Week 4 Post

This weeks readings really reminded me of mismatched ontologies and the Duarte and Bellarde-Lewis reading, “Imagining: Creating Spaces for Indigenous Ontologies”. The reading discusses Native American history and artifacts which have been historically miscategorized when confined to the standards set according to western ontology; they have a different belief system and when we impose a single system on these objects it is impossible to convey the complexities of the object or accurately record histories.

When reading “Cataloging Cultural Objects A Guide to Describing Cultural Works and Their Images” I was about dismayed by its inability to deal with multicultural objects. The standards set in place to make archival processes easier to understand and knowledge more transferable to data, strips the object of its autonomy and multidimensionality. As someone who works with museum systems, I see the importance of guidelines in managing collections,  however, I also see how it fail objects whose lifetimes existed far outside of purely aesthetic utility.

The extensive guidelines for categorization that have been set out in the past and are derived from “Anglo” standards fail to represent the nature of all objects. It it is impossible to set a universal method for archiving and discussing objects because in many cases the “controlled vocabulary” does not match the ontology of many people who are trying to use those categories. Wallack, Seddon, and Srinivasan’s “Reconciling Mismatched Ontologies in Development Information Systems” discusses how these instances of mismatched ontologies result in information loss and tangible consequences that impact communities in specific ways especially when the power dynamics involved in archiving have been weaponized against minorities with non-western ontologies in the past. While I recognize the importance of archival guidelines, I am critical of who has historically been in charge of managing databases and now has the power to set the confines through which they are defined.

3 thoughts on “Week 4 Post”

  1. Both you and Mariam thought of the Duarte and Belarde-Lewis article this week! I’m so glad you made that connection; it’s a really important one.

  2. This is a great analysis. It leaves me thinking of whether we should adopt a new standard that includes non-anglo art or if we should make a separate standard since since there are fundamental differences in what is important to each kind of art. I think when dealing with something as interpretative and culturally biased as art, it is difficult to catalog them as if it were a static object.

    1. Your post made me think about the process of creating community archives. I think a model of community archiving, extensive conversations between institutions and communities about objects and co-curating could help limit the negative affects of mismatched ontologies, and information loss.

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