Screens, Research and Hypertext

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On Taxonomies

I think there’s a good case to be made that most think tanks approach taxonomies from the wrong perspective. That starts with the term taxonomy itself. If we want to be really technical, a taxonomy is a particular type of vocabulary—one that is expressed as a hierarchy, with parent and child terms.

Here is Heather Hedden, defining taxonomies more formally:

A hierarchical taxonomy is a kind of controlled vocabulary in which each term is connected to a designated broader term (unless it is the top-level term) and one or more narrower terms (unless it is the bottom-level term), and all the terms are organized into a single larger hierarchical structure.

By contrast, an ontology documents relationships between terms. Ontologies are intended to describe an entire domain of knowledge. Here's Hedden again:

The relationships between terms within an ontology are not limited to broader/narrower and related. Rather, there can be any number of domain-specific types of relationship pairs, such as owns/belongs to, produces/is produced by, and has members/is a member of.

For the purposes of this project, I will follow Hedden in using "taxonomy" to describe any sort of knowledge management system and will use "hierarchical taxonomy" to call out things like the Linnaean system.