INF 1002
Representation, Organization, Classification and Meaning-Making

Winter 2012

Schedule  |  Assignments  |  Resources  |  Readings  |  Practical Stuff  |  Blackboard


  phone email ( office office hours
Jens-Erik Mai 416 978 7097 je.mai Bissell, rm 636 Wednesday 4pm-5:30pm
Brian Cantwell Smith 416 946 5402 brian.cantwell.smith iSouth, rm 303
Stephen Hockema

Bissell, rm 651 Wednesday 2:30pm-4pm

Teaching assistants

  phone email ( office office hours
Sandra Danilovic
no phone
Bissell, rm 608 by appointment
Quinn Dupont
no phone
iSouth, rm 301
by appointment
Jenna Jacobson
no phone
iSouth, rm 341 by appointment
Eva Jansen
no phone
Bissell, rm 514 by appointment
Dirk Rodenberg416-523-2400
dirk.rodenburg@gmail.comiSouth, rm 328by appointment

About the course

“Fundamental epistemological and ontological issues in the use of knowledge and information in human activities. Analysis of issues in language, representation, interpretation, semantics, meaning-making, perception, conception, and cognition, integrating perspectives from multiple disciplines and traditions.”

This course serves as one of the four core courses in the MI program and as such is designed to provide students will basic, fundamental and core ideas, principles and questions that penetrates the entire information profession. Students will encounter a range of issues in this course that today’s information professionals must grapple with and consider, regardless of job title and workplace.  However, the aim is not so much directed at familiarizing the students with the jobs they will get, but rather to equip them for a life-long career in the information field.

One key aspect of the information profession is how and on which basis items are named and assigned to categories - almost any information professional will at some point name and categories items, or at least work with names and categories assigned by others. These names and categories reflect particular views of the world and reflect the meaning that particular people or groups of people attribute to the items. This course also explores how meaning is created, and the ethical, social and epistemological consequences and constraints of naming and categorization.

Students will gain understandings of:


The course consist of two weekly meetings; a class meeting and a shared lecture for all the classes.  The shared lecture preceeds the class meetings and form the foundation for the discussion and activites in the class.  The schedule lists the readings for each week; students are expected to have read the material prior to the lecture session. 

For the full citations for the readings, please see the Readings section on information.  The actual readings are accessible on Blackboard.  Lecture slides are available on the Blackboard side as well - they will be uploaded after the shared lecture.


The class will meet every week, begining in the week of January 9 and ending in the week of April 2. 
Please note:  There are no classes in the week of Feb. 6, the week of Feb. 20, and the week of April 9.

Class 0101Tuesday
6:30pm - 8:00pmBissell, rm. 224Instructor: Hockema
TA:  Jenna
Class 0102Tuesday
6:30pm - 8:00pmBissell, rm. 307
Instructor: Quinn
TAs: Quinn and Sandra
Class 0103Tuesday
8:00pm - 9:30pmBissell, rm. 307
Instructor: Hockema
TA: Jenna
Class 0104Wednesday6:30pm - 8:00pmBissell, rm. 224Instructor: Hockema
TA: Quinn
Class 0105Wednesday
6:30pm - 8:00pmBissell, rm. 307
Instructor: Mai
TA: Sandra
Class 0106Wednesday
8:00pm - 9:30pmBissell, rm. 224Instructor: Hockema
TA: Quinn
Class 0107Wednesday
8:00pm - 9:30pmBissell, rm. 307
Instructor: Mai
TAs: Eva and Jenna
Class 0108Thursday9:00am - 10:30amBissell, rm. 224Instructor:  Mai
TA: Dirk
Class 0109
10:30am - 12noon
Bissell, rm. 224Instructor: Mai
TA: Eva

Shared lecture

Shared lectureTuesday4:00pm - 5:30pmMedical Sciences
1 King's College Circl.

rm. MS 2158
(J.J.R. MacLeod Auditorium)
Hockema, Mai, and Smith

week day
topics readings
1 Tuesday
Jan. 10
Overview of the course

Introduction to ROCM

Stephen Hockema, Jens-Erik Mai and
Brian Cantwell Smith


Borges, 1973

Part I — Introductions
2 Tuesday
Jan. 17
Classification in the real world
Jens-Erik Mai
Boyne, 2006
Donohue, 2006
Duff & Harris, 2002
Dupre, 2006
Feinberg, In press
Maciel, 2006
Sokal, 1974
3 Tuesday
Jan. 24
Theoretical/philosophical scaffolding
Brian Cantwell Smith
Smith, 2011
4 Tuesday
Jan. 31
Cognitive underpinnings, part I
Stephen Hockema

Lakoff, 1987 - chap. 1-10

Feb. 7, 8 & 9
No lecture, no class meetings -- we are at iConference 2012

Assignment #1 due Tuesday Feb. 7 at 11:59pm in Blackboard.

Part II — Perspectives
5 Tuesday
Feb. 14
Cognitive underpinnings, part II
Stephen Hockema
Lakoff, 1987 - chap. 1-10

Feb. 21, 22 & 23
No lecture, no class meetings -- Reading Week

6 Tuesday
Feb. 28
Fixity and fluidity
Jens-Erik Mai

Zerubavel, 1991 - entire book
7 Tuesday
Mar. 6
Documents: representation and information
Stephen Hockema
Buckland, 1997
Cornelius, 2002
Levy, 2001 - chap 1 & 2

8 Tuesday
Mar. 13
Communication and meaning-making
Jens-Erik Mai

Assignment #2 due at 11:59pm in Blackboard.
Fiske, 2011 - chap 1-5
Part III — Significance
9 Tuesday
Mar. 20
Authority and power
Stephen Hockema

Foucault, 1980 - chap. 5, part 2
Mai, 2010
Weinberger, 2007 - chap 7 & 10

10 Tuesday
Mar. 27
Infrastructures and their consequences
Stephen Hockema

Bowker & Star, 1999 - Introduction + chap 1, 2, 3, & 4
11 Tuesday
Apr. 3
Ethics, values and commitments
Jens-Erik Mai
Beghtol, 2005
Bowker & Star, 1999 - chap 10
Furner, 2007
Frohmann, 2008
Unsworth, 2009
12 Tuesday
Apr. 10
Summary, conclusions and evaluations of the course

Assignment #3
due at 11:59pm in Blackboard.


Students are required to complete three assignment for the course. The final grade for the course is calculated according to the weighted grades received for each individual assignment in the course:

  Assignment Percentage of final grade Due date
1. Epistemology of everyday classification
20% Tuesday Feb. 7
2. Coping with injustice
40% Tuesday March 13
3. An issue of significance 40% Tuesday April 10

Please make sure to consult the iSchool’s official interpretation of the UofT’s letter grade system - taken together these documents explain the letter grade system and the meaning of the individual letter grades.

We will attempt to return papers two weeks after the submission date.  However, any paper submitted late will required a longer turn-around time. 

Submission requirements

All assignments satify the following requirements:

  1. One-and-a-half or double spaced
  2. Minimum 2 cm margins on all 4 sides
  3. 12 point serif font
  4. Full name and class section number in the upper right corner of every page (no credit given for unnamed pages!)
  5. Number all pages as "page N of M".
  6. Enter the total word count on the last page of the paper (make sure this number falls within the range allowed for the assignment).
  7. Citations in standard format (e.g., Chicago, APA, MLA).
  8. Saved in PDF format.  (Please do not use the "PDF or XPS" format.)

Please review the material you covered in the Cite it Right workshop, familiarize yourself with this site and UofT’s policy about academic conduct.

Writing support

Students are strongly recommended to consult the writing centres' website, which presents a wealth of material and lists a variety of writing courses available free to all students.  Students are also encourged to seek out the School of Graduate Studies' writing centre and their resources website that is geared especially towards graduate students.  While we are not in a position to teach students how to write well, it is our responsibility to ensure that they do so.  It is students’ responsibility to take advantage of these provided resources, to ensure that they reach this goal.

For additional writing tips, please look here for and here for resources provided by your instructors for this course.


In this course we will encounter a number of concepts, ideas, and notions that might be new – and which might be confusing, or difficult to grasp.  Below are a number of resources that might help in getting a better handle on the terminology and ideas.

Epistemological Lifeboat

“The Epistemological Lifeboat is an attempt to guide students and researchers into the complex field of epistemology/philosophy of science. It is intended as a “lifeboat” or a “philosophy for dummies”. It is obviously not enough for serious studies, but it provides an overview and refers the reader to further sources of information.”

Lifeboat for Knowledge Organization

Birger Hjørland’s comprehensive dictionary of KO terms and ideas.

International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences

“This Encyclopedia is the first attempt in a generation to map the social and behavioral sciences on a grand scale.”

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

“Most of the articles in The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy are original contributions by specialized philosophers around the Internet.”

Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy

“Comprehensive resource. Articles from all continents, all periods and cultures.”

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

“From its inception, the SEP was designed so that each entry is maintained and kept up to date by an expert or group of experts in the field. All entries and substantive updates are refereed by the members of a distinguished Editorial Board before they are made public."


Never a bad place to begin...


The readings are posted on Blackboard

Beghtol, Clare. 2005. Ethical Decision–Making for Knowledge Representation and Organization Systems for Global Use. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 56 (9): 903–912.

Borges, Jorge Luis. 1973. The Analytical Language of John Wilkins. In Other Inquisitions 1937-1952. London: Souvenir Press. pp. 101–105.

Bowker, Geoffrey C. & Susan Leigh Star. 1999. Sorting Things Out: Classification and its Consequences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
            Introduction: To Classify is Human. (pp. 1-32)
            Chap. 1: Some Tricks of the Trade in Analyzing Classification. (pp. 33-50)
            Chap. 2: The Kindness of Strangers: Kinds and Politics in Classification Systems. (pp. 53-106)
            Chap. 3: The ICD as Information Infrastructure. (pp. 107-133)
            Chap. 4: Classification, Coding and Coordination. (pp. 135-161)
            Chap. 10: Why classifications matter. (pp. 319-326)

Boyne, Roy. 2006. Classification. Theory, Culture and Society, 23 (2-3): 21-30.

Buckland, Michael. 1997. What is a 'Document'? Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 48 (9): 804-809.

Cornelius, Ian. 2002. Theorizing Information for Information Science. Annual Review of Information and Technology, 43: 393-425.

Donohue, Mark. 2006. Classification and Human Language. Theory, Culture and Society, 23 (2-3): 40-42.

Duff, Wendy & Verne Harris. 2002. Stories and names: Archival description as narrating records and constructing meanings. Archival Science, 2: 263–285.

Dupre, John. 2006. Scientific Classification. Theory, Culture and Society, 23 (2-3): 30-32.

Dupre, John. 1993. The Disorder of Things: Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.   Supplementary. 
            Chap. 1: Natural Kinds.

Ereshefsky, Marc. 2001. The Poverty of the Linnaean Hierarchy: A Philosophical Study of Biological Taxonomy. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.  Supplementary. 
            Chap. 1: The Philosophy of Classifcation (pp. 15-49)

Feinberg, Melanie. In press. Organization as Expression: Classification as Digital Media. In: Digital Media, Bill Aspray and Megan Winget (eds). Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.

Fiske, John. 2011. Introduction to Communication Studies, 3rd edition. New York, NY: Routledge.
          Introduction:  What is Communication?  (pp. 1-4)
          Chap. 1: Communication Theory. (pp. 5-21)
          Chap. 2: Other Models. (pp. 21-36)
          Chap. 3: Communication, Meaning, and Signs. (pp. 35-60)
          Chap. 4: Codes. (pp. 61-79)
          Chap. 5: Signification. (pp. 80-94)

Foucault, Michel. 1980. Power/Knowledge. Selected interviews and other writings 1972-1977. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.  
         Chap. 5, part 2:  Lecture Two: 14 January 1976 (pp. 92-108)
         Chap. 2: Prison Talk (pp. 37-54)  Supplementary. 
         Chap. 3: Body/Power (pp. 55-62)  Supplementary. 
         Chap. 4: Questions on Geography (pp. 63-77)  Supplementary. 

Frohmann, Bernd. 2008. Subjectivity and Information Ethics. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology,  59 (2): 267-277.

Furner, Jonathan. 2007. Dewey Deracialized: A Critical Race-Theoretic Perspective. Knowledge Organization. 24 (3): 144-168.

Lakoff, George. 1987. Women, Fire and Dangerous Things:  What Categories Reveal About the Mind. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press. 
       Preface (pp. xi-xvii)
       Chap. 1: The Importance of Categorization (pp. 5-11)
       Chap. 2: From Wittgenstein to Roach (pp. 12-57)
       Chap. 3: Prototype Effects in Language (pp. 58-67)
       Chap. 4: Idealized Cognitive Models (pp. 68-76)
       Chap. 5: Metonymic Models (pp. 77-90)
       Chap. 6: Radial Categories (pp. 91-114)
       Chap. 7: Features, Stereotypes, and Defaults (pp. 115-117)
       Chap. 8: More about Cognitive Models (pp. 118-135)
       Chap. 9: Defenders of the Classical View (pp. 136-152); &
       Chap. 10: Review (pp. 153-154)

Levy, David M. 2001. Scrolling Forward: Making Sense of Documents in the Digital Age. New York, NY: Arcade.
       Chap. 1: Meditation on a receipt. (pp. 7-20)
       Chap. 2: What are documents? (pp. 21-38)

Mai, Jens-Erik. 2010. Classification in a Social World: Bias and Trust, Journal of Documentation, 66 (5): 627-642.

Maciel, Maria Esther. 2006. The Unclassificable. Theory, Culture and Society, 23 (2-3): 47-50.

Smith, Brian Cantwell. 2011. A Rough and Ready Guide: To the Tortuous Landscape of Metaphysics, Ontology, and Epistemology. Unpublished manuscript.

Sokal, Robert R. 1974. Classification: Purposes, Principles, Progress, Prospects. Science, 185 (4157): 1115-1123.

Unsworth, Kristine. 2009. Ethical Concerns of Information Policy and Organization in National Security. Cataloging and Classifciation Quarterly, 47: 642-656.

Weinberger, David (2007) Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. New York, NY: Times.
          Chap. 7: Social knowing. (pp. 129-147)
          Chap. 10: The work of knowledge. (199-230)

Zerubavel, Eviatar. 1991. The Fine Line: Making Distinctions in Everyday Life. New York, NY: Free Press.
Chap. 1: Island of meaning. (pp. 5-20)
          Chap. 2: The great divide. (pp. 21-32)
          Chap. 3: The rigid mind. (pp. 33-60)
          Chap. 4: The social lens. (pp. 61-80)
          Chap. 5: The fuzzy mind. (pp. 81-114)
          Chap. 6: The flexible mind. (pp. 115-122)

Practical stuff

Communication policy

If you have a question, there is a pretty good chance that other people in the class will have the same question or, at least, will benefit from the answer.  Therefore, please do not email questions directly to the instructors or TAs, instead please post all questions to Blackboard (in the forum threads) so everyone in the class can benefit from your questions and our answers.  Questions posted to Blackboard will normally be answered within 24 hours (except on weekends).

Late assignments

Students are expected to submit all assignments by the specified deadlines. 

Late assignments may be accepted without academic penalty if, prior to the due date of the assignment, the student has made an arrangement a later specific submission date.  If you are need an extension past the assignment due date, simply upload to the Blackboard site under the Assignment tab a (short) document stating when you will have your assignment complete.  Then, on or before that date, upload your completed assignment, as a "second attempt".

Please note that assignments submitted later than their specified due date -- without prior agreement with your instructor -- will be deducted an academic penalty of one grade level per week (e.g., A- to B+, B to B-).  Late assignments should be submitted on Blackboard.

Graduating students must have submitted all three assignments by Tuesday April 10.  If we receive any of the three assignments later than this date, we cannot guarantee that we will have a mark ready in time for the student to graduate this semester.

For non-graduating students:  No assignments will be accepted after Tuesday April 17, 2012.  [In other words, all students must by April 17 have submitted all three assignments.  If a student has not completed all assignments by April 17, then the student must submit a Request for Extension to Complete Course Work to his/her class instructor.  Besides all the requested data, all fields in Section 1 must be filled out, and the reasons for the delay must be described in as much detail as possible.  The form must be signed and it must be submitted in hard-copy to the Student Service office in an envelope with the relevant instructor's name.  Students who fail to submit either all three assignments or the Request for a Course Extension by April 17 will have their final grade calculated based on the coursework completed by April 17.]

Calculating final grades

All grades you receive in this course will be expressed as a letter [in accord with the iSchool's interpretation] – the following will help you convert letter grades for the individual assignments to a letter grade for the final grade:
First:            Each letter is converted to a number: A+=9, A=8, A-=7, B+=6, B=5, B-=4, and FZ=0.
Second:    Apply the number for each assignment into this equation:
                        (Assign. #1*0.2)+(Assign. #2*0.4)+(Assign. #1*0.4)=value for final grade
Third:        Convert the ‘value for final grade’ back into a letter, using the above conversation table.
Note:        Any value ending in x.6 or below is rounded down, any value ending in x.7 or above is rounded up.
[The above is in line with the Faculty of Information’s policy on this matter.]

Contesting grades

All grades you receive in this course have been assigned by one or more of the instrcutors.  The Teaching Assistants will have read, commented on, and provided input on the quality of the work.  Grades for individual assignments as well as the final grades for the course are assigned by the instructors. 

In the case you have questions about the comments and/or the grades, please first meet with your TA.  The TA will review, with you, the assignment requirements, the Grade Interpretation document, the writing tips, the submitted paper, the comments it received, and the grade it was assigned.  If, after this discussion, you do not feel that the assigned grade is appropriate you should set up a meeting with your class instructor. 

Please prepare a short written rationale for why the grade should be re-considered - make sure that the rationale refers to the Grade Interpretation document.  Please make bring your rationale to the meeting with your instructor.  In the rare situations where a re-grade is required, theinstrcutor will work with a different TA to re-grade the assignment.  The second grade will stand regardless of whether it is higher or lower than the first one.

Please note that students always have the option to appeal a grade via the appeals process.

Failing grades

Students who receive a failing grade [FZ] in Assignment #1 or Assignment #2  may elect to revise (not rewrite) the paper, such that it meets the assignment requirements.  Students with FZs in either Assignment #1 or Assignment #2 should set up an appointment to see their TA.  At the meeting, the TA will review, with you, the assignment requirements, the Grade Interpretation document, the writing tips, the submitted paper, the comments it received, and the grade it was assigned.  After this meeting, you must submit, within one week: (a) the original paper, (b) the revised paper, and (c) a version of the revised paper that highlights the revisions made.  Please email the three files to your class instructor. 

A course
instructor will check to ensure that the revised paper truly is a revision of the original paper and not an entirely new paper.  Assuming it passes this test, the instrcutor will work with a different TA to grade the assignment.

Please note that students always have the option to appeal a grade via the appeals process.

Academic integrity

The essence of academic life revolves around respect not only for the ideas of others, but also their rights to those ideas and their promulgation. It is therefore essential that all of us engaged in the life of the mind take the utmost care that the ideas and expressions of ideas of other people always be appropriately handled, and, where necessary, cited. For writing assignments, when ideas or materials of others are used, they must be cited. The format is not that important–as long as the source material can be located and the citation verified, it’s OK. What is important is that the material be cited. In any situation, if you have a question, please feel free to ask. Such attention to ideas and acknowledgment of their sources is central not only to academic life, but life in general.

Please acquaint yourself with UofT’s Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters.

Students with a disability or diverse learning styles

Students with diverse learning styles and needs are welcome in this course. In particular, if you have a disability or health consideration that may require accommodations, please approach your tutorial instructor and/or the Accessibility Services office as soon as possible. The Accessibility Services staff are available by appointment to assess specific needs, provide referrals and arrange appropriate accommodations. The sooner you let them and us know about your needs, the more quickly we can assist you in achieving your learning goals in this course.

Video recording

Please note that the lectures in INF1002 are being video-recorded for educational purposes.  We will be capturing the class slides and video and audio of the instructor(s).  The camera will capture the front of the lecture hall including the instructors and the slides.  If you do not wish to be video or audio recorded, please wait until the end of the video/audio capture to walk to the front of the lecture hall or ask questions.  If you wish to discuss matters further, please contact Jens-Erik Mai or Heather MacNeil, Associate Dean (Academic).