6.5. Implementing Categories

We have emphasized the intellectual choices and challenges that arise in the design of a system of categories because, at their essence, categories are conceptual or mental constructs. We use categories in a mostly invisible way when we communicate, solve problems, or organize our kitchens and clothes closets. Sometimes categories are more apparent, as when we see signs and labels in the aisles of department or grocery stores to help us find things, when we put our socks and t-shirts in different dresser drawers, or when we create a system of folders and directories in our file cabinets or on our personal computers.

The most visible implementations of a category system are usually those for institutional categories, especially those that are embodied in the organizing systems for information resources where category membership can be verified by technology and the boundaries between categories are precise. In this final section of the chapter we briefly discuss some of the most important technologies for implementing categories, contrasting those that are appropriate for categories where membership is defined using properties with those that work for categories defined on the basis of similarity.

6.5.1. Implementing Classical Categories

The most conceptually simple and straightforward implementation of categories in technologies for organizing systems adopts the classical view of categories based on necessary and sufficient features. This approach results ...

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