The way encyclopedia and knowledge organization interact

Steven Laporte, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium)

Abstract | This presentation brings the key findings of the entry about encyclopedia for the ISKO Encyclopedia of Knowledge Organization (IEKO). We will disclose the different conceptual methods for organising the content of an encyclopedia as they have been introduced throughout the ages, as well as the epistemological tradition it was rooted in.

No single body of work epitomizes the idea of ‘a collection of knowledge’ better than the encyclopedia. Throughout the ages, encyclopedia have presented themselves as the tangible and reliable outcome of mankind’s pursuit of learning. Within their bindings one could find the provisional yield of knowledge that was produced by a given cultural system. To be able to assert this claim, the publishers, editors and authors of encyclopedia had to go beyond the task of just producing an instrument of education, or a mere list of topics complemented with their definitions. To achieve their goal, they must effectively embody the ruling paradigm on what knowledge is and how it can be structured in the age in which it is published. Every encyclopedia carries a particular epistemological framework or worldview. This worldview determines the possible modes of structuring knowledge that are considered acceptable, and they in turn seek to be implemented in the most efficient way that the technological possibilities of the age permit. It is therefore paramount that we consider the historical and intellectual backdrop to which different kinds of encyclopedias where created. Inversely, the study of an encyclopedia amounts to an opportunity to examine the worldview of the period in which it was conceived. To successfully analyse this subject, we will consider a wide range of different aspects, ranging from the social and economic circumstances to technological opportunities. We will pay close attention to the processes that are involved with the aggregation of the texts that make up an encyclopedia, and to the editorial process. Our main aim will be to establish in what modes of organising the content of an encyclopedia are used and how they relate to shifting paradigms in knowledge organisation.

Bio | Steven Laporte is a librarian and a philosopher, working at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). He holds master’s degrees in Moral Sciences (University of Ghent), Logic and the Philosophy of Science (VUB), Arts & Culture Management and Library and Information Science (University of Antwerp). His research interests include epistemology, knowledge organisation, the dissemination of information literacy and current issues in academic publishing. He is currently working on a doctorate concerning philosophical questions in knowledge organization.

Event Timeslots (1)

Day 1 | Thursday, June 20
Steven Laporte, Free University Brussels (Belgium)