Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences

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MIT Press, Aug 25, 2000 - Science - 389 pages
18 Reviews
What do a seventeenth-century mortality table (whose causes of death include "fainted in a bath," "frighted," and "itch"); the identification of South Africans during apartheid as European, Asian, colored, or black; and the separation of machine- from hand-washables have in common? All are examples of classification -- the scaffolding of information infrastructures.In Sorting Things Out, Geoffrey C. Bowker and Susan Leigh Star explore the role of categories and standards in shaping the modern world. In a clear and lively style, they investigate a variety of classification systems, including the International Classification of Diseases, the Nursing Interventions Classification, race classification under apartheid in South Africa, and the classification of viruses and of tuberculosis.The authors emphasize the role of invisibility in the process by which classification orders human interaction. They examine how categories are made and kept invisible, and how people can change this invisibility when necessary. They also explore systems of classification as part of the built information environment. Much as an urban historian would review highway permits and zoning decisions to tell a city's story, the authors review archives of classification design to understand how decisions have been made. Sorting Things Out has a moral agenda, for each standard and category valorizes some point of view and silences another. Standards and classifications produce advantage or suffering. Jobs are made and lost; some regions benefit at the expense of others. How these choices are made and how we think about that process are at the moral and political core of this work. The book is an important empirical source for understanding the building of information infrastructures.

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Review: Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences

User Review  - Robyn - Goodreads

Great book. Read it as part of "book club" course called New Perspectives on Organizing at UC Berkeley School of Information. Really important considerations about embedded values in infrastructure ... Read full review

Review: Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences

User Review  - Goodreads

Sorting seems to be something that we just do. We organize the world in ways that make sense... or do we? This happens to be what I am up to with my Masters thesis, in part, but this book makes sense ... Read full review


To Classify Is Human
Some Tricks of the Trade in Analyzing Classification
Classification and LargeScale Infrastructures
The Kindness of Strangers Kinds and Politics in Classification Systems
The ICD as Information Infrastructure
Classification Coding and Coordination
Classification and Biography or System and Suffering
Of Tuberculosis and Trajectories
What a Difference a Name Makes the Classification of Nursing Work
Organizational Forgetting Nursing Knowledge and Classification
The Theory and Practice of Classifications
Categorical Work and Boundary Infrastructures Enriching Theories of Classification
Why Classifications Matter
Name Index

The Case of Race Classification and Reclassification under Apartheid
Classification and Work Practice

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