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Comparative modeling of Vickery's faceted classification and the oevre of S R Ranganathan

.C. Vickery and S. R. Ranganathan both advanced methods of creating schemes for classification and facet analysis of documents. In his accessible and well-written 1960 text, Vickery acknowledges his debt, and indeed the debt owed by the CRG, to Ranganathan’s work. Yet, because of the time of this writing, and its purpose, we see a very different view of the theory of faceted classification from Vickery, when compared to the overall oeuvre of S. R. Ranganathan (beyond the 1967 Prolegomena). And it is Vickery’s 1960 and 1966 works, not Ranganathan’s, that are often used as the introduction to (and often the end of the education in) faceted classification and facet analysis. The question surfaces, is there more than one conception of faceted analysis and faceted classification? We must take as an assumption that neither Vickery nor Ranganathan are wrong in their conception, but what if they differ? Others have examined the question of the definition of faceted classification, often with an eye to contemporary interpretations of facet analysis, not as an explicit comparison between these two bodies of thought (e.g., La Barre, 2004; see also Axiomathes 18(2)).

There are several commonalities that obtain between Vickery and Ranganathan which can be discerned by the informed reader. For instance, there are commonalities in how Vickery and Ranganathan talk about citation order. However, Vickery’s discussion omits many details contained in Ranganathan’s. This brings us to our question. What does Vickery’s theory of faceted classification look like compared to Ranganathan’s? Does Vickery create a different theory, and hence lineage, of faceted classification in the 1960s?

In an effort to make sense of both Ranganathan’s work and Vickery’s we modeled the process involved in classification using the IDEF0 (Integrated Definition for Function Modeling) formalism. This allows us to see five distinct parts of the classification process: actions, inputs, outputs, mechanisms, and constraints. When we model theories of classification this way we can then compare them by asking whether or not they contain the same actions, inputs, outputs, mechanisms, and constraints. This allows us to see how the conceptions held by Vickery and by Ranganathan are similar, and how they are different.

This work is ongoing, but preliminary analysis shows that while there is some cross-over, Vickery’s exposition of faceted classification and facet analysis were more parsimonious than Ranganathan’s. This leaves us with questions about decision-making when proceeding through the process of facet analysis and creating schemes for faceted classification. Similarly, Ranganathan’s work is left undone (primarily with rules for interpreting postulates and principles, but there are other places as well).

We will present the findings on the modeling of these two conceptions of faceted classification and facet analysis. We propose two ways to frame this discussion: by describing 1) what commitments we make when we assume a common model of facet analysis and classification, and 2) what we assume from identifying distinct theories of faceted classification and facet analysis. We will also identify gaps in our understanding of these two conceptions, as well as, strengths and weaknesses of the modeling technique.

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