Comparing two classification systems

Carina Nebula Details: The Caterpillar
From the Goddard Space Flight Center , CC Attribution 2.0 Generic

As you may have seen in our recent Sneak Peek post, we’ve been working on new ways to allow you to browse subject headings in Open Library. Edward’s just built a new subject search index too, so you’ll be able to do a keyword search for any/all subject headings that mention that word.

Testing things and looking around, I wondered about comparison between two different systems of classification: Library of Congress Subject Headings (or Authorities) and Flickr tags.

I searched for “space flight” subjects on Open Library and found 57 results. Here are the first twenty:

  • Space flight
  • Space flight to the moon
  • Manned space flight
  • Space flight in fiction
  • Space flight to Mars
  • Orbital transfer (Space flight)
  • Space flight to the moon in fiction
  • Psychological aspects of Space flight
  • Space Flight
  • Space flight training
  • Extravehicular activity (Manned space flight)
  • Orbital rendezvous (Space flight)
  • Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Space flight in literature
  • Space flight to Jupiter
  • George C. Marshall Space Flight Center
  • Effect of space flight on
  • Physiological aspects of Space flight
  • Space flight to Venus
  • Manned space flight in fiction

There’s a new page for every subject:

Space Flight subject page preview

And here are 20 things Open Library and Flickr think are related:

Open Library Flickr
  1. Space flight to the moon 255
  2. Juvenile literature 203
  3. Manned space flight 197
  4. Astronautics 178
  5. Physiological effect 144
  6. Exploration 137
  7. Congresses 118
  8. Space vehicles 107
  9. History 90
  10. Space flight to Mars 83
  11. Space shuttles 70
  12. Astronauts 67
  13. Orbital transfer (Space flight) 49
  14. Space medicine 46
  15. Rockets (Aeronautics) 40
  16. Space stations 39
  17. Psychological aspects 38
  18. Space transportation system flights 38
  19. Interplanetary voyages 29
  20. Artificial satellites 28
  21. …and more…
  1. space
  2. nasa
  3. iss
  4. apollo
  5. moon
  6. spaceshuttle
  7. station
  8. rocket
  9. kennedyspacecenter
  10. astronaut
  11. international
  12. ksc
  13. discovery
  14. human
  15. flight
  16. lunar
  17. museum
  18. internationalspacestation
  19. orbit
  20. secondlife

It’s interesting that one system works with plurals, the other singular. Makes sense perhaps because perhaps a library classification is designed to collect things together, whereas tagging could be about describing the thing that’s in front of you. Collections under a certain tag on Flickr are most often emergent, instead of predetermined (although they can be that as well). Curious also the contrast between literary and visual classifications, and the distinct lack of overlap.

The other thing is librarians’ marvellous use of (context), like Orbital transfer (Space flight). It’s incredibly useful when all at once you have to describe or comprehend something in brief. Apart from our need to classify ever more deeply, has the literal size of analog catalogs helped evolve such specificity?

Wonderful stuff.

5 thoughts on “Comparing two classification systems

  1. Effie

    Wow, George. I can’t wait to see what else emerges. The library terms do seem more helpful when you want to get a quick understanding of a subject. Maybe not apparent with this search, but I imagine Flickr tags would have more subjective “touchy feely” terms.

  2. Scott Clawson

    Dumb question… what did you use to grab that full page graphic for your blog post? Very nice.


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