Saturday, June 8, 2019

35 The problem with cataloguing philosophy (the Dewey 100s)

I’ve been off the blog world for a couple of years doing a degree in Philosophy (!). Now that I have a bird’s eye view of the field, here are my gripes with Philosophy (100s) on the Dewey.

The problem is that you could divide the field in more than one way. First of all, there is the period-wise arrangement – ancient, medieval, modern, or whatever finer slices you may prefer. Second is the civilization-wise division: western, mid-eastern, eastern, east Asian, south Asian, meso-American, Polynesian, and so on. Then you could divide it up by country or ethnicity: Greek philosophy, Indian philosophy, and so on. You could divide it up by religion: Jewish philosophy, Buddhist philosophy, etc. Or you could classify by “school” of philosophy: idealist, empiricist, positivist, pragmatist, existentialist, and many others. Another approach would be by the main person: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Hegel. You could have combinations of these criteria: arranging the main thinkers of each culture or civilization by period, school and person.

Then we have subdivisions of the subject matter of philosophy – things like ontology (the study of existence) or epistemology (of understanding, which links up to psychology and brain science in turn). Last, but not the least, we can (and do!) have a whole series of “philosophy of” headings, like the philosophy of religion, of war, of love, and so on, some of which may be similar to the subdivisions, e.g. philosophy of knowledge.

It’s obvious that no system will satisfy all these alternative approaches. The actual arrangement prescribed by Dewey (DDC22 in my case) gives all options, which makes for a bit of confusion. Let me get at this now.

For a start, the hundred 100s sections (100-199) cover not only philosophy, but also psychology and a lot of other things like parapsychology and occultism (!).  So the field of Philosophy in itself tends to get chopped up or segmented more than a little bit. To illustrate: we start with hard core philosophy headings in 101-109 Standard subdivisions of philosophy, then 110 to 119 Metaphysics, with various specific headings, 120 to 129  Epistemology, causation, humankind. After this there is a transition to other subjects: 130 to 139 Parapsychology and occultism (!), which includes 133.1 Apparitions, 133.4 Demonology and witchcraft, 135 Dreams and mysteries, 137 Divinatory graphology, 138 Physiognomy, 139 Phrenology. So the (supposedly) clear waters of rational thought are already being muddied by superstition and cant! A person seeking knowledge of the heavens may be induced to give up his search around this fracture zone.

After this DDC shifts to Specific philosophical schools and viewpoints from 140 to 149: 141 Idealism and related systems and doctrines,  142 Critical philosophy (which includes 142.3 Kantianism, 142.7 Phenomenology, and the other digits available for future assignments). We have subdivisions (subsections) for all sorts of –isms and -ologies: Modern Platonism and Neoplatonism, Transcendentalism, Individualism, Personalism, Romanticism, 143 Bergsonism and intuitionism, Humanism which consists of Pragmatism, Instrumentalism, Naturalism, Utilitarianism, Materialism, and so on; then 147 Pantheism, comprising 147.3 Monism, 147.4 Dualism and pluralism; and a number of others like Realism, Mysticism, Nihilism, and lastly, 149.9 Miscellaneous systems and doctrines.

Here starts our problem: we would have to assign each work to one of these subclasses. This would call for a substantial effort on our part to assess the work from a scholarly angle. Does a work by or on Gandhi, for instance, go into Idealism or Realism or Pragmatism or Mysticism or what have you – or do we need a separate entry for Gandhianism! Or would a work on Advaita go under Monism or Mysticism or even have to be sent to Ancient philosophies or Religion or so on? How do we decide which “system” any work fits into (if it’s not specified in the title or subtitle of the work)?

 When we come to the end of the 140s, we are suddenly yanked into another discipline altogether – 150 to 159 Psychology. These are more “scientific” than “humanistic” branches of knowledge, except for 150.1 Philosophy and theory, which have subject headings that seem to overlap with philosophy headings: existential schools, reductionism, and so on which may be parts of epistemology (how do we know?).  160 Logic brings us back to the Science of reasoning, Fallacies, and so on – hard core stuff. These are obviously bridging disciplines and approaches that interface between the expansive stuff of philosophy and the exact sciences. They should then go on to scientific thought and scientific knowledge, but that doesn’t come till the 500s. In the meantime, we have to deal with 170 to 179 Ethics (Moral philosophy), which seem to repeat things which would have already been covered as part of previous sections. Then comes 180 to 189, which deals with, in order, 181 Eastern philosophy, 182 Pre-Socratic Greek ph., 183 Sophistic, Socratic, ph., 184 Platonic ph., 185 Aristotelian ph., 186 Skeptic and Neoplatonic, 187 Epicurian, 188 Stoic, and 189 Medieval western philosophy. This transitions fairly smoothly to 190 Modern western and other non-eastern philosophy, followed by 191 United States and Canada, and so on to 199 Other geographic area. This looks somewhat redundant, as 199 really covers all geographical areas from the standard place names list under 4-9 subdivisions.

This repetitious nature of the classification scheme means that we are never sure where to expect a certain book, say on Kant. Would it be under modern western philosophy, or modern European, or modern German, philosophy, or under idealism, or Kantianism, or…? What about works that compare different philosophers… say, Hume and Kant? Or Kant and the Bhagavad Gita? The problem is even worse because, as you scan the shelves, you get unexpected chunks of different fields like occultism and ghosts in between!

Because DDC philosophy is so fragmented as it is, there appears to be no real solution that will bring together all philosophy in one tidy sequence. Ideally, we should be able to group together all rational approaches in philosophy, followed by irrational modes under superstitions and magic, then go on to the inner workings of the human mind in psychology, to be followed by the exact sciences like logic and maths. But  it is not till 180 that we begin to get specific classes for different provenances (eastern, Greek…) and vintages of philosophy as we encounter them in surveys like Bertrand Russell’s massive History of  Western Philosophy (which stops at around 1930, so not touching post-war developments like existentialism). Since, however, 180 and 190 cover the major approaches in philosophy (with a sprinkling of subdivisions even for eastern philosophies, especially Indian and Chinese), perhaps a starting point would be to push as many items as possible under these two heads. This would give precedence (in the shelf position) to non-western philosophies, followed by ancient Greek, medieval western, and then modern western philosophies. While ancient Greek and medieval western are provided with specific subheads (medieval western not so detailed), when we come to 190-199 Modern western and other non-eastern philosophy, there are no subheads, but only geographical subclasses: 191 United States and Canada, and so on, to 199 Other geographical areas. Indeed, we could as well use just 199 with geographical (area) suffixes 4-9, from Table 2.

A couple of choices would have to be made if we wanted to avoid scattering our items over the whole range of the 100s. For a start we will usually have works by or on a prominent philosopher, say Kant. Modern western philosophy, to which this belongs, is pushed as far down as 190, but as we saw previously, 140 Specific ph. Schools and viewpoints provides specifically for 142.3 Kantianism (and neo-Kantianism) under 142 Critical ph.  But there is no parallel entry for, say, Hegel; under 140-, we would have to make a categorization of Hegel’s school: would it be Transcendentalism, or Romanticism, or Humanism, or Naturalism, or Evolutionism, or Mysticism? Would we put Vedanta together with Hegel? I would suggest that we should not be called upon to make such judgements. Hence I would prefer to put Kant and Hegel under 190 Modern western, but not under 193 Germany and Austria, because I think they belong to all humanity. I would cheat a little, by using letters: 190KAN for Kant, 190HEG for Hegel, and so on. This would at least give one specific destination (under Western ph.) for all works by and about Kant, or Hegel, or whoever.

For Indian ph., we are given specific heads: the six schools are well represented (Samkhya, Nyaya, etc.); Vedanta has individual entries for Sankara, Ramanuja, etc. Under 181, we also have the option of putting (from non-Christian religions 294-299) 181.04-.09 Philosophies based on specific religions: e.g. 181.043 Buddhist ph.  (from 294.3 Buddhism). We could even use further subdivisions, e.g. from 294.392 Mahayana Buddhism, we could form 181.04392 Buddhist Mahayana philosophy. Strangely, they don’t recommend this for Hindu ph.; so while we have 294.5512 Vishnuism, the philosophy has to go to Vedanta, e.g. 181.483 Ramanujacarya (Visistadvaita) or 181.484 Dualistic school(s). Again, “Christian” philosophy is assigned under 189 Medieval western ph. or 190 Modern western ph.; and again, the parallelism of philosophy and religion is not extended to 292 Classical religion (Greek and Roman religion) and 293 Germanic religion. Perhaps we should cheat a little in such cases, and extend the use 181.0- regardless of DDC’s specific instructions!

But a couple of problems will still remain. For one, a work covering both ancient and modern western ph. (like Russell’s History) cannot be put under 180 or 190; it would have to be pushed all the way back to 109 or even 100 or 101 if it were about the general principles of philosophy (like Russell’s shorter volume An Outline of Philosophy.  An alternative (for the latter) could be to take it as Russell’s philosophy, and put it under modern western ph. 190RUS. But the History would still have to go all the way back to 100 or 109!

A second issue is with books that treat of a given approach or school, without reference to a single individual. You have a book that deals with Idealism, say; where would you put it? It seems it has to be pushed all the way back to 141 Idealism and related systems, For an individual philosopher or thinker, you would still have to do some considerable research on which system he is related to; if, like Wittgenstein, he changed his approach over the years, it may even be difficult to assign the whole body of work to one system, which is why I would prefer to relegate it to modern ph., e.g. 190WIT. And the problem of the intervening chunks of Occultism, Psychology, and others would still remain!

A final word about the real problem with Philosophy: some 90% of it doesn’t make sense! After a lot of labour, one gets so little out of the remaining 10%, that it’s not a useful subject for study unless one wants to make it a profession!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

34 Tweaking the social sciences (Dewey 300s)

As I mentioned earlier, I am having problems with the social sciences. My first gripe is the way the Dewey schedules interpolate Environment and natural resources, 333.7, in the middle of the Economics line-up. I feel Economics is a specific discipline with a definite approach to matters of its own, and somehow natural resources conservation and environmentalism – forests, wilderness and recreational areas, parks, wetlands, biodiversity, and so on – doesn’t seem (to me) to fit in seamlessly. Especially since economics proper picks up again after 333: after all the green stuff, after the birds and the bees, it’s back again to proper this-worldly subjects 334 Cooperatives, 335 Socialism and related systems (under which they’ve put Fascism as well!), 336 Public finance, 337 International economics, 338 Production, 339 Macroeconomics.

I have a particular problem in my collection, which is that my economics items (up to 339) are all mostly books, which will fit into smaller shelves and make a pretty display, whereas my 333 collection is full of dusty A4-size reports and photocopies picked up here and there (mostly bound compilations of conference papers, for instance). What I have done is to bring out the economics books to the front hall, all lined up in wooden shelves, but left the 333 items in the back room in the old angle-iron racks with the inter-shelf heights adjusted to suit the larger sizes. The back room collection then picks up at 340 Law (old dusty manuals!), 350 Public administration (ditto!), and carries on as usual.

So far so good, but here’s my peeve. A number of topics to do with the environment and socio-economic problems get relegated to the 360s, such as 363.7 Environmental problems, or 362.5 Problems of poor people, under which are measures to prevent poverty, etc. This scatters books on similar subjects too far apart… some under the 330s, some under the 360s, and so on, depending on the accent – whether it is on economics, or on social welfare, and so on.  

I used to be a bit of a fanatic about zeroing in on the most precise number, but after seeing the way the items are dispersed around, I am bringing them back together by choosing the nearest approximation under one preferred number. For example, I had put some items under 362.57 Measures to prevent, protect against, limit effects of poverty, but am now of a mind to bringing these back to, say, 339.46 Poverty (under 339 Macroeconomics, of all things!) Dewey advices us to “Class comprehensive works on poverty in 362.5”, but I am not happy with such a wide scatter of my collection. When we think of poverty, we usually think of economics and development, i.e. 339.8 Economic development and growth. I realize that many works actually talk about the micro-level interventions to mitigate the effects of poverty, and not the macro, but the convenience of having all poverty-related books in one place outweighs the technical nicety. Similarly, books on famine are being relocated from 363.8 Food supply (“Class here famine, hunger”), to 338.19 Food supply (which has a “class here” note for “maladjustments in food supply”, “food requirements” or “demand”, etc.).  On a similar note, rather than sending works on population to 363.9 Population problems, I would prefer to bring them back to the main number 304.6 Population (there doesn’t seem to be a number for Economics of population).

There is another promising entry under 338.9 Economic development and growth, that is 338.927 Appropriate technology. This has a note “Class here alternative technology, environmental economics (!!), sustainable development”. I feel now that this is a suitable place to put most of the books on multi-disciplinary aspects of tackling the problems of underdevelopment and development, some of which may have been sent to 333.7 Environment or to 362.57 Measures to prevent (etc.) effects of poverty. In fact, with “environmental economics” and “sustainable development” having been hitched to this wagon (338.927), I would put all works on the environmental costs of development also here: a title like When a Billion Chinese Jump, for instance. Incidentally, Dewey doesn’t want you to suffix place numbers to 338.927 (and other subdivisions under 338.92 Specific topics), but to use 338.93 -99 (development and growth in different locations) suffixed with 027 etc. (standard subdivisions have to be attached via -00-, as per the footnote). In other words, it doesn’t want sequences like 338.927’051 Sustainable development-China, but prefers 338.951’027 Development-China-sustainable development.

Other special topics under 338.92 are 338.922 Subsidies and grants, 338.924 Nationalization, 338.925 Privatization, 338.926 Information policy, and of course 338.927 Appropriate technology. The same caveat applies of not adding -093-099 geographical locations after these suffixes, but using the alternative 338.93-338.99 Economic development and growth in specific localities, followed by suffixes -022-027 for the Special topics.

I am in the process of liquidating my previous assignments to 363.7 Environmental problems, and bringing them back to earlier numbers like  333.7 for general works, or this newly discovered 338.927 where the accent is on development. Even climate change and global warming, which has a specific number 363.73874, are being brought back to 333.7 for general works, 333.92 Air for air pollution, and 551.5 Climatology and weather (or more narrowly 551.525 Temperatures) for more technical-scientific works. You could even suffix the scientific aspects of climate change by using the ‘015 subdivision, to any topic in the schedule, thus keeping climate change effects with the thing acted upon, be it biodiversity 333.95 or forest lands 333.75 and so on.

In summary, then, I really wish Dewey would refrain from breaking up topics over too wide a range of locations, so that one is not all the time confused over the likely location of the required items! 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

33 Revisiting Environment & natural resources in the Dewey Decimal Classification

As I have said before, there are complications with the Dewey classification of Environment and Natural resources. As recounted in a previous post (here!), DDC20 had 333 Land economics, 333.7-.9 Natural resources and energy, whereas DDC22 calls it  333 Economics of land and energy, 333.7-.9 as in dc20), and there are sub-classes individually for forest land, wetland, recreational and wilderness areas, biological resources and organisms, and so on.

One of the complications is Dewey’s well-intentioned provision of further sub-numbers to deal with specific aspects of each topic under 333.7-.9 Natural resources and energy. These aspects are introduced by digit 1 after the main number, giving ’11 for “Resources, Reserves” (e.g. 333.75’11 Forest lands-reserves), ’12 for “Requirements”, ’13 for “Consumption” (further subdivided into ‘137 for “Abuse and wastage”), ’14 for “Environment impact studies”, ’15-17 for “Management and control”, ’16 for “Conservation and protection”, and ’17 for “Control of usage”. After experimenting with these for years, I have come to the conclusion that they are, unfortunately, more or less useless for the following reasons.

Firstly, very few books on natural resources can avoid dealing with a number of these aspects simultaneously. I mean, can you think of writing about, say, “Conservation & protection”, without first describing the “Use and abuse” of the resources? And when you do that, can you really avoid talking about the rising “Demand” or “Requirements”? And the shrinking “Resources” or “Reserves”? I did try using these sub-topics but found that the end result was a senseless dispersal of my little collection. Now that I am re-doing the shelfing (not, I hope, the shelving!) of my collection, I have decided to just put general works under the main heading 333.7, covering all environment and natural resources, followed by 333.73, 333.74, 333.75, etc. for each specific type of resource.

What is this “dispersal” I am talking about? Let us take 333.75 Forest lands, for example. The natural sequence would be to arrange by geography, so forests of countries in Europe, then Asia, Africa, the Americas, and other jurisdictions, following the geographical standard subdivisions -094-099. Now if you wanted to use the -1- special subtopics, you would have to start the sequence all over again: 333.75’11 Reserves, once again in Europe, then Asia, and so on. Then you would have to start yet another sequence 333.75’12 for “Requirements”, 333.75’13 “Consumption” (further subdivided into 333.75‘137 “Abuse and wastage”), and so on and on. So my little collection on forest resources of, say, Southeast Asia, would be scattered and interspersed with other geographical jurisdictions according to these special topics. 

The problem, as far as I can tell, is that the numbers don’t provide for sub-classifying by special topic within each geography: if you wanted to do say 333.75’0954’11, 333.75’0954’12, 333.75’0954’13, and so on, it wouldn’t work, because ‘0954 can’t be suffixed like that. If the special topics ’11, ’12, etc. had been provided through the standard subdivision connector -04-, this would have been possible, but since the suffixes are attached directly, we cannot do the arrangement resource-country-special topic. So we are forced to do resource-special topic-country, which to my mind is not as useful in the normal course.

There are a couple of cases in which, however, the arrangement resource-special topic-country may be called for. I gave the example of Law, above: 333.75’026’09.. Forest-law-geography may be worthwhile, as it brings together all works on forest law at the head of the sequence. I also use it  for resource economics: 333.7’0681 Natural resource economics, valuation, etc., or 333.75’0681 Forest resource economics (works which emphasis the land and natural resource aspects rather than narrower business decisions like rotation and regulation of yield, which I send to 634.9). There is one work which may merit its own special topic number: this is a report “Rationale for Prescribing the Requisite Forest/Tree Cover in India” by K.D.Singh. This is a prime candidate for special topic ’11 Reserves, giving 333.75’11’0954 SIN. But this would be a sole occupant of this interstice, hence liable to get lost in the long term. I have to choose between this and the more gregarious 333.75’0954 SIN, which is what I may prefer because even I may forget that I have used 333.75’11 for this single item! As I said above, the option of 333.75’0954’11 or ‘011 or ‘00411 is not available, hence I would have to sacrifice the precision of narrow classification in favour of ease of location in the future.

Secondly, the main sub-divisions of 333.7 are to do with specific categories of natural resources: 333.73 Land, .736 Arid lands, .74 Grasslands, .75 Forest lands, and so on. The same micro-divisions are provided for each of these as well, but once again each reader may well have a different opinion of which of the sub-sub-classes (’11 to ’17) is appropriate. This will only result in frustration when one tries to locate a particular book. Much better to put all under the overall head (333.74 for Grasslands, for example), followed by the facet notation for geographical location (‘0954 for instance), then three letters from author name and year.

Indeed, the most useful facet classification here seems to be the geographical, something which will probably sound sensible to most users. If one wants to go further, of course, we can always append standard subdivisions, but using two zeroes instead of one: 333.74’0954’0072, research, for instance.  Or 333.75’0954’0026, Forest in India- law aspects. You could, alternatively, reverse the order if you wanted to group all law titles in one location, 333.75’026’0954 Forest law - India.

I make one exception for not using the ’11-’17 subdivisions. This is to denote the specific subject of “Joint forest management”. The number range >15-17 Management and control is introduced with the comment “Class here citizen participation, planning, policy”, but this is merely tantalizing, as what is provided under it are the numbers 15 Development (consisting of 152 Improvement, 153 Reclamation, rehabilitation, restoration, 158 Subsidies), 16 Conservation and protection, 17 Control of usage. Of course, Joint Forest management probably has elements of all of these. However, in order to have one uniform or customary location, I have centred on 153 to denote Joint management: 333.75’153 Joint forest management. This will be followed by the usual standard subdivisions, such as ‘09.. for geographical location, etc.

All other forestry items are now classed under the general number 333.75’09…., subdivided by geography (the one exception so far being 333.75’026, Forest law). I have come to this conclusion because I am not happy at the way the collection is dispersed if I use the ’11-17 sub-numbers. That is, every time I take up an item I tend to change my mind about which of these it will fit under. There is no long-term stability or consistency in the way these ’11-17 numbers are liable to be interpreted. That’s why I have decided that they are more or less superfluous (except for the one number, ‘153, for Joint management). This can apply to each category of land, not just 333.75 Forest.

One other complication, as discussed in the previous post #26 (here!), is the choice between the social sciences, 300s, and science, 500s, or technology, 600s. In this regard, I am not quite satisfied with Dewey’s instructions under 333.75 (for instance). These subdivisions seem to be providing narrowly for forest products, rather than the more over-arching concept of forest lands (which is what 333.75 is about, strictly speaking). I would prefer to keep the narrower topics of forest products under 634.9, such as timber supply, demand and production, forest management and regulation as a technical subject, non-timber products, etc. What I think 333.75 is suitable for, is for books that deal with forest lands in the broader economy and polity, and all those that look at the interaction of forests with society. Forest policy and history would definitely come under the social science categories, hence 333.75; but reports of forest area would go to 634.9 unless they addressed the social aspects. Forest economics poses a special problem; since it is to do with application of economic principles, it evidently should be under 333.75; but as the business end of forest management, it would be more appropriate under 634.9 (maybe with the help of suffix ‘068). So that’s the way I would prefer to deal with forest economics books: those which deal with forests in the overall socio-economic framework go to 333.75, but those focused narrowly on business economics (the rotation question, for example), to 634.9.

Similar considerations would apply in deciding between 333.7 numbers and 630 numbers for agriculture and soil conservation, or between 333.78 Recreation and wilderness areas and 639.95 Wildlife reserves, and so on. Works that deal with social and political considerations will go to the social sciences; more technical accounts, to the technology numbers. That’s why, incidentally, I would send Gifford Pinchot’s autobiography (he was the first , and politically highly influential, chief of the US Forest Service) to 333.75, rather than 634.9!

The principle I like to follow is that the end result should look logical and convenient, and not that the precise Dewey location should be assigned fanatically. Similar considerations apply to the subject of climate change (which have a place under 363.7), but in order not to disperse books on the environmental conservation area, can well be brought back under 333.7 in a small home collection (see post #31 here!).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

32 Tribes and castes in the Dewey Decimal Classification

One of the topics I’m getting really interested in lately is all about tribes, which is expected to be covered under 301 Sociology and Anthropology, but Dewey also advices to “class social problems and social welfare in 361-365”. This is less than satisfactory, because most works on tribes are usually about their problems in adjusting to the pressures of the modern world, and it would be awkward to have only descriptive works under 301 and analytical works under 361-365. Further, for aspects of society not provided for in 302-307, they want us to push on to the aspect, e.g. general history 900. This results in a substantial dispersion of works on tribals and tribal history into different corners of the library.

Let’s start with a fairly general work on say “The Tribes of India”. There is a number 301.7 Nonliterate societies, but that is not what we are looking for; moreover, with the passage of time, tribes are no longer going to remain solely “non-literate”, or the even more judgemental descriptors “backward” or “primitive” and so on. Indeed use of the number 301.7 for “types of societies” was discontinued in DDC 20. Where then would we class a work on the tribes in general, say on the ethnology of tribes of a region or a specific tribe or community?

The thing is that 302-307 provide for a range of “specific topics in sociology and anthropology”: 302 Social interaction, 303 Social processes, and so on. Obviously, a general work on the tribes would include all these several aspects, which could at best be aspects of the general description of tribes (or of a tribe). We need a separate number for “tribes”, to which these aspects could be attached, but unfortunately there is no provision in DDC for attaching humanities numbers as facets, such as there is for attaching Science subjects 500-599 (which can be attached through the standard subdivision 015).

Possibilities for “Tribals” as a subject suggest themselves under 305 Social groups, 306 Culture and institutions, or 307 Communities. 305 has an instruction “class here culture and institutions of specific groups”, but it would be somewhat inappropriate to have to decide where tribals go as a group. Under 305.512 Principles of stratification, is 305.5122 Caste systems, which is where general works on castes in India (or even castes and tribes) can go. There are classes specified by level: “Upper class”, “Middle class (Bourgeoisie)”, and even “Lower, alienated, excluded classes” under 305.2 onwards. There is a class for 305.565 “Culturally disadvantaged persons”. There is even a class under 305.568 Alienated and excluded classes, for “Dalits” (305.5688), which refers to scheduled castes, but nothing which specifically refers to tribes or indigenous or traditional peoples. 

There is, however, 305.8 Ethnic and national groups, with the ‘class here’ instruction for “indigenous ethnic and national groups [formerly 306.08]”; “ethnology, ethnography”; which is potentially a suitable slot, with 305.8009 provided for Historical, geographic, persons treatment, hence 305.800954 “Tribes of India”. Of course, this would not really be restricted to tribes, since other ethnic groups would also have to be accommodated here. A more specific slot would be provided by 305.805-.89 Specific ethnic and national groups, which takes numbers from Table 5 Ethnic and National Groups, thus providing a separate slot for each indigenous group (tribals) and for larger non-tribal groups. For a large jurisdiction like India, for instance, the population would be split along linguistic and quasi-racial lines: Table 5, -914 South Asians (peoples who speak, or whose ancestors spoke, Indic languages, Indo-Aryans); -948 Dravidians (which includes many tribal groups like Toda, Gond, Kurukh according to the languages spoken), and Scytho-Dravidians (including Mahratha, Sindhi); -95 South Asians who speak, or spoke, languages closely related to East and Southeast Asian languages, with a specific number -9595 Mundas (which would presumably cover speakers of Gadaba, Ho, Mundari, Santhali, etc., constituting the major tribes of central-east India). Then there is Table 5, -9911 Aeta, Andamanese, Semang. This scheme is seen to follow language classes rather than ethnic, and it would therefore cause some ambiguity in the case of tribal or ethnic groups that have adopted another language, e.g. Indo-Aryan dialects in place of the original Dravidian or Munda.

It would be interesting to note that the abandoned number “[formerly 306.08]” was used in DDC 20 for “unassimilated indigenous racial, ethnic, national groups”, which actually would have provided a separate location for the groups we recognize as tribal, as against more ‘advanced’ groups that we would probably call ‘castes’. The Manual of DDC 20 accordingly had some explanation of the choice between 306.08 and 305.8: “Use 305.8… for specific racial, ethnic, national groups which interact more or less freely (whether in a dominant, nondominant, or intermediate position) with the rest of society. Use 306.089 only for indigenous groups living in distinct communities or ‘tribal areas’ not fully integrated into the economic and social life of the nation in which they are (often involuntarily) incorporated. …If in doubt, prefer 305.8”. DDC 22 dispenses with this explanation as well as with the bifurcation, which hearkens back to the time when traditional or remote groups with their own culture were considered ‘primitive’. In line with the removal of such seeming stigmas, the two are coalesced into one number, 305.8. We do not have to make the painful judgement of where a group is along the line of ‘development’.

However, because many old libraries would have classified ethnic groups in 306.08 under the older DDC versions, we would have to remember to search in both locations, 305.8 and 306.08 for works on traditional or ethnic communities and tribals. To further complicate matters, however, there is another number expressly for tribals, under 307.7 Specific kinds of communities: this is 307.772 Tribal communities. This carries a note “Class tribal communities considered in context of culture and institutions of indigenous ethnic and national groups in 305.8”. The utility of 307.772, as far as I can make out, is for  works that deal with the generalities of tribal communities. However, it may be used by a library for works on specific tribal communities, such as “Gonds of Andhra Pradesh”, by using suffixes from Table 5 and Table 2. One would have to make a considered choice between 305.8 and 307.772, so that gradually there will be the single location for such works.

A final caution is that works with a historical flavour may be sent to the 900’s, especially works on native American  groups (tribes), where special  numbers are provided for “Ethnic and national groups”, such as 970.004 (with suffixes from Table 5), and 970.1 for North America, 980.004 (with suffixes from Table 5) for South America, and generally with any number under 930-990 History using the (special) standard subdivision 004 Ethic and national groups (with suffix from Table 5 for specific groups). General works on the native Indians are often classed in history with these numbers, rather than under ethnology 305.8. Incidentally, Table 5 for American Indians has further subdivisions by languages from Table 6, and of course geographical subdivisions could also be added, useful where a tribe or Nation has been widely dispersed..

Once again, the bottom line is, where we would like to group our books physically. I would ideally like to have all the volumes on Indian sociology together, which suggests that I should use the location facet 0954 first, and then add ethnic facet from Table 5 (I believe that can be done using two zeroes instead of one after the geographical location subdivision). Scanning my shelves, I find there is a confused jumble: older accessions are generally under 306.08 (which will have to be relocated under DDC 22 to 305.8), general books on tribal culture and affairs tend to be at 307.772, and as I said, books on American Indians are at 970. In the library in my institute, again, books on tribal matters and on individual communities and groups are scattered among all these numbers (and others that may have a few works on, say, marriage customs, or census data, or social change, and so on). In a way, this chaotic condition reflects the considerable ambiguity of the term ‘tribe’ itself: after all, at the bottom, we are all tribals of a sort, but overlaid with cultural and social mechanisms to deal with the fact that we are living in huge conglomerations of diverse types and lineages.

On considering the alternatives, I think I will be standardizing on three locations: 305.5122 for caste system, 305.5688 for works dealing with scheduled castes (dalits) in general; 305.8’00954 for works on general ethnography (e.g. castes and tribes of India; society in India), followed by specific national and ethnic groups using 305.805 to 305.89. If possible, I feel it would be good if accounts of specific castes could follow immediately after 305.5122 and 305.5688, but the Table 5 numbers may be somewhat limited in this respect, being more specific in terms of tribes or indigenous ethnic communities.

Then I would use 307.772 Tribal communities for works to do with the tribal situation and scheduled tribes in general, followed by works on a specific tribe or group of tribes, using finer subdivisions as available with Table 2 (geographical location) and Table 5 (specific ethnic communities). I do feel the sequence would be more logical if castes could follow general accounts of society, i.e. if “dalits” could have come after 305.8. I realize also that a specific caste or tribe should strictly be under 305.8 (the note under 307.772 says “Class tribal communities considered in context of culture and institutions of indigenous ethnic and national groups in 305.8), but I would prefer to separate out so that under 305.8’00954… will come books on the combined population, on castes, and on castes and tribes in general, (INSERTED on 12 December 2018: 305.805 to 305.89 for specific ethnic communities), and under 307.772 would come works on tribal communities where the tribal character is highlighted. I hope the jumble is straightened out somewhat!  

Monday, October 26, 2015

31 Climate change in the Dewey classification system

Climate change is a hot topic for discussion today (pun is entirely incidental!), and we can expect to be getting a large number of works on this subject. Funnily enough, there doesn’t seem to be one single heading under which all these could be collated. Let’s have a look.

On the face of it, we would expect the topic “Climate change”  to be filed under the broad head of Climate, rather than Change. The first number that occurs to us is probably Climate, which occurs under the Earth sciences (550), which takes us successively to 551 and finally 551.6 Climatology and weather. However, there is no entry under this number (sub-section) for climate change as we understand it. If we wished to put the item in this class specifically, we may have to make do with the closest approximation: perhaps 551.609 Historical, geographic and persons treatment, on the premise that climate change is mainly about how it’s been undergoing change over eras and centuries (especially since the Industrial evolution), and how it’s going to change in the coming decades unless world leaders take responsible action. Another number that may be suggested is 551.63 Weather forecasting and forecasts, but I think this would narrow down the scope too much (from general climate to weather), and would be useful more for specific discussions of the increased variability of the climate as expressed in specific phenomena like monsoons, heat waves etc. in specific regions (the effects of climate change).

However, to me the number 551.609 is not quite satisfactory as it does not reflect the special focus of the topic, which is the sudden and unprecedented acceleration in all sorts of effects in the global atmosphere that is leading to the unpleasant changes in the large scale climate phenomena, with all the consequences for humanity. A mere retelling of the history of climate does not appear to reflect this sense of urgency and impending doom. This  number, therefore, would be at best kept for older accounts that describe the changes over time, without much emphasis on the international and national policy and other efforts that are urgently called for to mitigate, or adapt to, the effects of climate change.

Another possibility occurs in the number for the physical science of climate phenomena, which would be under 551.5 Meteorology. Here is where the specific phenomena are discussed: rainfall and snow, storms and hurricanes, monsoons and clouds. These numbers may be suitable for works that focus clearly on the science of climate. Where would the notion of change fit in? Since we are principally concerned with global warming as a prelude or cause of change in global climate patterns, we would probably be looking at 551.52 Thermodynamics etc., specifically 551.525 Temperatures: atmospheric warming, for instance.

So far for the physical science of climate change. When we think of the topic in relation to the contributing factors and world policy, however, we will probably look at the economics or the ecology of the environment and natural resources, which would tend to take us to 333.7 – 333.9 Natural resources and energy, or specifically to 333.7 Land, recreational and wilderness areas, energy (renamed in dc22; it was previously more general, Land and natural resources in dc20). This is where works “interdisciplinary works on the environment” are to be filed, and this is where there seems to be a plausible entry point for books on climate change. This number may therefore be suitable for works which treat of climate change as an environmental and social issue, rather than as a scientific topic for research, methodology and technological control. The number 333.72 Conservation and protection is also available, as it includes a “class here” instruction for works on “environmentalism, comprehensive works on conservation and protection of natural resources” (of which atmosphere is presumably an important one).  If you really wanted to stretch it, perhaps you could even consider 333.92 Air, but then it appears this number is meant to consider these as resources for use (in the line up of all natural resources like land, water, minerals, etc.) rather than as an environmental sink.

We were also considering climate change as a part of ecology, which would take us to 577 Ecology (in dc22); here, the only remotely connected entry seems to be under 577.2 Specific factors affecting ecology. We see 577.27 Effects of humans on ecology, then 577.276 Air pollution, “Including pollution by gases contributing to greenhouse effect (global warming), to ozone layer depletion” and a note “Class here pollution by combustion gases”, which presumably refers to gaseous oxides of carbon, nitrogen sulphur, etc.

A broader hint is provided under the entry 333.7, “See Manual at 363 vs. 302-307, 333.7, 570-590, 600”, and under 333.72, Environmentalism, “See Manual at 333.72 vs. 304.28, 320.58, 363.7”. These other suggested numbers provide yet more possible options. Thus,  363.7 Environmental problems provides a completely new alternative location under the broad rubric of Social problems and services, specifically under 363.73 Pollution, 363.73874 Greenhouse gases. However, the note under this number very helpfully refers us to other numbers for a “specific aspect of greenhouse effect (global warming) not provided for here”, “e.g. changes in earth’s temperature 551.5253, effect on ecology 577.276”.

The number 304.28 is a very interesting topic, under 304.2 Human ecology; 304.28 Environmental abuse, “(i)ncluding greenhouse effect”. The Note in the Introduction says “Use 333.72 for works on environmentalism discussing the broader concept of preventing and protecting the supply as well as the quality of natural resources and for works about the environmental movement that focus on the concerns it shares with the long established conservation movement”; and use 304.28 for works “that emphasize the effects upon society of overuse, misuse, or pollution of the environment”. “Use 320.58 for works that emphasize the potential ideologies of environmentalism. Use 363.7 for works on preserving and restoring the quality of the social living space… If in doubt, prefer in the following order: 333.72, 304.28, 363.7”.

There is a general instruction in the Introduction (para 5.4 in DDC22, Vol.1), which is that “a work is classed in the discipline for which it is intended, rather than the discipline from which the work is derived”. Another principle, which I feel is closely related, is given in para 5.7, termed the rule of application:  “Class a work dealing with interrelated subjects with the subject that is being acted upon”. This rule is to take precedence over any other rule. Accordingly, a work that is concerned with the effects of climate change would be classed with the resource affected by climate change, that is the ecological subjects provided under 577 or the natural resources under 337. On the other hand, if climate change itself is being discussed as a consequence of other actions, then I feel the work would go (as per the above rules) under a climate heading, i.e. 551.

We can see that even a sharply defined and dynamic topic like Climate Change is amenable to multiple options under the DDC, even though one of the strengths of this scheme is precisely that it provides concise, specific, headings for interdisciplinary subjects so that we would not have to construct our own composite numbers (an option that is liberally provided in the Universal Decimal system, through the co-ordinating colon : connector for any two or more individual numbers). Probably the people at Dewey have not got around to this as far as Climate Change is concerned (there is not even a proper entry in the index, which provides a different aspect of “climatic change”): perhaps we will see it very soon in DDC 23 or 24! In anticipation of such a development, we should be making an educated guess now about the most likely location or section under which such a specific heading will be provided. To me, the natural location for interdisciplinary works on Climate Change, with a heavy tilt to policy and instruments, mitigation and adaptation, would be under 333.7, atmosphere as one among the natural resources, or perhaps right under 333.92 Air.

As before, more than getting every nuance right, it is a probably more helpful to get all our books and resources on this subject grouped together in one location. On looking at my collection, I find that the majority of works have ended up (rather tamely!) under the catch-all number 333.7. This is understandable, because most of them treat the subject in the context of a whole lot of other environmental and policy issues, like development strategies, international competition, optimal consumption and life styles, income distribution, technologies, trade and barriers, population control, energy, water, forests, and so on. However, some books that deal with only the physics or technology of the subject have gone under 551.525, while a few which are about mitigation and adaptation have gone under 363.7. Given an ultimatum to choose, I think it would be my instinct to put most of them under the inter-disciplinary number 333.7,  while works that focused more on measures to retrieve the atmosphere and reduce its carbon load would perhaps go under 333.72. I would probably avoid 363.7, because this would scatter the works over too wide a swath of numbers, and 363 would probably be naturally expected to hold works on various aspects of social welfare, and not works on environmental conservation (in comparison to 333.7).  

Incidentally, 333.7 itself has been modified in DDC 22, where it is labelled “Land, recreational and wilderness areas, energy”. In DDC 20, on the other hand, it had the definition “Natural resources and energy”, which has been retained in DDC 22 for the “centred entry” 333.7-333.9. Despite all this, 333.7 continues to be the recommended number for “interdisciplinary works on the environment” in both versions, while DDC 22 indicates 333.72 specifically for “environmentalism, comprehensive works on conservation and protection of natural resources”. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

30 My country or my profession: basis of classifying

An underlying pattern we can discern in our choice of arrangement of books is the thread of geographical location (country etc.) that can unite different subject classes. The question, in bald terms is: do we group books by subject and sub-subject to the n’th degree, or do we regroup at some level by country? We see this as options in many different classes, such as Law 340, Public administration 350, and the Arts, where we are given the choice to group principally by subject or by country.

What could be the considerations affecting this choice? A basic approach of Dewey (and other systems) is the primacy given to subject or discipline at the level of the ten main Classes or hundred Divisions themselves.  In other words, Dewey has already determined that we will group primarily by subject, not by country. I do not think any librarian would want to separate out all his items by country (barring an institution focused solely on Area studies, perhaps!). This is obvious in the case of the exact (physical) sciences and technology:  physics is physics, wherever it is studied, chemistry is chemistry, genetics is genetics, electronics is electronics.

When we come to the  arts, humanities and the social sciences, however, there is a pause for thought. In religions, for instance, apart from the major ‘world’ religions (Christianity, for example), the schedules consciously provide headings by region (culture):  292 Classical religion (Greek and Roman), 293 Germanic religion, 294 Religions of Indic origin, and under 299, religions of all other regions and ethnic origins. Still, the fact remains that these are all accommodated under the umbrella of 200, Religion.

Philosophy, like Religion, is organized largely by region (or culture) of origin, apart from a list of general categories in the beginning (reflecting, however, the concerns of mainly Western thought): 181 has sub-section numbers for various eastern philosophies, 182-189 has numbers for various schools of ancient and medieval western philosophy, 190 is for modern western philosophies. But not so Psychology: the numbers are provided mostly based on the school, thinker, or functional area or application.

The prominent number which, by definition, is arranged on regional and country lines is, of course History, starting from World history. Geography also is similarly expanded, although there are a larger number of general principles at the start of geography as an art (or science). Other parts of the humanities could also be so arranged, except that the categories are principally based on the western  development of the field, and numbers are provided at the end for parallel development of non-western modes (e.g. 789.9 Nonwestern art music, practically the last number in the range 780-789 Music!).

Where does one introduce the country development? The choice can be made at different levels of the schedule. A broad area of knowledge (say, each of the thousand Sections) may be sub-divided a number of times. Many of the schedules provide a choice of dividing by country right at the outset, and adding numbers from other parts to reproduce the detailed sub-classes, or alternatively doing the country-wise classification at a later stage (see Law, Public Administration). Many schedules provide a way of forming a main number country-wise by appending geographical appellations directly, ’93-99, rather than through standard subdivisions -093-099, which then would permit attachment of further sub-divisions in parallel with the initial number development in that section. The country classification, of course, can always be done at the last by adding numbers from Table 2, -093 to -099. This would give us the choice of expanding in the order either subject-place-topic or facet, or subject-topic-place. One of my grouses is that 789.9 Nonwestern art music does not provide this (explicitly). The schedule doesn’t say explicitly that 789.93-789.99 can be used for different countries. The above choice is then taken away, because you then have to use -009 for standard subdivisions of place: if you make, say, 789.9’00954 Indian music, you have to stop there, and cannot add all the special subdivisions provided under 789.3-789.9 using connectors -01, -1, etc. On the other hand, if you were explicitly allowed to make 789.954 Indian music, or even  789.9548 South Indian music, you could treat it as a main number (not as the standard subdivision of place) and attach -011 to -015 General principles, -016 Stylistic influences, -018 Musical forms and -1 Voices, instruments etc. (but you would need some connector, such as the “special topics” -04,  to distinguish subdivisions of place from subtopic).

Bottom line: I tend to have a large number of books on a few selected topics, and a small number on all the rest (all home libraries are probably similar, with a large collection on the subjects closest to the owner’s profession and a few hobbies or side interests). For the preferred professional subjects, I like to classify down to sub-topic and then introduce the country facet at the end (using standard subdivision -093-099): the reasoning being that it is the subject matter that is the focus, not the country. Thus, if I have ten books on say trees of different countries, ten on animals, and ten on birds, I would go Biology-Trees-country, Animals-country, Birds-country,   and not Biology-UK-trees, UK-animals, UK-birds, China-trees, China-animals, China-birds, Africa-trees, and so on. If I had only a couple of books, I might not even bother to classify down to a sub-topic, but might just put it in the highest (1000 sections) category, and be done with it; e.g. Ecology 577, not subdivided by topic or country.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

29 Public administration in the Dewey Decimal

As a government servant (public official), I tend to collect a lot of reports and documents pertaining to public administration and government work. These are not exactly good for bedtime reading (or maybe they are… they do put you to sleep!), but they are  nevertheless useful as a source of official policy statements, progress reports, and statistics in general. They are also difficult to get outside of the official routines: collect them when you can, where you can, and don’t throw them away, because chances are you won’t find them in any collections. In fact, there are occasions when the ministry people will be approaching you for a copy of some old (but seminal!) report, especially if they are not in printed form (what is known as ‘grey literature’).

Now there is always a choice of locations for these types of documents. One appropriate place for many of these reports would be with the subject matter concerned, so that they will be a supplement and a complement to the other books and reports you have. I happen to be in the field of forestry and natural resources myself, so naturally I tend to collect a lot of reports of government departments on these subjects. Since I have a shelf full of stuff on ‘forestry of …’, the natural thing would be to put them in there with a standard subdivision to denote government reports or statistical compendiums. The standard subdivisions that I use (with 634.9 Forestry, or 333.75 Forest lands) tend to be the following: -021 Tabulated and related materials (including statistics, statistical graphs), which is very good for statistical compilations; and various sub-divisions of -021. The standard subdivision -025 Directories of persons and organizations is also useful, especially as you can directly append place names 1-9 from Table 2. The standard subdivision -05 Serial publications may be useful, as well as -06 Organizations an management. Indeed government reports can be safely lodged under -0601 International organizations (you can give a letter code for well-known bodies like the WB, WWF, and so on); then we have -0603-0609 for National, state, provincial, local organizations where we can put government departments and ministries (though these numbers are meant for actual organizations and government is supposed to go to 350 Public admin.). The country code is built in directly, so we need not use -09 numbers for these separately. For educational and research, I prefer -0701-0709, or -07101-07109 Education, or 0711 Higher education/ -0712 Secondary education/ -0715 Adult education and on-the-job-training (append place numbers directly to all these), or -07201-07209 Research (here again, numbers of place are already built in). Thus, forestry research in the FRI, India, 634.9’072’054 FRI.

Incidentally, the prescribed order of appending these subdivisions is given in Volume I at the start of Table 1 Standard Subdivisions. For the numbers I have been referring to above, the order of preference is as follows (only selected numbers cited here!):

-07 Education, research, related topics
-0601-0609 Organizations
-093-099 Treatment by specific continents, countries, etc.
-021 Tabulated and related materials
-05 Serial publications

This is actually the order of preference, meaning that we should choose between them in this order, rather than an order of precedence which would be the term to use for the order in which these numbers could be appended one after the other. Dewey states that these standard subdivisions should not be added one to the other “unless specially instructed”, but the temptation is too strong to resist sometimes! The problem arises because the second subdivision may be misinterpreted as a part of the first subdivision appended. Thus, if I want to specify research institutions separately from research itself, I might try to use both -07 and -06 subdivisions:  report of (or on) the Forest Research Institute in India (as distinguished from a report on the results of the research itself), 634.9’072’06054 FRI. But this could be read as ’07206, which obviously is research in Africa! Then the final appendage ’054 may not have any meaning (or could be read as a time period).

There is another instruction of relevance here, that is to use -00 to introduce the standard subdivisions, if -0 is already used in the (main) number for other purposes, or even -000, if -00 is already used. But whether this can be stretched to a number already having one appended subdivision is moot (in the above example, 634.9’072’006054, for instance). The rules do not seem to provide for such concatenations!

So much for the first alternative, which is to file government and institutional reports together under the concerned subject. The advantage is obvious, as the person interested in a specific discipline or topic is served more efficiently in one location. However, there is another possibility: that is to group together all the official government reports under Public Administration, 350-359. This is a complex range of numbers, similar to law 340-349, as it provides for various ways of slicing up the facets of country, subject, level, etc.

Let me take the example of the Forest Code of Karnataka State, issued by the Government of Karnataka, as official-sounding a document as can be imagined. It’s the ‘Blue Book’ for the public forest officials (I suppose you could then call it a ‘Green Book’!). I have four things to convey: Public administration, Forest department, Karnataka state, Code of procedure.  Or I might prefer the state (jurisdiction) before the department. I could even prefer in some cases the type of document (Code) to come before the other two. Dewey gives various options for expressing these facets in the classification number.

Option A is to use 351.3-.9 Public administration in specific countries, thus 351.5487 Public administration in Karnataka, to which can be added further subdivision -02-04 Specific topics of public administration. The last are taken from the digits following 35 in the range 352-354, which cover the different “specific topics”. Since I want forest administration, I take from the number 354.55 Forestry, the digits following 35, and add these to the previous number (through the connector -0-), so that Karnataka forest administration becomes 351.5487’0455. There is an even longer concatenation possible, because 354.55 Pub. Adm. Forestry itself can take more appendages, through connector -2-, as provided under 352-354: from 352.2 Organization of administration, I could take the digits 2, and form 351.5487’0455’22 Karnataka forest administration – organization of administration; or to be narrower, from 352.28 Internal organization, I could take the digits 28, giving me 351.5487’0455’228,  Karnataka forest administration - internal organization. Or I could choose 352.283 Distribution and delegation of authority, giving the number 351.5487’0455’2283; or 352.3 Executive management, giving 351.5487’0455’23. The Karnataka Forest Accounts Code could go under 351.5487’0455’24, using 352.4 Financial administration and budgets. Indeed even the number from which we borrow can itself have concatenated appendages, which gives the possibility of making the process more or less an endless loop.

As if this were not enough, we could take the “preferred” Option B, which is to use the main numbers 352-354, and add facets as we go along. Thus, 354.55 Pub. adm. - forest, to which geographic facet is added through -09, thus 354.55’095487 Pub. Adm. forest in Karnataka. Now the notes permit us to add to each geographical subdivision in the identical manner as provided under option A: 354.55’095487’023 Pub. Adm. of forests in Karnataka, executive management, 354.55’095487’024 Pub. Adm. of forests in Karnataka, financial adm. and budgets. And so on! And obviously, these subdivisions are not to be confused with the standard subdivision -023 or -024, which only goes to reinforce Dewey’s prohibition of stringing standard subdivisions together in a string.

Now to the bottom line: which is the preferable option? Dewey likes option B, which is to distribute a country’s public reports by topic of administration. All forest departments will be in one place, all education in another, all legal in a third. If however you would like a particular country’s reports to be grouped together, option A may be preferred. I suspect it comes down to the nature of the collection: if it has a large number of countries with few topics, I might like option A (country-wise arrangement), since country may become the basis of search; whereas if it has a large number of topics, with very few countries, I may like the reverse, as country does not become that much of an issue. Since I have reports mostly about my country (and maybe a few international reports), I guess I would like to use the topic-wise arrangement, option B.