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Overlapping categories and the problem of abundance

An interesting snippet from Digital Methods, by Richard Rogers, loc 1883:

To an “Internet cataloger” writing a well-known essay in 1998, Yahoo! was making a significant contribution to newfangled online library science, not only by its classification scheme but also by the means of content “navigation” it developed. Yahoo!’s system differed from that of a library, where each book would be shelved by necessity in one location. At the resource could be placed in multiple categories, and linked to (and located from) each.

This small shift has important implications for what I’ve written about recently as the problem of abundance: singular categorisation minimises opportunities for encountering cultural items by confining them to the most relevant category, as opposed to maximising opportunities for encounter by multiple  categorisation of them on the basis of any relevance. 

This multiple categorisation reflects the distance character of informational goods. Physical resource are singly categorised because they can only have one location. In contrast, informational goods are non-rivalrous, as this extract from Luciano Floridi quoted in Rob Kitchin’s The Data Revolution makes clear. From loc 455:

Floridi (2010) notes that given that information adds meaning to data, it gains currency as a commodity. It is, however, a particular kind of commodity, possessing three main properties (which data also share): Non-rivalrous: more than one entity can possess the same information (unlike material goods) Non-excludable: it is easily shared and it takes effort to seek to limit such sharing (such as enforcing intellectual property rights agreements or inserting pay walls) Zero marginal cost: once information is available, the cost of reproduction is often negligible.

Categories: Communicative Escalation and Cultural Abundance: How Do We Cope? Philosophy of Technology The Content Ecosystem Thinking

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