Basic information

Instructor: Melanie Feinberg
Unique course ID: 27850
Class location: UTA 1.212
Date and time: Tuesdays, 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Instructor information

E-mail: feinberg@ischool.utexas.edu
Office: UTA 5.446
Office phone: 512-471-8487
Office hours: Mondays 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. or by appointment

Course description

For the purposes of this course, a classification is a system of related categories. Our focus will be classifications developed to organize documents; examples include library classifications, thesauri, and information architectures for the World Wide Web. (While we will read about other types of classification in this class, we will concentrate on exploring how these ideas can be productively applied to document classification.) Typically, document classifications define concepts that may represent, either singly or in combination, the subject of a document. Document classifications (again, typically but not, as we might discuss in class, necessarily) show relationships between subjects or between components of a subject.

Topically, the seminar will concentrate on the conceptual basis of document classification and the underlying epistemological and ethical committments that underly such decisions. We will begin by discussing the traditions of library classification and controlled vocabulary development, with their twin goals of pragmatic information retrieval and objective representation of the world’s knowledge. In the next portion of the course, we will engage various conceptual difficulties that complicate traditional perspectives. In the final third of the semester, we will consider potential alternate conceptual foundations for classification projects and examine how these might suggest new design goals, new design processes, and accompanying changes in classification content, structure, and application to documents.

Thematically, we will direct our explorations and deliberations toward the possibility of using document classification to advance social justice goals. How might one, conceptually, approach such a task? How would a classification oriented toward social justice be different from other classifications? Would it be designed differently? Would it require changes in design process? By what criteria might it be judged? Structurally, the course will use a thesaurus created by the Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI), here at UT, as a continuing case study. As we proceed through the semester, we will examine how the ideas that we encounter each week might reveal new insights about the current structure of the HRDI thesaurus and its potential evolution.

Students with disabilities

Students with disabilities may request appropriate academic accommodations from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Students with Disabilities, 512-471-6259.