LSC 551 Organization of Information: final thoughts

            A.K. and I had taken a class together during the summer, LSC 557, where we discovered we had a common Portuguese-speaking heritage.  So we decided to join as partners for this project.

            At our first meeting, at a Starbucks in Alexandria, we decided to divide the syllabus up into equal parts and take responsibility for each section with regards to its bearing on the organization project.  I noticed all the while we were talking that Anita was feverishly typing and I assume she was youthfully multitasking.  But she wasn’t.  In fact, it turned out she was configuring the project report outline and the presentation based on our discussion.  She provided the organizing “skeleton,” so to speak, which we eventually filled in with organs, skin, and clothing (to follow the analogy).

            In the intervening weeks, we emailed the powerpoint and the report outline back and forth to each other, filling things in based on our responsibilities.  In the end we had 27 slides and 12 pages of text.  In the next to the final week, we went to the Dacor Bacon House (not required, but I had some old friends I wanted to see anyway). But it was closed for the holidays, so we took photos from the outside.  In the final week, I attended one of the public tours and took photos from inside.  We met face-to-face in the final week to par down the powerpoint and tighten up the report.  We had a pleasant working relationship throughout. 

            In the end, the exercise of organizing for the project was nearly as important, perhaps, as the exercise of conducting the project itself.  As an English professor of mine used to say, “It’s not the ‘what’ as much as it is the ‘how’ of what you say that transmits the message.”  A section from the textbook questions whether classification is for a collection or for all knowledge.  One of many concepts I take away from this project is that if a collection is carefully organized, following standardized principles of organization we have laid out, and if that organization includes nomenclature that is representative of the items being organized, accurate to some standard of truth and reality, sufficient and necessary to some group of users, and standardized over various platforms, then that collection classification and its principles can be expanded for inter-operability with other such organized collections, and, ultimately scalable to be all inclusive at every level. 

            Another English professor said, “The World Wide Web is the only reality that matters; if you are not on the Web, you don’t exist.”  Prior to the development of the internet, we could all live in our separate worlds, and we could all have our private, separate collections of things, protected by walls that excluded The Other, whatever that might have been.  The internet has melted, if not disintegrated, all those walls and our organizing principles must now stand up to scrutiny if they are to survive in the new age. 

            I was able to integrate concepts from the other core classes in 551, and I found that integration useful.  For example, in our final project discovery phase we spent some time on ILS systems that might be applicable to our collection, straight from 555, and I used Information Policy for my thesaurus construction, straight from 557.  I plan to continue my 551 studies into the future with a closer look at Panofsky’s analysis of the content of visual images (covered briefly in the textbook (Taylor and Joudrey); I found the concept fascinating and actually checked out Panofsky’s book at Mullen Library), and with an expansion of our brief coverage of information architecture in a course of the same title in the Spring term. 

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