Allerton 95
Round Table Discussion of Social and Organizational Issues in Classification
Session notes
Ignacio 1/3/95

Presenters were S. Leigh Star and Geof Bowker (representing IRGC: the
Illinois Research Group on Classifications)

Background:  Research Group on Classification

	1988 - Leigh and Geof at Irvine
		-why interested in classification? - try to find something in
		the natural order to tell us about the tools that people use
		to order stuff
		-began the computer supported cooperative work project
        		-on the International Classification of Diseases
 			(managed by the World Health Organization)

Analytic Threads:

1. Distribution and management of ambiguous and residual categories
	-these have to be there
	-WHEN are you going to distribute them and HOW are you going to
	manage them?

2. Micro-negotiations
	-ethnomethodological nightmare!
	-look at things like a committee that's set up to find out how people
 	cut categories in a particular way
	-have to look at the consequences of these decisions

3. Occam's razor
	-come up with something that's split enough so it's accurate
		-but the list can't be too long or else people won't use it

4. Double level languages (Mike Robinson)
	-how to manage the formalness of a system vs. the informalness
	of culture of the workplace
		-(e.g.) keeping suicide private is one thing people did (to
		keep the "honor" of the family
		-something else (besides suicide) was listed on the sheet to
		indicate cause of death

5. Double invisibility
	-ecological effect
	-in an attempt to NAME something, make some things invisible
	-things with no name - double invisibility - there's a layering of

6. Folk vs. formal classifications
	-how do they come together?
	-(e.g.) "lumpers" versus "splitters" in biology
	-WHO is the local culture
	-nurses use informal language vs. the formal, WHO language

International Classification of Diseases - managed by WHO in Geneva

1. list of things you can die of
2. about 100 years old
3. used to keep records for many years

* looked at archives of negotiations that occurred as they were revising
the list
	-e.g., when AIDS came along, they had to figure out how to manage the

* try to understand the different negotiations that went on; lots depended
on the group that was doing the negotiating

How does this tie into the DLs? - Methodologically:

John Seely Brown - you have examples out there in history that can help you
examine the problems of the DL
	-where have these problems come up in the past?
	-"radical outsourcing"... think creatively about what this is like and
	where has it been found before?
	-the practice of doing work is NOT very different from classifying
	that work
	-major names in literature:  Mintzberg, Schon, Abbott
	-standardized nomenclature

Science and Hypotheses (drawn from study of classification of nursing
work developed by nurses):

Nurses:	(1) create nursing classification system - develop the science of

	(2) professionalize nursing - redefine nursing - show it to the world!

-they break down stuff into ACTIVITIES:  cough enhancement(?), humor,
instilling hope

-we have to create knowledge which can be broken down into smaller
units (ethnomethodologists would love to do this)

-nurses know about classification systems and interpret it for their field
	-use "cultural brokerage", too
	-know the complexities
	-know what they're doing

-through the act - make nursing scientific knowledge
	-they are creating the profession
	-somehow this makes them deny that they HAVE been a science all along


Nursing work is that which cannot be classified - it is the invisible work
	-was there any relationship with past nursing knowledge:
	-nurses say we've always been a profession but any past knowledge
	has no validity
	-gains versus losses here?

Nurses: structure their care so that the nurse's philosophy is in there
	-so documentation has become increasingly important
	-are restructuring nursing work... reflection in philosophy from
	forms... by breaking it (nursing work) down, they are fundamentally
	changing it
	-purposefully leaving ambiguity there (e.g. not specifying
	below the activity level)
	-what are the tools to hold onto the ambiguity and how to know when and
	where and why to hold on?
	-who gets to specify when and down to what level and what are the

*** This breakdown changes nursing work so that it will no longer be
recognizable, not compared to the past.***

Talked with the nurses - resisting getting to the atom
	-the more visible you make something, the more you're accountable to
	the accountants, etc.

Redundancy of Databases:

-once you have more than one, they may be non-synchronized "out of synch,
have different information= failure"
-are the nurses using the same terminology? (Leigh said 'no'.)
-what can be unified?
-nurses work with doctors... why not use doctors' classification systems,
        -nurses are distinct
-problems with updating system?  changing semantics in parallel systems?
Ascendancy of one over the other?
-problem of record keeping... paper work cuts into DOING time
-realistic versus useful size of the system, how to optimize the two?
-once someone is engaging in a certain amount of reporting, it decreases the
amount of time that you would be doing things.

Cross-cultural categorization:

-translation issues (in lib. categorization)?  U.S. system doesn't fit in
with Danish structure
-cross cultural intention of classification system... problematic?  e.g. no
history of L.C. headings.
        -how to translate?
        -use of decimal classification system (why is Dewey more accepted?)
-NIC translated, but is not controlled by the nurses
        -can't do everything
-ICD as imperialist tool of western medicine
        -still cultural differences in use, though- and consistently so
	(flexibility in system)
        	-"high reliability and low validity"- consistently inconsistent

Leigh emphasized that the nurses classified their work because it was a
survival strategy - it justified this traditional work that clinicians
didn't have time for
	-for example, the Ayurvedic clinic in India - Leigh and Geof wanted to
	trace the pathway of reporting from the clinic to the WHO
	-but, clients went to two different clinics (ayurvedic and allopathic)
	-had parallel classifications

H. M. Collins:  level of codifying an infinite tree of rules
        -no pushing the boundary of specificity back
        -how to maintain that boundary?
        -grassroots.... Latourian marshaling of allies and network making
        -building a firewall or a useful system for people
        -try to do both!

If it is not at the beginning, it will become descriptive of nursing work

Making a bridge to LIS stuff?
        -librarians should articulate what they do and why they do it
        -in cataloging already done somewhat...

Cataloging is about much more than access
        -it is also about construction of things too.. making or
	structuring own work
        -also about secrets and not knowledge
        -DL organized around beliefs too:  access for all and
	transparency, etc.

Are the nurses too naive?  manipulative and controlling with their
planning? the way they are working to make themselves visible but not too

Has anyone else succeeded?
        -abstract codification of knowledge?  librarianship?

Classification - firewall or do they actually do it?
	-trying to make the classification system more real.  Will become
	embedded in the field

Interesting that nurses want to classify and librarians want to get rid
of job classifications

Classification is about secrets and knowledge
	-socio-political construction
	-DL is organized around beliefs, too
		-(e.g.) access for all and transparency, etc.

Try to make it visible and not too visible...

Look at the question of power - nurse keeps humanity in the hospital
	-they must think this way...
	-uncertainty is an attribute of an object
		-how do you visualize uncertainty as an object?
	-how do you represent ambiguity in a database?
		-Leigh: language of texture

Physicists do this quite often...

What about deprofessionalization issues?
       	 -why do you suppose the nurses are concerned about the level of

Creation of classification systems involves epistemological issues

Application of classifications:  low level rule applying?
        -makes profession into paraprofession? (not!)

Lucy Suchman worked with organization of legal materials.... application
of classification systems are labor intensive and expensive

The purpose of classification system creation and use... the nurses are
NOT unusual
        -their espoused uses are straightforward
        -unespoused uses... they must be astute enough to see them
	-important issues are how-who decides, who makes choices

Design is broad and implementation is specific... an "open black box"
	-sorting it all out is very dangerous and has strong consequences
	-who controls this articulation work

(someone said something about standardized records...this person disagreed)

(1) disagrees with the idea that having standardized records is what makes
    the DL possible
	-not necessarily the case

(2) standards one up other standards
	-it's not that tailoring in local stuff is not happening
	-what we see in cataloguing is parallel to lots of other professions
		-drawing parallels between infrastructure/job

Catalogers got together to find out what their professions are

Summary--Some issues to think about:

1. Creation of a classification system is built around epistemology

2. Issue of application - is this low level, simple, rule making task or
   is it extremely expensive, labor intensive, etc.
	-look at the consequences
	-the classification of legal materials is given to legal clerks

3. Articulation of roles - look at the purpose for which it was created
	- visible purposes
		- aggregation
		- explaining materials

4. Uses that get made of information

5. Who decides?  (it's all political)

6. Difficulty of classification (individuals have different classification