Dissertation Proposal Defense - Chris Holstrom
Controlled and In-Control: The Effects of Different Forms of Vocabulary Control on the Subject Indexing and Tagging Processes
Abstract: Subject indexing, the process of determining what a document is about and then translating that "aboutness" into a representation in an indexing language, is fundamental to library cataloging. Subject indexing has historically relied on controlled vocabularies to standardize language and to optimize information retrieval; however, controlled vocabularies have faced criticism for reinforcing systemic biases, for being slow to adapt, and for not reflecting the language and values of many people, especially those from marginalized and underrepresented groups. The emergence of folksonomies in the Web 2.0 era presented a clear contrast to rigorous vocabulary control and promised a more "democratic" form of knowledge organization that could reflect natural language, adapt quickly, and potentially avoid problems with systemic bias. Folksonomies and social tagging were criticized, though, for being too "uncontrolled" and, therefore, less effective as information retrieval indexes.
This dissertation aims to update and enrich this comparison of vocabulary control in subject indexing and tagging by identifying five forms of vocabulary control in use today (minimal control, passive control, post hoc control, flexible control, and rigid control), and studying their effect on the subject indexing and tagging processes from the perspective of indexers and taggers. The study will use a mixed methods approach---including a survey, a think-aloud protocol while participants index and tag documents, and a retrospective interview---to record each participants' process and output and, importantly, to better understand participants' thoughts and emotions during the indexing and tagging process. These methods will measure how different forms of vocabulary control effect coextensiveness between aboutness statements and indexing terms, explore how controlled vocabularies make participants feel either controlled or in-control while they index and tag, and understand how these experiences inform the criticisms of controlled vocabularies, particularly for documents about racial and social justice. By building a robust understanding of the effects of different forms of vocabulary control on the subject indexing and tagging process, this dissertation aims to help the designers of knowledge organization systems and controlled vocabularies better and more equitably serve indexers, taggers, information seekers, and the information being indexed and tagged.
Chair: Joseph T. Tennis, Professor and Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, iSchool, UW
GSR: John Gennari, Graduate Program Director and Professor, Biomedical Informatics and Medical Education, UW
Member: Nicholas Weber, Assistant Professor, iSchool, UW
Member: Marika Cifor, Assistant Professor, iSchool, UW