The strange case of eugenics: A subject’s ontogeny in a long-lived classification scheme and the question of collocative integrity by Joseph T. Tennis. (Tennis, J. T. (2012), The strange case of eugenics: A subject’s ontogeny in a long-lived classification scheme and the question of collocative integrity. J. Am. Soc. Inf. Sci., 63: 1350–1359. doi: 10.1002/asi.22686)
This article introduces the problem of collocative integrity present in long-lived classification schemes that undergo several changes. A case study of the subject “eugenics” in the Dewey Decimal Classification is presented to illustrate this phenomenon. Eugenics is strange because of the kinds of changes it undergoes. The article closes with a discussion of subject ontogeny as the name for this phenomenon and describes implications for information searching and browsing.
While many theorists have concerned themselves with how to design a scheme that can handle the addition of subjects, very little has been done to study how a subject changes after it is introduced to a scheme. Simply because we add civil engineering to a scheme of classification in 1920 does not signify that it means the same thing today. Almost 100 years have passed, and many things have changed in that subject. We may have subdivided this class in 1950, thereby separating the pre-1950 meaning from the post-1950 meaning and also affecting the collocative power of the class civil engineering. Other classes in the superclass of engineering might be considered too close, and are eliminated over time, affecting the way the classifier does her or his work (cf. Tennis, 2007; Tennis & Sutton, 2008). It is because of these concerns, coupled with the design requirement of collocation in classification, that we need to look at the life of a subject over time—the subject’s scheme history or ontogeny.
Deeply interesting work that has implications for topic map structures and the preservation of “collocative integrity” over time.
One suspects that preservation of “collocative integrity” is an ongoing process that requires more than simple assignments in a scheme.
What factors would you capture to trace the ontogeny of “euqenics” and how would you use them to preserve “collocative integrity” across that history using a topic map? (Remembering that users at any point in that ontogeny may be ignorant of prior (obviously subsequent) changes in its classification.)