Francisco-Javier García-Marco, Knowledge Organization in Historical Information Systems Revisited: Changes in Society, Technology and Expectations 25 Years Later in:

International Society for Knowledge Organziation (ISKO), Marianne Lykke, Tanja Svarre, Mette Skov, Daniel Martínez-Ávila (Ed.)

Knowledge Organization at the Interface, page 474 - 478

Proceedings of the Sixteenth International ISKO Conference, 2020 Aalborg, Denmark

1. Edition 2020, ISBN print: 978-3-95650-775-5, ISBN online: 978-3-95650-776-2,

Series: Advances in Knowledge Organization, vol. 17

Bibliographic information
Francisco-Javier García-Marco – Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain Knowledge Organization in Historical Information Systems Revisited Changes in Society, Technology and Expectations 25 Years Later Abstract: The concept of Knowledge Organization in Historical Information Systems (HIS) is revisited 25 years after its original presentation at the Third International ISKO Conference of 1994 (Copenhagen, Denmark), before the impact of the World Wide Web revolution was visible. An assessment of these changes and their main implications for HIS is presented, and the concept of HIS is revisited trying to integrate the new challenges. Subsequently, the main KO design offered in the first proposal is redesigned; and, finally, some suggestions are proposed for future research. 1.0 Aims and scope The aim of this paper is to revisit the topic of Knowledge Organization in Historical Information Systems (HIS) 25 years after its original presentation at Third International ISKO Conference of 1994, Copenhagen (Denmark) (García-Marco 1994), before the impact of the World Wide Web revolution was visible. It is important to clarify the difference between historical digital libraries, repositories, archives and museums, on the one hand, and HIS, on the other. Both intend to be tools for preserving historical knowledge, but they have strong differences in purpose and methods. The first group stores documents and their metadata to ensure preservation, retrieval and access: libraries, published research; repositories, unpublished research and, in the case of data repositories, analytical information; and digital archives and museums, digital reproductions of original documents and artefacts. HIS pretend to integrate reproductions, data, models, procedures and historiography in the strongest possible way; and must support actual research, not only publishing and distribution. Their aim is creating ‘shared exemplars’ (Kuhn 1970) for scientific historical research. 2.0 Research questions In particular, three main research questions are addressed in this paper: — What are the main changes in networking computing brought by the different waves of the web revolution (document-based, social and semantic)? — Should the concept of HIS be updated to reflect these changes? — Could the HIS KO model of 1994 be subsequently improved and clarified? 3.0 Methods The perspective of this paper is theorical: it tries to incorporate an assessment of the impact of the web technological revolutions into a previous conceptualization of HIS and especially of the role that KOS should have in them (García-Marco 1994). The discussion departs from a consideration of these changes and their main implications for HIS; then, revisits the concept of HIS trying to integrate such implications; and, finally, reconsiders the overall KO design offered in the first proposal. 475 4.0 Analysis and discussion As stated before, results are presented in three sections: an analysis of the web revolution impact, a reassessment of the HIS concept and a reconsideration of the overall KO architecture for such systems. 4.1 An assessment of the technological changes and their implications Since the invention of the web, the triple helix of technology, society and culture has been moving at a higher speed. The web has proved to be an extraordinary platform to fulfil the promises of the information revolution. Around it, a great standardization process has succeeded in the unprecedent digitalization of all alphabets, languages and media, including the mathematical and graphic languages. But, more remarkably, it has brought networking to the centre of the technological efforts and to the heart of the social and cultural life. Therefore, the original HIS vision must be addressed under new lights: the integration of data and documents; the amalgamation of information management and communication; the subsequent explosion in those areas; the incorporation of ontologies to data-and-document organization, processing and communication; and the commoditization of history and culture. Fist, thanks to the XML family of standards, modern information management systems have integrated the database and document management functions seamlessly: documents for complex human communication, and data being the raw material for automatic processing. The flow between automatic and human processing is now fluid. On the part of documents, everything is now susceptible of having digital surrogates, facilitating, through the digitization of original documents, the closest possible contact with the sources that sound historical research requires. Documents of every kind are continuously incorporated to the web. On the part of data, its production has become huge, and it is actually increasing very quickly (e.g., IoT). As a result, the history of our age will be done in a very different way from this of previous ones: historians will work mainly with data as other social scientists, not only with documents, as it was usual in the past. This will finally force a more intense data-gathering approach toward previous ages. The possibilities offered by all this new data have opened new fields of application–open data, big data (Graham, Milligan, and Weingart 2016)–and new scientific disciplines, offering theories, models and methodologies (data science). This new emphasis has been addressed in the LIS field with new concepts and specialties, like data librarians; and data-oriented architects are also needed in the KO field. Under this abundance of documents and data, there is a great risk for societies and cultures to become buried under such an information overload. Fortunately, the Semantic Web is now providing a full and operational implementation of the information pyramid (knowledge, information, data), and tools for analysing, compacting and making all this information processable. The technology for complex and fully-distributed knowledge systems actually exists, and the expectations for all the stakeholders are very high; but results are still limited. There is a huge and difficult task ahead, and KO experts can reclaim a key role in this quest. In the particular field of history, the growth of historical databases and information systems of very different types (spatial, heritage-oriented, institution-oriented…) has in fact made the problem of knowledge organization even more acute, as each system 476 provides a divergent KOS. On the other hand, History as a discipline is becoming more complex and new approaches are needed from the KO arena (Gnoli 2014). Challenges also come from the new social relevance of History, which is becoming a phenomenon for the mases. History, far or recent, has become increasingly the raw material of mass-communication and entertainment products and services (TV series, films, tourism, fashion…). This is both an opportunity and a challenge for historical sciences, professionals and the general public, but, on the contrary, as we can appreciate daily, there are cons. History and fiction get dangerously mixed according to the agendas of producers, distributors and audiences, which has very serious implications for evidence-based identity construction and preservation. Evidence interlinking and data comparison can provide light and truth to this confusing environment, so that each person can think and decide on its position informedly. KOS also seem central to this interlinking project among different sources and media. 4.2 Must the HIS concept change? Then, a HIS was defined as (García-Marco 1994) […] an automated system integrating a set of databases and formal procedures, designed and maintained to store, treat and retrieve historical information. They must be able to store sources —both references and reproductions—, bibliographical references and research work; should they be textual, graphic or procedural. The stress is put in the interface among the different types of information. The HIS is considered to be an open evolutionary system, growing towards an ever-closer integration of the data. Finally, the HIS must be considered as a part of a scientific network of research and custodial centres, with which it must interchange data and knowledge, and therefore pursue co-operative normalization policies. It is clear that in 1994 the focus was still on stand-alone systems, centralized or synchronized, and with distributed access; though the interoperation among research and custodial centres was foreseen. This concept was useful because it contemplated the integration of documents (sources and historiography), data, procedures and models. But any reassessment in 2020 requires a distributed networking perspective, where different HIS cooperate, compete or simply coexist with a potential for resource sharing. 4.3 Must the overall KO vision for HIS change? Among other reasons, history is a very interesting knowledge domain because at the same time it is a ‘natural’, encyclopaedic (it encompasses all the reality) and objective domain (all that happened and was in the past), and a discipline with many possible perspectives and subdisciplines (the study of history). History becomes a natural concept as soon as memory develops: all events and entities will be history; all information systems will become historical sources; and, certainly, there is room for a historical subdiscipline in every scientific domain. On the other hand, history has become a highly academic field, and interdisciplinarity is now at the heart of historical specialization. Regarding the problem of interdisciplinarity, the matrix analysis proposed by Dahlberg (2008) is strongly relevant, though transdisciplinary problems are provoking the emergence of a new layer (e.g., urban studies). On the problem of the connection between the two layers, the ideas of Claudio Gnoli on the classification of phenomena and the use of facets to connect them with the layer of refection and research, e.g., disciplines, are very relevant (Gnoli 2016; 2017a; 2017b; 2018). This vision was previously expressed in The León Manifesto (Gnoli and Szostak, 477 2007), which we share completely, though we take a neutral stage on the precedence of phenomena over disciplines. This is a very interesting problem in history, where the object-subject relation is especially evident and even intense, and, where, except for the common realities still shared by old and current cultures, the identification of phenomena is, many times, an act of creative interpretation. Apart from this, most historians develop their work inside disciplines, and only some of them are theoretically implied in the study of phenomena in genuine interdisciplinary ways. Table 1. Main layers and facets to consider in HIS: an update T ra ns ve rs al fa ce ts History a) Persons (historical) *) Other live beings h) Spatial context c) Objects and artefacts i) Temporal context (objective) e) Actions and processes *) In-text subject tags Historiography b) Persons (historiographical) g) Disciplinary subdivisions (Historical disciplines) i) Temporal context (periodizations) j) Theoretical systems and paradigms k) Methodologies *) Tools f) Great themes or ‘social institutions’: society, economy, religion, culture, arts, policy, military and war, science, technology, etc. [d) Specific scientific categories and constructs applied historical objects and singulars] d1) Actions and processes d2) Entities [l) Form of the document/data] Sources Users *) Purpose (research, teaching, political…) At this stage, we have differentiated clearly historical phenomena (history) and historiography as two distinct levels, and added a few general facets to them (denoted with an asterisk) (Table 1). We also think that any KOS of HIS should incorporate historical sources as a distinct layer, though there is some overlapping with the historiographical layer (see italics). This layer is not developed, as it gets into the difficult arena of functional requirements, their subsequent cataloguing models (LRM-RDA, EGAD, CIDOC- CRM…) and their connection to subject indexing and classification. Moreover, users should be incorporated as a domain, though this is also partially implied in the historiographical domain. With this new layer, the four elements of the basic ontology for History as a discipline would be available: history (phenomena) is told (historiography) to users from sources (hopefully). 478 5.0 Conclusion The web revolution has inserted HIS into more complex information ecologies: HIS will not evolve as independent units but as networking systems. Thanks to the WWW and the work of so many persons and institutions, great networking digital library, archive and museum systems have appeared (LC, Europeana, etc.) that are making this vision a reality in many of its layers. The digital humanities movement is also promoting huge advances in History Informatics research and applications (e.g., Meyer, Schering, and Schmitt 2014; Graham, Milligan, and Weingart 2016). However, the integrative aspects that were central to the vision of HIS have a long way to be fully developed. Here, KO expertise could be decisive after many years devoted to the problems of interdisciplinarity and KOS interoperability. But this task requires alliances and cooperation outside the traditional KO field. The efforts in the design and development of KOS for the historical sciences must be integrated with the recent great steps forward brought by the conceptual models for the description of resources in libraries, museums and archives; and also, with the advances in the semantic web and the big data developments. Acknowledgments This research work was carried within the CSO2015-65448-R (MINECO/FEDER) project. We are also grateful to the anonymous referees for their invaluable suggestions. References Dahlberg, Ingetraut. 2008. “The Information Coding Classification (ICC): A Modern, Theory- Based Fully-Faceted, Universal System of Knowledge Fields.” Axiomathes 18: 161–176. García-Marco, Francisco-Javier. 1994. “Knowledge Organisation in Historical Information Systems.” In Knowledge Organisation and Quality Management: Proceedings of the Third International ISKO Conference, 20-24 June 1994, Copenhagen, Denmark, edited by Hanne Albrechtsen and Susanne Oernager. Advances in knowledge organization 4. Frankfurt/Main: Indeks Verlag, 81-90. Gnoli, Claudio. 2014. “Boundaries and Overlaps of Disciplines in Bloch’s Methodology of Historical Knowledge.” In Proceedings of the 13th ISKO conference, Krakow. Ergon Verlag, Würzburg Gnoli, Claudio. 2016. “Classifying Phenomena Part 1: Dimensions.” Knowledge Organization 43: 403-415. Gnoli, Claudio. 2017a. “Classifying Phenomena Part 2: Types and Levels.” Knowledge Organization 44: 37-54. Gnoli, Claudio. 2017b. “Classifying Phenomena, Part 3: Facets.” In Dimensions of Knowledge: Facets for Knowledge Organization, edited by Richard Smiraglia and Hur-Li Lee. Würzburg: Ergon, 55-67. Gnoli, Claudio. 2018. “Classifying Phenomena Part 4: Themes and Rhemes.” Knowledge Organization 45: 43-53. Gnoli, Claudio and Rick Szostak. 2007. “The León Manifesto.” Knowledge Organization 34:6-8. Graham, Shawn, Ian Milligan, and Scott Weingart. 2016. Exploring Big Historical Data: The Historian’s Macroscope. London: Imperial College Press. Kuhn, Thomas S. 1970. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Meyer, Holger, Alf-Christian Schering, and Christoph Schmitt. 2014. “WossiDiA – The Digital Wossidlo Archive.” In Corpora Ethnographica Online 5, edited by Holger Meyer, Christoph Schmitt, Stefanie Janssen, and Alf-Christian Schering. Münster: Waxmann, 61-84.

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The proceedings explore knowledge organization systems and their role in knowledge organization, knowledge sharing, and information searching.

The papers cover a wide range of topics related to knowledge transfer, representation, concepts and conceptualization, social tagging, domain analysis, music classification, fiction genres, museum organization. The papers discuss theoretical issues related to knowledge organization and the design, development and implementation of knowledge organizing systems as well as practical considerations and solutions in the application of knowledge organization theory. Covered is a range of knowledge organization systems from classification systems, thesauri, metadata schemas to ontologies and taxonomies.


Der Tagungsband untersucht Wissensorganisationssysteme und ihre Rolle bei der Wissensorganisation, dem Wissensaustausch und der Informationssuche. Die Beiträge decken ein breites Spektrum von Themen ab, die mit Wissenstransfer, Repräsentation, Konzeptualisierung, Social Tagging, Domänenanalyse, Musikklassifizierung, Fiktionsgenres und Museumsorganisation zu tun haben. In den Beiträgen werden theoretische Fragen der Wissensorganisation und des Designs, der Entwicklung und Implementierung von Systemen zur Wissensorganisation sowie praktische Überlegungen und Lösungen bei der Anwendung der Theorie der Wissensorganisation diskutiert. Es wird eine Reihe von Wissensorganisationssystemen behandelt, von Klassifikationssystemen, Thesauri, Metadatenschemata bis hin zu Ontologien und Taxonomien.