Garbage Categories – 8/15/2012

Posted on August 15, 2012 by


It’s been almost 10 years since I first started blogging.  That was 2002, this is 2012.

  • I’m going to start yet a new thing, it always feels like I’m starting something new.  But this time it seems like it’s something that is easy for me…keeping daily logs of things I think about while in grad school.  I’d been writing up my abstracts/precis and annotated bibliographies, but it takes so much time to format things;  I get really lazy because I want to do a ton more things without worrying about .

When I was not in grad school, I so wanted to know about the life of someone in grad school.  Well, I guess this will be it, though I hope to make mine ‘critical-thinking’ and ‘constructive’ as opposed to ‘bitching and ranting’-oriented.

It’ll be bullet points of stuff.

Today and the next few days might be packed because I’m also putting down all the thoughts I’ve held onto for so long.

  • Design should do the following:
    • Make it easy to determine what actions are possible at any moment (make use of constraints)
    • Make things visible, including the conceptual model of the system, the alternative actions, and the results of the actions,
    • Make it easy to evaluate the current state of the system
    • Follow the natural mappings between intentions and the required actions; between actions and the resulting effect; and between the information that is visible and the interpretation of the system date  (Norman 1993:188).  In other make sure that the user can figure out what to do, and the user can tell what is the interpretation of the system state.
  • Major role of technology: make tasks simpler (Norman 1993:  191)
  • Design for error. (Norman 1993:  200)
  • When all else fails, standardize (Norman 1993: 200)  Essential only when all the necessary information cannot be placed in the world or when natural mappings cannot be exploited.  Standardize and you simplify lives, but not too quickly or too late (Norman 1993:  202)
  • We think in terms of categories.  Assuming that premise is true, I’m interested in what Leigh Star and Geoffrey Bowker called the “garbage categories”
  • We classify and categorize things so that we could put them in a social infrastructure, algorithm for action (Somewhere in Bowker)
  • “A standard is any set of agreed-upon rules for the production of (textual or material) objects”  (Bowker 1999: 13).  Intriguing about this quote is that I think about how I began my interest in Anthropology on the premise of questioning standards.  I also think about how I still hate standards and how it seems to keep a racial hegemony in place.  If standards are agreed-upon rules”, I know that people of color by-and-large haven’t been at the table to do any kind of agreeing.
  • A photo from a User Experience book about Usability
  • The Flesch-Kincaid readability test.
  • “Reality is “that which resists” according to Bruno Latour (Bowker 1999:49)
  • 3 Questions asked by Bowker (1999: 9):  What work do classifications and standards do?  Who does that work?  What happens to the cases that do not fit? 
  • When faced with too many alternatives and too much information, people satisfice (Bowker 1999: 24)
  • Marx refers to technology as “frozen labor” — work and its values embedded and inscribed in transportable form (Bowker 1999: 135)
  • Garbage categories include an array of categories where things get put that you do not know what to do with — the ubiquitous “other” (Bowker 1999:  149)  Garbage or residaul categories…tend to fix the maximum level of granularity that is possible.  Their advantage…they can signal uncertainty at the level of data collection or interpretation under conditions where forcing a more precise designation could give a false impression of positive data.  The major disadvantage is that the lazy or rushed death certifier will be tempted to overuse “other” (Bowker 1999: 150)
  • A monster occurs when an object refuses to be naturalized (Haraway 1992 via Bowker 1999:304)
  • Juggling of meanings (memberships and naturalizations) = categorical work (Bowker 1999: 310)  Monsters arise when the legitimacy of that multiplicity is denied.  Our residual categories in that case become clogged and bloated (310).  This finding reminds me of the institution of gangs and infrastructure.
  • Pluralistic Ignorance (Bowker 1999:  320)
  •  Infrastructure from Bowker (1999: 35)