Concept Term Repurposing: Framing Shifts in Domains and Terminology


  • Laura Ridenour University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee



As language is our primary means of communication, the words we choose to use are critical to conveying meaning. Dahlberg (2006) explains how knowledge can be shared by means of language through space and time. Time, space, and educational background can all play parts in a loss of intended meaning. Shared conceptualizations between domains may be represented by different terminology, but when the concepts align and are used to communicate across multiple disciplines, they are referred to as boundary objects (Bowker and Star 1999). Disciplines evolve, and new disciplines are formed as science and our understanding of the universe change and new knowledge is produced (Zhang and Jacob 2013). Understanding how disciplines form and select terminology to reflect shared epistemological stances and nuanced understandings of new concepts requires domain knowledge. The way in which we communicate our understanding of knowledge we have created is in both language and symbology, but information systems do not allow for the mutability and evolution of language without human intervention (Tennis 2002). Repurposing concept terms from other disciplines may aid in understanding of the implications of newly described concepts in new fields, but may also cause concept ambiguity for both humans and information systems. In this paper, I explore the relationship between disciplinary formation, human understanding, and terminology. Pieces cited in this paper are classic to the foundations of knowledge organization (KO). Contributing a theoretical framework for understanding how these three pieces of the communication puzzle are formed will create a basis on which to study the phenomenon of the creation and reuse of concept terms.