Integrating Practical and Epistemic Actors: Co-Constructing a Knowledge Organization System to Address Housing Insecurity in West Philadelphia


  • Samantha Stein University of Pennsylvania
  • Diana Susan Nicholas Drexel University
  • Yvonne Michael Drexel University
  • Thanh My Nguyen Drexel University alum
  • Kristen Giordano Drexel University



Actor-network theory, dependent origination, socio-technical structures, politics of artifacts, urban design, human-centered design, co-construction, participant-action framework, knowledge organization system, housing insecurity, culture of health, design research, information ecology, democratic innovation, participatory design, community-based participatory research


In response to colonial legacies of divisiveness and paternalism underpinning the development of knowledge organization systems (KOS) and thus impeding their appeal, accessibility, and usefulness to diverse stakeholders (Castleden, Morgan, and Lamb, 2012), this case study explores the challenges and opportunities inherent to the design of a malleable, sustainable KOS as part of an mHealth tool called Map the Gap. Map the Gap intends to reduce the burden of housing insecurity in West Philadelphia. By examining the active cultivation of communal ties between the “epistemic” and “practical” actors (Callon, 4, 2004) who substantiate Map the Gap, as well as the sociotechnical infrastructure which shapes and is shaped by such ties, the processes of collaboration underpinning functionality decisions are delineated. This paper reflects on the way KOS sociotechnical structures defy and challenge traditional academic and community models of research and development, thus requiring a unique, temporally-conscious embracement of select and dynamic collaborations. By elucidating and evaluating the considerations and practices central to Map the Gap, we seek to yield a template for cultivating healthy KOS sociotechnical structures.