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classification - folksonomy - genre theory - ontology - tree

Taxonomy of L’Encyclopédie (1751)


Taxonomy may refer to either a hierarchical classification of things, or the principles underlying the classification. Almost anything -- animate objects, inanimate objects, places, and events -- may be classified according to some taxonomic scheme.

Mathematically, a taxonomy is a tree structure of classifications for a given set of objects. At the top of this structure is a single classification - the root node - that applies to all objects. Nodes below this root are more specific classifications that apply to subsets of the total set of classified objects. So for instance in Carolus Linnaeus's Scientific classification of organisms, the root is the Organism (as this applies to all living things, it is implied rather than stated explicitly). Below this are the Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species, with various other ranks sometimes inserted.

Some have argued that the human mind naturally organizes its knowledge of the world into such systems. This view is often based on the epistemology of Immanuel Kant.

Anthropologists have observed that taxonomies are generally embedded in local cultural and social systems, and serve various social functions. Perhaps the most well-known and influential study of folk taxonomies is Emile Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. The theories of Kant and Durkheim also influenced Claude Levi-Strauss, the founder of anthropological structuralism. Levi-Strauss wrote two important books on taxonomies; Totemism and The Savage Mind.

Such taxonomies as those analyzed by Durkheim and Levi-Strauss are sometimes called folk taxonomies to distinguish them from scientific taxonomies that claim to be disembedded from social relations and thus objective and universal. The most well-known and widely used scientific taxonomy is Linnaean taxonomy which classifies living things and originated with Carolus Linnaeus. This taxonomic system is accessible from the article evolutionary tree.

In recent years taxonomic classification has gained support from computational biology / bioinformatics employing the method of phylogenetic trees. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxonomy

Taxonomy of L’Encyclopédie (1751)

The "figurative system of human knowledge", sometimes known as the tree of Diderot and d'Alembert, was a tree developed to represent the structure of knowledge itself, produced for the Encyclopédie by Jean le Rond d'Alembert and Denis Diderot.

The tree was a taxonomy of human knowledge, inspired by Francis Bacon's Advancement of Knowledge. The three main branches of knowledge in the tree are: "Memory"/History, "Reason"/Philosophy, and "Imagination"/Poetry.

Notable is the fact that theology is ordered under 'Philosophy'. The historian Robert Darnton has argued that this categorization of religion as being subject to human reason, and not a source of knowledge in and of itself (revelation), was a significant factor in the controversy surrounding the work. Additionally notice that 'Knowledge of God' is only a few nodes away from 'Divination' and 'Black Magic'. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Figurative_system_of_human_knowledge [Sept 2005]

See also: tree - hierarchy

Genre theory [...]

A number of perennial doubts plague genre theory. Are genres really 'out there' in the world, or are they merely the constructions of analysts? Is there a finite taxonomy of genres or are they in principle infinite? Are genres timeless Platonic essences or ephemeral, time-bound entities? Are genres culture-bound or transcultural?... Should genre analysis be descriptive or proscriptive? (Robert Stam 2000, 14) via Daniel Chandler, http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/intgenre/intgenre1.html

Taxonomy of transgressive art

Transgression has been a hot topic since the recent publication of Anthony Julius’s book Transgressions: The Offences of Art. Julius provides a useful taxonomy of transgressive art, breaking it down into three categories: ‘an art that breaks art’s own rules, an art of taboo-breaking, a politically resistant art.’ Interestingly, his analysis of taboo-breaking leads to the conclusion that we have reached the end of transgressive art, on the grounds that it is now unrewarding for artists to violate taboos since all taboos have all already been violated. --Kaleem Aftab and Ian Stewart http://www.contemporary-magazine.com/51/film.html [Oct 2004]

Taxonomies of high and low cinematic genres

European art and avant-garde/experimental films) and popular culture
Open the pages of any U.S. horror fanzine--Outre, Fangoria, Cinefantastique--and you will find listings for mail order video companies which cater to afficionados of what Jeffrey Sconce has called "paracinema" and trash aesthetics.(1) Not only do these mail order companies represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the video market,(2) their catalogues challenge many of our continuing assumptions about the binary opposition of prestige cinema (European art and avant-garde/experimental films) and popular culture.(3) Certainly, they highlight an aspect of art cinema which is generally overlooked or repressed in cultural analysis, namely, the degree to which high culture trades on the same images, tropes, and themes which characterize low culture. --Sleaze Mania, Euro-trash, and High Art, Film Quarterly, Winter, 1999 by Joan Hawkins http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1070/is_2_53/ai_59210751/pg_1 [Mar 2005]

High mingles with low
In the world of horror and cult film fanzines and mail order catalogues, what Carol J. Clover calls "the high end" of the horror genre(4) mingles indiscriminately with the "low end." Here, Murnau's Nosferatu (1921) and Dreyer's Vampyr (1931) appear alongside such drive-in favorites as Tower of Screaming Virgins (1971) and Jail Bait (1955). Even more interesting, European art films which have little to do with horror--Antonioni's L'avventura (1960), for example--are listed alongside movies which Video Vamp labels "Eurocinetrash." European art films are not easily located through separate catalogue subheadings or listings. Many catalogues simply list film titles alphabetically, making no attempt to differentiate among genres or subgenres, high or low art. In Luminous Film and Video Wurks Catalogue 2.0, for example, Jean-Luc Godard's edgy Weekend (1968) is sandwiched between The Washing Machine (1993) and The Werewolf and the Yeti (1975). Sinister Cinema's 1996-97 catalogue, which organizes titles chronologically, lists Godard's Alphaville (1965) between Lightning Bolt (1965) and Zontar, the Thing from Venus (1966).(5) --Sleaze Mania, Euro-trash, and High Art, Film Quarterly, Winter, 1999 by Joan Hawkins http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1070/is_2_53/ai_59210751/pg_1 [Mar 2005]

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