INF 384C Spring 2009 Feinberg: Objectives
There are four assignments in this course: a set of three reflective essays, design of a schema for describing a set of objects, design of a small subject classification, and a final reflection. The classification project may be done in a group of up to three people.
For the reflective essays, please e-mail them to email@example.com. Please turn in all other assignments on paper, in class.
The first weeks of the course focus on conceptual foundations of information organization. These three response essays are intended to help you grapple with the complex nature of some of the initial readings. (A firm understanding of the principles introduced here will facilitate your ability to apply these concepts in the practical realm for the following two assignments.)
Write a brief but trenchant reflection that critically engages one or more of the readings for the week. Your goal is to discuss an idea from the reading in some depth, to engage a "big question" that intrigued or frustrated you, and not to summarize the reading. (Summaries that don’t include critical reflection will be marked down.) Each reflection should be a cohesive document that expresses and supports an argument, not merely a collection of random thoughts or musings.
These essays could be an opportunity to translate general concepts to the information science domain, to explore implications for work practice, to extend or criticize an argument from the reading, and so on. For example, a reflective essay on the Baxandall reading might consider how what he says about painting applies to the creation of image metadata. But the actual focus and structure of the essays is left up to you.
Approximate length: 500 words each.
A successful essay will exhibit these characteristics:
In this assignment, you will define a set of entities, articulate a motivating purpose for describing them, and then outline a structure of attributes and associated values to systematically represent your entities as metadata. You will use your defined attribute set to create metadata for five varied instances of entities in your set.
First, you will define a group of entities to describe. You are not limited to written texts. Some examples here might be:
Submit your idea for a group of entities by Feb. 12 for instructor approval.
In your description, give a sense of the range of possible instances that would fit into your set. For example, is a photo in the airport an acceptable instance of Iceland vacation photo? Is an establishment that serves burritos but no tacos an acceptable instance of taqueria? Thinking about border cases will help you create attributes that apply equally to all members of your set of entities.
Next, you will articulate a purpose to motivate your description. For example, you might want to share your Iceland photos with your travel club, or you might want to preserve your own memories of the trip, or you might want to advance the cause of Icelandic hegemony throughout the world.
You will then articulate a set of 10-15 attributes to define your entities in support of the purpose. You will label and describe each attribute in sufficient detail so that an outside indexer could assign values for entities of the type that you have described. For each attribute, you will set parameters for acceptable values and provide guidelines that show how values should be expressed. (You might base this portion of the assignment on Diane Hillman’s element descriptions for Dublin Core, although you are not required to use her format. Hillman’s descriptions are assigned reading for Week 6.)
Once you have sufficiently defined your attributes, use the structure that you have developed to preliminarily describe five instances to represent both prototypical and border cases of your entity set. If there are cases where you are unable to satisfactorily describe an instance, use this as an opportunity to revise the schema and clarify your attribute definitions. (You might even need to clarify the boundaries of your group of entities and sharpen its description.) Then use your revised schema to create five final descriptions for your entity instances.
Finally, write a brief critical reflection on your design process and resulting product. You might discuss questions such as the following:
Note: These are examples of questions that you might discuss. To create a concise yet cohesive paper, you will need to concetrate on a few design issues of particular relevance to your project. Do not merely answer the questions here.
Your final assignment should include:
A successful assignment will exhibit these characteristics:
You will define, label, and relate a set of 30-40 concepts to serve as a means of organizing documents. Your classification will elucidate the conceptual landscape for a single subject area, which you will select.
First, you will select a subject area that you will represent in your classification. Because your set of categories will be small, this should be something quite specific, such as:
Via e-mail, submit your idea for a subject area by March 12 for instructor approval.
Next, even if you are an expert in the subject area that you selected, do some basic research. Look at a variety of documents in the subject area and see what they include and how they differ. This should give you a better sense of your subject area and its extent. Based on this research, you might need to define your subject area more narrowly (for example, concentrating on ecofeminism as one type of feminist theory). You should also at this point articulate a purpose and associated user group for your classification. You might create a classification to organize documents on veganism in order to help persuade current meat eaters to become vegans, for example, or you might alternately create a veganism classification for current vegans that focuses on making the most out of the vegan lifestyle. In other words, your audience and purpose will help you interpret the subject in a specific way, which you will then represent in a system of related categories. (Or you can say that your selection of an audience and purpose, in combination with your research into the subject literature, will help form the “semantic warrant” of your classification.) Write a few paragraphs to describe your intended audience, associated purpose, and resulting interpretation of the subject. This will help you as you develop and shape the classification.
Now, create a system of 30-40 related categories to represent the subject. You might begin generating potential classes by looking through documents in your subject area to “harvest” concepts as “source material.” (This is a bottom-up approach.) Or you might begin by defining some top-level categories in advance and working downwards (a top-down approach).
Relate your categories in one or more hierarchies. (You might choose a truly synthetic, faceted approach, as discussed in Week 11, but this is not a requirement.) You will need to manipulate your categories, aggregating, splitting, rearranging, and relabeling them, in order to generate a cohesive structure. Pay attention to the order within sibling categories at any particular level; you should have a reason for each arrangement. You may choose to relate categories associatively (across hierarchies) if you like.
You can represent the classification any way that makes sense to you: indented text is fine as long as the levels are clear. You can also use diagrams.
You will discuss a draft of your classified structure with the instructor during the week of April 16; a schedule of meeting times will be distributed during class meetings.
After you have the classified structure established, you will create an alphabetical list of the categories in your classification. For each category, you will provide a brief definition and, where warranted, a usage note that clarifies what kinds of resources should be assigned to the category. For example, a veganism classification for current vegans, designed to increase community, might note that resources that discuss health risks associated with veganism should be classed under “establishment propaganda.” As you proceed, you may wish to test your structure and associated documentation by attempting to classify a variety of documents in the subject area.
You will also write an introduction to the classification that briefly describes your subject area in general, along with your target audience, intended purpose, and associated interpretation of the subject. Your introduction should include brief guidelines for using the classification: can resources be assigned to multiple categories, for example?
Finally, you will write a concise critical reflection on your design process and resulting product. In writing this, you might consider questions such as:
As with the descriptive schema assignment, these are examples of questions that you might discuss. To create a concise yet cohesive paper, you will need to concetrate on a few design issues of particular relevance to your project. Do not merely answer the questions here.
Your final assignment should include:
A successful classification will exhibit the following characteristics:
What does a poet’s discussion of Dutch still-life painting have to do with anything? Mark Doty’s meditation Still Life with Oysters and Lemon, the final assigned reading, touches on a number of the ambiguities that make information organization and representation so fascinatingly complex and thus provides a rich ground from which to look back over the course. For this assignment, write an essay according to one of the following options:
As appropriate in your essay, refer to additional assigned readings, concepts from class lecture and discussion, and your experiences in designing the descriptive schema and subject classification.
Approximate length: 1250-1500 words
A successful final reflection will exhibit the following characteristics:
Last Modified: January 22 2009 14:57:22.