Public Knowledge, Private Ignorance, and an Analytic of Knowledge Organization

Robert D. Montoya, Gregory H. Leazer


Patrick Wilson’s writings have proven to be the foundation for much of our thinking about the organization of documents and their subtle connection to power structures that govern their construction and use. His examinations of public versus private knowledge, for example, expand how we understand individual and social epistemology within the field. In his writings, however, Wilson speaks as an idealist, generally glossing over the problem of how technologies mediate and impact the relationship between people, on the one hand, and the circulation and constitution of knowledge, on the other. He did not analyze how knowledge organization structures (KO) could be effective for some people or some forms of knowledge, and ineffective for others, nor did he analyze similarly the constitutive components of KO as they relate to the differential effects on the use of knowledge. We posit that pluralistic modes of understanding KO are a fruitful way forward for the discipline. This paper conceptualizes how we can build on Wilson’s critical conversations about epistemology in the domain of KO from three specific angles: KO as pluralized space, a political economy of KO, and KO and political pragmatics.

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