Social Influences on Classification

Authored by: Hope A. Olson

Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Fourth Edition

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781466552593
eBook ISBN: 9781315116143
Adobe ISBN:


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The social and cultural influences on classification are evident in both the content and structure of classifications. In content, warrant, the basis on which content is determined, is most significant. Warrant is related to the purpose of the classification and has varied historically from the classical Greeks to the present. Warrant, whether it be what is written or published on a topic, what is taught, natural phenomena, or other factors is susceptible to all of the biases of the society that produces a classification. Biases of race, gender, orientation, geography, culture, language, and other factors are well-documented in relation to bibliographic classification. Bias occurs not only as a result of the warrant that determines content, but also as a result of classificatory structure. Classificatory structure may be culturally specific and the hierarchy typical of western classificatory structure can convey social influence through hierarchical force, ghettoization, and diasporization. Jesse Shera suggests the social importance of librarians and their role in classification. Combining Shera’s theoretical stance with the historical/philosophical record and the empirical evidence of numerous studies in bibliographic classification, the link between society and classification is robust and of significance to the field of library and information science.

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