I study the creation, use, and evolution of representations of concepts, focusing particularly on knowledge organizing systems. I am espeically interested in how taxonomies and other schemes interact with our own internal conceptual structures to guide and constrain how we seek information.


Current Projects

Categories and Concepts

There is a striking similarity between the models of categories that are used in cognitive science and the representations of concepts that are seen in knowledge organizing systems (KOS). In addition, the two disciplines naturally complement each other. Cognitive science provides an excellent framework for studying how KOS are used, while knowledge organization studies the manner in which concepts and categories are shared via explicit representations. This fundamentally interdisicplinary study compares concept representations that are be used to organize experiences in memory with concept representations that are used to organize books (or other items) in a collection. For example, it compares facet analysis with models of decision making. 



Influences of Hierarchies

When we navigate hierarchical structures, the manner in which concepts appear in the structure may influence how we think of about the topic area. Preliminary findings suggest that concepts that appear in the top level of a hierarchy become slightly more important to the people who use the hierarchy. This effect is not seen to be associated with concepts that appear at lower leves in the hiearchy. This study will measure the extent to which hierarchical structures shape the mental models of the people who use them. 





Explores how library users take what they know about one class of books and apply that knowledge to other, similar classes of books. Similarity is measured according to principles of knowledge organization. For example, books are similar if they share a subjct heading or if they are grouped near each other in a hierarchical classification system. This study will ultimately provide a new tool for the evaluation of knowledge organizing systems: the degree to which a system supports the making of inductive inferences.  



Classification of Financial Products

In the wake of the globabl financial crisis, much attention has been focused on how how financial products such as derivatives can be represented and organized. Working with Dr. Victoria Lemieux and the Open Financial Data Group (OFDG), we seek to identify principles for the creation and implementation of taxonomies of financial products. Part of this study is focused on the identification of "best practices" in a given situation. However, we also take a broad view, examining various approaches that have been taken (or could be taken) in the classification of financial products. We also consider general issues in the construction of taxonomies, such as the circumstances in which a taxonomic class might be considered a "species" as opposed to an ad hoc intersection of characteristics. 



School of Library, Archival and Information Studies

The iSchool@UBC

The University of British Columbia

Irving K. Barber Learning Centre

Suite 470 - 1961 East Mall, Room 480

Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1