Concretes, countries, and processes in Julius O. Kaiser's Theory of Systematic Indexing: A case study in the definition of general categories

Thomas M. Dousa


Although general categories are an important feature of many KOSs, they are difficult to define. If we are to understand the factors that render category definition difficult, we should consider how designers of past KOSs have defined the categories in their systems. This paper presents, as a case study, an analysis of the formulation of categories in J. Kaiser’s theory of systematic indexing, which was designed for the indexing of commercial literature. Kaiser’s theory posited three categories: concretes, countries, and processes. Close examination of his writings reveals semantic tensions in the definition of each category. Concretes were defined both in general terms as things-in-the-world and in domain specific terms as commodities; Countries were defined as political units but included geographical regions that were not politically unified; and Processes were defined alternately as conditions of concretes or actions associated with them. Tensions also appear in the categorial scheme comprising these categories, of which there were dyadic (Concrete-Process) and triadic (Concrete-Country-Process), the former of which was grounded on a theoretical model and the latter, on pragmatic, domain-specific considerations. Kaiser’s attempts to harmonize these models by deriving countries from concretes faltered because of his narrow construal of concretes. The tensions in Kaiser’s definition of categories are due to semantic overdetermination, while those associated with his categorial scheme are ascribable to the general tension between theory and practice.

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