Julia Bullard dissertation proposal defense: the work behind classification's consequences


iSchool doctoral student Julia Bullard will present her dissertation proposal for an ethnography of classification work.

Please join Julia's committee (Bill Aspray, Diane Bailey, Kathleen Tyner, and Melanie Feinberg) for this research event. Everyone in the iSchool community is welcome to attend. Details below!

Title: The work behind classification's consequences

Abstract: Classification systems act as infrastructure for everyday collections and interfaces and frame how we view a set of documents or a set of people. Many in the field are troubled that easily overlooked classification systems have the potential to cause harm through bias and outdated models (Bowker & Star, 1999; Mai, 2010; Olson, 1998). Irreconcilable divisions in classification theory complicate the problem of agreeing on a better way to create fair systems or a way to evaluate systems in use. Instead, the dominant mode of classification scholarship presents accounts of classification construction that demonstrate a particular strategy rather than explore the challenges and compromises that produce a biased or value-laden system. I propose an in-depth study of classification work in live systems to uncover the contextual and personal factors that shape the decisions made in classification design. I will conduct an ethnography using participant observation, diary studies, and interviews in a volunteer group that creates a classification system for a fanfiction collection. I will use diary studies, interviews, and site visits to study more traditional classification site in a secondary site for comparison. I hope to contribute a more complete model of classification work that accounts for more than the rules or procedures of classification theory and demonstrates how the systems underpinning so many everyday and life-and-death interactions come to be as they are.


9:00am to 11:00am


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