Faceted Classification – Sounds Fancy and Classy (Part 2)
On my last post, I had talked about the advantages of faceted classification. With all things, when you have positive advantages using this scheme you are bound to have some disadvantages.
Disadvantages of facet classification
“The strength of a faceted classification lies in the fundamental categories, which should express the important attributes of the entries being classified” (Kwasnik, 1999, p. 41). In order for something to be found in a catalog or on the shelf is with a proper classification. In order for the material to be found, the cataloger needs to understand the context, the content and the end user for that information. If any of these queues are not followed the information will be overlooked and will never be utilized properly.
Kwasnik (1999) then describes, “Most faceted classification do not do a good job of connecting the various facets in a meaningful way.” When looking for specific attributes, strung together, we may get exactly what we want but may not see the bigger picture of the subject. If one just looked for materials about science fiction television series in the 70’s, this would give a narrow view on the subject from that decade. There are other points in time to consider as well as other mediums where science fiction appeared in such as radio, print – books and comics, movies, and multimedia.
Lastly, Kwasnik (1999) notes the difficulty of visualization using faceted classification, “A hierarchy or a tree, and especially a paradigm, can be visually displayed in such a way that the entities and their relationships are made evident.” Unlike a nesting doll that is made up of several smaller dolls inside, facets are not necessarily connected to each other. You can have the same facet of time between two subjects but having nothing in common. For example, you can have the year 1941 when discussing about Pearl Harbor and the other would be a movie called 1941 directed by Steven Spielberg. The movie does take place in the same war time frame but it’s not about Pearl Harbor; there is no relationship present.
Stressing the last point, when you have like attributes, you would wind up with this quote above. We have a quote from Star Trek, a character reference from Star Wars and a picture of the captain from the show Firefly. One could argue that scifi if the common facet, and Mal from Firefly is male, so is Han Solo, and the famous quote was spoken by Spock who is male though alien. So the quote is accurate. Sadly, it’s not. This is like saying that cats and dogs are animals which means all animals are cats and dogs. When using faceted classification remember that the information may be connected by the attributes they may not necessarily be connected.
Kwasnik, B. (1999) The role of classification in knowledge representation and discovery. Library Trends 48 (1): 22-47