Monday, March 8, 2010

The Art of Cataloging

We all have heard the cataloging is an art not a science and last month at the Northern California VRA meeting, I heard Dr. Judy Weidman of San Jose State's SLIPS explain exactly how.  She is in the process of developing a thesis on "Design Theory: Creating local vocabularies for images."  She is basing much of her design theory on architectural writings, because as she said, they seem the most self-analytical, which is one way to put it.   I found her approach very refreshing. It may just be that, as a former architect, her approach is familiar to me, but also I was amazed at how it did work to guide my current efforts.  She had several premises: uncertainty is always present, Design is non linear and you are imposing an order.  The uncertainty comes from the fact that there is no absolutely right way to describe anything. It is non-linear because one choice influences another. Nor is it organic or meant to be, the cataloger is creating the structure, not revealing it.

The real crux of her argument for me was that one must define the problem before solving it, Obvious I know, but not always done. Many strive to fully and accurately describe an object, when maybe we should be striving to meaningfully describe it. To do that, we must define the audience that is looking for the meaning. As many of us know that can sometimes be the hardest description to accurately create.

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