Categorization, Taxonomy, Ontology

I am interested in these subjects. I would like to learn more about them.  I’ve done a quick search of college courses that teach these subjects outside specific biological or computer science applications and haven’t come up with many promising results.  I’d like to learn as much as I can about the science, theory and philosophy of categorization in a very broad sense. I’m happy to work with specific applications, but I want to start with a general overview. Anyone have any suggestions? Reading material? Sources of information?

UPDATE: Here’s two books I found online that seem to address what I’m interested in:
Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder, David Weinberger (2007)
Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences, Geoffrey C. Bowker and Susan Leigh Star (1999)

Comments still welcome.  Thanks.


6 Responses to “Categorization, Taxonomy, Ontology”

  1. julie Says:

    Here’s a course that might interest you: Taxonomies and Controlled Vocabularies
    November 1 – 30, 2008

    Preview at:

    Link to taxonomies preview

    Taxonomies are becoming popular for organizing information in business knowledge management, enterprise content management systems, and intranets. Are these taxonomies different from literature retrieval thesauri? How does one go about creating a taxonomy? This online workshop will provide recommended best practices for how to create terms, relationships, and variants for different kinds of taxonomies or controlled vocabularies, and will also introduce different software tools for doing so. Whether you need to create a taxonomy to organize information on a web site, classify information in a content management system, establish a controlled vocabulary for a periodical or database indexing project, or simply understand how to use them better, this workshop will get you on your way.

    Faculty: Heather Hedden, Information Taxonomist at Viziant Corporation, Principal at Hedden Information Management, formerly Controlled Vocabulary Editor at Gale/Information Access Company, and author of “Indexing Specialties: Web Sites”;

  2. sophosmoros Says:

    Thanks Julie! I’m hesitant about a course like this, however, because I’m afraid I don’t have the technical background to learn anything from this course.

  3. Patrick Lambe Says:

    David Weinberger’s book has some brilliant reviews on how taxonomy has developed as a discipline, but he’s a little too enthusiastic on the decline in value of structured approaches. The Bowker and Star book is quite theoretical but probably the best and most rigourous book in the field. My own book Organising Knowledge looks at taxonomy work as a practical discipline inside organisations. gives more details.

    There is also an active Yahoo Group focused on information-related taxonomy work in organisations with a wikispace at

    I guess my question is why are you interested in taxonomy and what do you want to do with it? That might determine where you might find more resources and learning.

  4. sophosmoros Says:

    Thank you so much Mr. Lambe. I’m quite flattered and honored that a published author has commented on my blog. My interest in taxonomy is mostly academic. I like classifying and categorizing things. I’m fascinated by family trees, library catalogues, military rank, government agency organization, businesses and their subsidiaries, the classification of music, administrative law, lists, charts, graphs, and (as you can see from my site) comic books. When I realized that there was a field of study related to this stuff, I became even more curious. It never really occurred to me that there might be experts in the philosphy of sorting stuff, going all the way back to Aristotle. I don’t know what I want to do with this knowledge, but I know that I want more.

  5. Patrick Lambe Says:

    OK then I’d start with David Weinberger’s book, then maybe mine, then the Bowker and Star book in that order. Then drop me an email with your ideas on where you’ve got to, for some more suggestions 🙂

  6. sophosmoros Says:

    Hey, thanks very much. I appreciate it. 😀

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