09thJun2014

Reversed Classification

Working with data in the humanities, we’ve noticed that the debate on classifications is often focused on the definition of the classification and not so much on what it identifies. A well known example is of course ‘nationality’, but also a (historical) occupation/capacity and even seemingly unproblematic classifications like ‘the nineteenth century’ pose several problems.

Looking at data from an object-oriented perspective, using predefined classifications seems counterintuitive. Objects should define themselves by means of their varying attributes. Nodes and clusters emerge on the basis of correlation between objects.

Nevertheless, we understand the need to be able to identify these clusters in a structured manner without the need to perform sequences of filters. These ‘structured clusters’ should be able to be ordered, analysed and explored. For this reason, we have taken up the challenge to equip nodegoat with a functionality that allows for the definition of these clustered by means of fuzzy filtering settings. We have defined this process as ‘reversed classification’. Although we have merely conceptualised the challenge, and have yet to implement this, we want to share our ideas behind this.

In general, classifications emphasise a convention of value and vocabulary. The direction of a classification is outward, relating to the convention unidirectionally. In effect, the classification is unable to communicate/negotiate with the network it classifies. The reversal of classification opens up the convention by disclosing its parameters. Reversal allows the classification to be scrutinised, reconfigured and re-evaluate the objects it classifies.

Simply put: instead of identifying classifications and assigning these to objects in a dataset (like ‘sculptor’ or ‘German’), a user defines a multi-faceted filter spanning multiple datasets in which they define any number of parameters that are associated with a classification. This will reverse the classifying process as the definition of the classification is identified by the exchange between parameters of the classification and attributes of the object. [....]

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