Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences

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Overview

What do a seventeenth-century mortality table (whose causes of death include "fainted in a bath," "frighted," and "itch"); the identification of South Africans during apartheid asEuropean, Asian, colored, or black; and the separation of machine- from hand-washables have in common? All are examples of classification — the scaffolding of information infrastructures.

In Sorting Things Out, Geoffrey C. Bowker andSusan Leigh Star explore the role of categories and standards in shaping the modern world. In a clear and lively style, they investigate a variety of classification systems, including theInternational Classification of Diseases, the Nursing Interventions Classification, race classification under apartheid in South Africa, and the classification of viruses and of tuberculosis.

The authors emphasize the role of invisibility in the process by which classification orders human interaction. They examine how categories are made and kept invisible, and how people can change this invisibility when necessary. They also explore systems of classification as part of the built information environment. Much as an urban historian would review highway permits and zoning decisions to tell a city's story, the authors review archives of classification design to understand how decisions have been made. Sorting ThingsOut has a moral agenda, for each standard and category valorizes some point of view and silences another. Standards and classifications produce advantage or suffering. Jobs are made and lost; some regions benefit at the expense of others. How these choices are made and how we think about that process are at the moral and political core of this work. The book is an important empirical source for understanding the building of information infrastructures.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
" Sorting Things Out is a brilliant dissection of a fundamental facet ofsocial life. Its analytic comparisons shed new light on familiar problemswhich plague all the social sciences." Howard S. Becker , University of California-SantaBarbara
Howard S. Becker
Sorting Things Out is a brilliant dissection of a fundamental facet of social life. Its analytic comparisons shed new light on familiar problems which plague all the social sciences.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262522953
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2000
  • Series: Inside Technology
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 389
  • Sales rank: 841,265
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoffrey C. Bowker is Regis and Dianne McKenna Professor and Executive Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: To Classify Is Human 1
1 Some Tricks of the Trade in Analyzing Classification 33
2 The Kindness of Strangers: Kinds and Politics in Classification Systems 53
3 The ICD as Information Infrastructure 107
4 Classification, Coding, and Coordination 135
5 Of Tuberculosis and Trajectories 165
6 The Case of Race Classification and Reclassification under Apartheid 195
7 What a Difference a Name Makes - the Classification of Nursing Work 229
8 Organisational Forgetting, Nursing Knowledge, and Classification 255
9 Categorical Work and Boundary Infrastructures: Enriching Theories of Classification 285
10 Why Classifications Matter 319
Notes 327
References 335
Name Index 367
Subject Index 373
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