From classification to indexing: How automation transforms the way we think

Social Epistemology 18 (4):333-356 (2004)
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Abstract

To classify is to organize the particulars in a body of information according to some meaningful scheme. Difficulty recognizing metaphor, synonyms and homonyms, and levels of generalization renders those applications of artificial intelligence that are currently in widespread use at a loss to deal effectively with classification. Indexing conveys nothing about relationships; it pinpoints information on particular topics without reference to anything else. Keyword searching is a form of indexing, and here artificial intelligence excels. Growing reliance on automated means of accessing information brings an increase in indexing and a corresponding decrease in classification. This brings about a shift from the modernist view of the world as permanently and hierarchically structured to the indeterminacy and contingency associated with postmodernism.

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