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May 9, 2011

Bibliophily

by brainoids

Another lifelogging experiment with GraphViz-based network mapping, this time on my library of books (sample size 356, managed with the excellent little Mac app Delicious Library 2, notable for its iSight-barcode-scanning magic, and no relation to the social bookmarking service).

In this experiment I map the Library of Congress classification system through to its Dewey Decimal counterpart.  (For those playing along at home, Delicious Library adds DD numbers automatically upon import.  Sadly, though, LOC codes must be searched and added manually).   The classification bins in the network diagram below are scaled based on the number of books in each bin (width, height, and font size scaled by linear factors with the square root of book count), and the edge connections are similarly weighted by book count.

Pause for rationale:   Why?   Answer:  Why not?

Library of Congress codes are on the left here, Dewey on the right.   A couple of things jump out at me: for purposes of coarsely bucketing my “top-level” interests, the much-maligned Dewey system seems to do a better job (fewer buckets, better categories), although at the expense of granularity.

More interesting is that the process of network mapping (allowing the graph layout algorithm to rearrange both top and second layer categories, driven by the cross-system edge connections) yields to me what seems a more seamless “sequential” ordering of each top-level system.   For example, both systems nominally list Technology (mostly engineering) after Science, but for me, the societal element of technology/engineering clearly places it closer to the social science domain (or is this just my ex-civil-engineer’s sensibilities in action?).   The network-rearranged system captures this.

Network mapping also “repairs” some Dewey defects, moving History & Geography back up to a “proper” (LOC-driven) place in between Philosophy and Social Science.

Interestingly, the mapping places Literature and Language close to, and “after”, Science, rather than buried deeper in the social sciences.   Topologically I might envision an even better classification to be circular rather than linear in nature, with Language “wrapping around” to connect back up with Philosophy or Religion.

A similar exercise with a larger sample of books (unbiased by personal preference selection) might yield a very interesting “meta-classification” system (not that the world necessarily needs one!).

A more readable PDF version is available.

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