Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Comparing and classifying

Imagine an ignorant northern European, dropped at the edge of a tropical jungle.  He knows only things from his homeland.  In the distance, he sees something as black as a crow.  A gust of wind shakes the nearby trees.  The object sits, solid and unmoving.  It’s obviously not a crow then. 

Against the grey green shade of the trees, the pitch black object stands out.  A nut falls from the canopy.  It hits the object and bounces off.  There is a dull thud.  On a hot day like this, pitch would be soft and sticky.  Whatever sort of black it is, it is not pitch black. 

The man moves closer.  Beside the trees sits a round carved object.  He picks it up.  It looks as black as coal, or as black as jet, but it feels like neither of them. 

The mysterious force that dropped him near the jungle picks him up and whisks him home.  He returns, the proud possessor of an ebony carving and a new source of similes and metaphors.

OK - forgive the somewhat fanciful turn that this blog has taken.  The point that I am labouring to make is that we classify according to what we're familiar with, and that's especially relevant to LIS people.  Thanks to Liz C for not only offering to give a short talk about the classification system of the Warburg Library at the forthcoming researchers' discussion group (Thursday 14/04, 16.30, Rm 324) but also for reminding me of George Lakoff.  His book "Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things" gave me food for thought when I did the MSc here years ago. 

The main event this Thursday however, is a discussion on blogs and their role in research, to be led by Angharad (who's working overtime, since she also contributed to last month's discussion).

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