Aliza: Week 1
There was a quote from the Heddon and Myers reading that stood out to me, regarding the Dewey Decimal system:
Dewey’s system remains the most recognised classification technique in the world, with books authoritatively divided into 10 classes, classes into nine divisions, and divisions into nine sections.This is a vertical taxonomy. Whilst Dewey’s categories are far from random,the neatness signals artifice. Such artistry at the heart of the techne is felt by librarian Louis Stanley Jast, who in 1892 proclaims feeling enlivened by his awareness that librarianship is as much an art as a science.
I walked in Ithaca, a beautiful college town in upstate New York, and part of my walk involved exploring enormous Ithaca book sale to benefit the local library, in a warehouse with 250,000 books. As I walked through the warehouse for nearly an hour, I switched back and forth between looking for things randomly, and then looking for specific books. When I was doing the latter, for lack of the Dewey Decimal System, I had to think hard about how things would be categorized. Would “All the Presidents’ Men” be in History or Politics or Journalism? Would a book on leaves be in Gardening or Nature, two sections strangely far from each other. It was more an art than a science, finding these books.
And as I left the sale, with these thoughts of categorization in mind, I was very focused on the different ways I could classify what I saw, even as it became more natural. So my instructions for the London group are:
As a group, each minute or two during the 10 minute exercise, a person should call out something that catches their eye. Then the group should discuss the section of a book store or library they’d go to, to find a book about that thing. How do the categories differ based on what different people perceive about it? Would you have thought to look for that thing in someone else’s category?
For example, I saw this mushroom on another part of my walk in Ithaca.
Would it best be categorized in the plant life section? In a book about fungi or a book about trees? Perhaps in the fantasy section? Art section? Drug-related books? A children’s book about colors?
This week’s walk was a strange one to start with, as it began out of town. I live in Brooklyn, but I was in Ithaca this past weekend with friends. There is little more beautiful than Autumn in upstate New York.
I was with a group of 6 people, and so it was interesting to see how different sub-groups broke off as we walked. We began with a trip through the mud to the farmer’s market for breakfast. My friend Amy carried my friend Carl through the mud to help him preserve his white shoes.
Then we went to the book sale which I mentioned above, and it was hard to really stay with any person as we walked around the warehouse for over an hour, each person following his or her own interests, occasionally colliding with someone else.
And then on a different day, we walked on a trail above the famous Ithaca gorges. As I gazed down at a waterfall with friends, I couldn’t have been further from my typical solitary, flat urban wandering.
Taxonomies resulting from the London walk (Westfield, Stratford):
A wall mural with a cartoon lion.
Children’s literature; home improvement; animation; children’s design; animal relations; clowing; primary shapes; books for simple design.
The sign for a Caffé [sic]:
Typography; dictionary; foreign languages; cooking; magazine: top 10, travel guides, etc.; philosophy (debate about the word)
A tree in a planter box with white Christmas lights:
Botany; ritual, religion; street design; astronomy; landscape gardening; DIY electronics; philosophy (organic textures); wabi sabi, Japanese aesthetics.
The Ω symbol on a storefront sign:
Classics; Mathematics; Physics; Built environment design; typography; cultural theory; logotypes; branding.
Red and white lights underneath a seating bench:
Sex Industry; Art History; Cabaret; sociology; Tourism; Colour Analysis; Branding; urban public design.
The security guards in Omega:
psychology; human zoo; cryptozoology; anthropology; ethics; pet store.
A Bridal Gown in a display window:
Religious Symbols; fashion; wedding planning; self help; performance; class; feminism; catalogues