The 15th International Conference of the International Society for Knowledge Organization took place in in the beautiful Portuguese city of Porto in July 2018. ISKO is the main academic association for those interested in classification, taxonomy, ontology and related topics, and as always attracted a good audience from around the world, though with an understandable preponderance from Iberia and Ibero-America.
I gave a keynote talk, on the theme of how knowledge organization may contribute to the promotion of understanding, and to the curation of Floridi’s infosphere. This is the subject of a separate blog post. Here I set down some impressions of the overall conference. It was particularly good to be accompanied at the conference by two CityLIS colleagues, David Haynes, a very active member of ISKO-UK, and Deborah Lee, who gave a paper jointly authored by myself and Lyn Robinson, on ‘Global knowledge organization, “super-facets” and music; universal music classification in the digital age’.
Taking place in a lovely setting, and efficiently organised by Fernanda Ribiero, Raquel Graça, and their team, the conference took the theme of ‘Challenges and opportunities for knowledge organization in the digital age’. Such a general theme attracted contributions across a wide range of topics, divided into the themes of: foundations and methods; inter-operability; and societal challenges.110 papers, 24 posters and two workshops were presented. I was not able to stay for all of the conference, and the split-session format posed a further challenge, so I can only mention a few things which caught my interest.
A paper by Jonathan Furner, ‘Truth, relevance, and justice: towards a veritistic turn for KO’, gives a conceptual analysis of notions such as truth and justice, leading to a proposal for a new form of ‘critical information organization’, which, somewhat controversially, would favour truth over relevance as the main criterion for information provision. A related paper by the same author, together with Gregory Leazer and Robert Montoya titled ‘Articulating a cultural research program for knowledge organization systems’, examines the assumptions and cultural dependence of knowledge organization, and argues for a more critical examination, leading to a more ethical and sensitive approach to organising information and documents.
Joe Tennis and Paula Carina de Araújo presented ‘Influence of metatheoretical research in knowledge organization’, showing how metatheory has been used for a variety of purposes in developing theory in this area, including providing over-arching theoretical perspectives, and producing, explaining, and evaluating theories.
Claudio Gnoli and colleagues, in a presentation entitled ‘Phenomenon-based vs. disciplinary classification: possibilities for evaluating and mapping’, gave a careful analysis of a perennial issue within KO, the relative merits of classifications based on epistemology and disciplines, using Dewey Decimal Classification as an example, and those based on ontology and topics, the example here being the Integrative Levels Classification.
The disciplines of world history and knowledge organization were combined by Rick Szostak in ‘Applied knowledge organization and the history of the world’, to show how KO can bring coherence to the study of world history by displaying the interactions of the same themes in diverse times and places.
In ‘Solid foundations and some secondary assumptions in the design of bibliographic metadata: towards a typology of complementary uses of metadata’, Athena Salaba and Joe Tennis draw out the many purposes which metadata may enable, beyond the obvious function of accessing bibliographic information through databases and catalogues, including education, management, and promoting social interaction.
Finally, and of relevance to CityLIS’s DocPerform project, Juan Antonio Sánchez and Tomás Pérez presented ‘A conceptual model for an OWL ontology to represent the knowledge of transmedia storytelling’, giving a conceptual level for organizing knowledge of interactive narratives on multiple platforms.
The proceedings of the conference are published print and e-book format by Ergon Verlag. Anyone with an interest in ISKO’s area will find something of interest in them.