Classification as Catachresis: Double Binds of Representing Difference with Semiotic Infrastructure.

Background This article explores the results of a three-year ethnographic study of how semiotic infrastructures—or digital standards and frameworks such as taxonomies, schemas, and ontologies that encode the meaning of data—are designed. Analysis It examines debates over best practices in semiotic infrastructure design, such as how much complexity adopted languages should characterize versus how restrictive they should be. It also discusses political and pragmatic considerations that impact what and how information is represented in an information system. Conclusion and implications This article suggests that all databased representations are forms of data power, and that examining semiotic infrastructure design provides insight into how culturally informed conceptions of difference structure how we access knowledge about our social and material worlds.

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