Not sure if anyone has ever made this connection before, but I’m going to give a try. Let me know if you’ve heard this already. Here goes:
If we consider all published information in the world, we can assume it takes on a long tail curve. The most people sources are read by only a small percentage of people. Librarianship is really about organizing information in the head of the long tail curve. Sure, there are special libraries, like science libraries and music libraries, but even those are concerned with organizing the hits.
After the advent of the web, IA arose out the need to organize information in the long tail. At some point the long tail of information spaces got so fat, someone realized that we need special, dedicated people to take care of our informatoin problems. IA is about finding custom solutions in a niche market for a particular business or client.
My point is that attacks on things like the Dewey Decimal System by people like Clay Shirky and David Weinberger are irrelevant to IA. IAs aren’t concerned about organizing all of human knowledge. We tend to work in niche markets. And it’s in niche markets that things like taxonomy and controlled vocabularies make most sense because they are bounded domains. Even Mr Shirky admits that himself in his polemic article on ontology:
“Ontological classification works well in some places, of course. You need a card catalog if you are managing a physical library. You need a hierarchy to manage a file system. So what you want to know, when thinking about how to organize anything, is whether that kind of classification is a good strategy.”
On the other side of the coin, things like tagging might be better when organizing the hits. There you’ll get a critical mass of tags to make them worthwhile. But tagging in niche markets might have holes. You might not even get all of your content tag if the user population is too small. And users in a niche market tend to have a common terminology and structure of the inforamtion space, so a controlled vocabularly could actually help them find, use, and make sense of information.
OK, the above is really a half baked idea and had lots of problems. But blogs let anybody say anything they want anytime, so there you have it.