2004, I took a course in indexing and abstracting and another one in cataloging and classification. I also brainstormed with William Jones, and submitted an independent study proposal to be supervised by him.
William Jones encouraged me to focus on the predictive aspects of systems of organization especially as demonstrated in the gaps observed by Mendeleev while he was putting together the periodic table of elements. He challenged me to trace a transition from taxonomy to ontology or a hybrid of the two. He also emphasized the theme of organization as information in its own right and its relationship to personal information management. However, I was also trying to connect the independent study to ontological questions in LIS and I started with a very broad draft of an introduction, which I abandoned later. Reviewers of this portfolio would probably understand better how the paper evolved by looking at one of my early drafts/notes. There were many interesting threads to follow and I struggled for mental discipline. Interestingly enough, it was probably the change from the provisional title of "From utility to essence: how the organization of information can be more" to "Linnaeus, Mendeleev, ..." which gave some boundaries and focus to my gallivanting mind. The paper remains at a descriptive level in some respects and there are jumps in analysis that need to be tightened and supported better. I intend to follow William Jones' advice to develop one or two strong areas of the paper for possible publication in a journal later.
An opportunity to take my independent study further came up when ASIS&T PNW solicited student participation in their annual meeting on May 14, 2005. I believe that part of an intellectual experience is to be able to share it with a larger audience. The following are links to the slides and narration of the presentation:
In addition to being able to transform the independent study into a presentation, I also wrote an essay on the advantages of classification which I submitted as an entry to the Braverman Essay Award in February 2005. I did not win the award but writing an essay helped me articulate further and on a different level the principles and ideas in classification that I was trying to understand in this independent study.