I find “how humans classify reality” to be fascinating.

I occasionally get obsessed with ontologies, thesauri, hierarchical classifications of general –> specific knowledge. Ok, it’s a lifelong obsession since I was a kid, fascinated by the Dewey Decimal System… I mean, *how* do you classify knowledge in hierarchies? [trees of interdependent, cross referenced structures that are called webs instead of trees can also be thought of as multidimensional trees with some fascinating properties, such as growing back towards the trunk and intersecting with it… such is where analogies start to take on alien form].
Anyway, my DDC curiosity reasserted itself again, leading me to find some fascinating resources. The Bartoc . org [Basel Register of Thesauri, Ontologies & Classifications] lists 2384 significant ones, which led me to the PLOS thesaurus at:
Being PLOS, it’s related to Science of course, but what a marvelous job they did of presenting a hierarchical view.
There’s not many groups I can share this with but this one I can. I find “how humans classify reality” to be fascinating.
How fascinating. On and off I’ve been researching top-down hierarchical classification schemes, focusing on Dewey, mostly because the copyright automatically winnows down my possible research avenues. In short, the amount of usage online of it is underwhelming.

I had to spend a lot of time in Internet Archive because it was in the mid-late 1990s – pre-Google (more specifically: pre-2002) that you would find attempts to classify the web in a Dewey way.

So, I went through archives of attempts to classify the web from the past. And… it looked very very strange indeed.

Then I thought about search. Google. Letting someone else categorize our searches. But, suddenly it hit me:

Somewhere along the line, searching has become less and less. We _wait_ for the content we want to show up _for_ us. Facebook guesses quite well what we might want: it’s delivered.

I’m on other online services that do much the same: Our preferences are saved, calculated, and what we like is filtered for us.

So, nothing new and yet… it’s strange: I can go to a library and go straight for what I want. I can be nearly blindfolded, not know WHAT I want, and end up walking straight to something interesting. I know the system well enough.

Yet, when is the last time I’ve been on someone’s homepage? Or somewhere _not_ Wikipedia, Facebook or the dozen other sites I frequent?

Where’s the rest of everything?

Of course it’s there. Of course I’m saying “we” when I mean “me”.

I don’t have a closing for this. Just a strange realization, looking at sites from the mid 1990s, archives on the Internet archive… that we’ve progressed three or so levels beyond visible ontologies.

I’m not sure what this feeling is: it’s not nostalgia… but perhaps it’s that there’s a lack of an “everything” overview, rendering us more or less limited to either what we’re shown on Facebook,, what pops up on Google, or what links out of Wikipedia. Beyond that, all of this unlimited knowldge access tends to focus on a few trusted sites and not much else.

I remember the smaller web. I remember pre-web: Gopher is what the web piggybacked on…. and now, even the web is partially dead, outside of big players, with apps and social networking being king.

Strange. This has little to do with this group… I’m just tired after a night of research.. but I needed to share.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

8 × one =

Leave a Reply