This is Part 3 of the Other series
Caveat – the maps on this one are rough – don’t look for precise boarder mapping.
So! We can look at categories and labels in systems and find out about what those systems are expecting to describe – their scope. This tells us about what the system’s creators and users are expected to look for in terms of broad categories. These choices aren’t necessarily good or bad, but they are interesting. The DDS, for example, is really white christian centric. It prioritizes western, white, christian information, and leaves the rest of the world as Other.
In my school, we talked about one marker of how much privilege you hold in certain community is how easy it is to find information about yourself – the deeper you have to dig, the more times you have to turn to ‘other’ to find out information about your culture, race, heritage, or brain/body, the more it is clear that you are an outlier in that system. As we saw in the last installment, being an outlier has consequences.
So, so much research has gone into trying to create comprehensive categorization and organization systems for all the information we have. It’s WTF hard. There’s so much information out there and it’s impossible to represent the lives of every person. The point of this installment isn’t that categorization is bad (though I will point out that any time you create organizational structures, you create norms and outliers), but that the categories and structures of an information systems are as telling as its contents. The question is: who does this system describe? Who are its ‘others’?
Next up – the double edged sword of self identification!
FYI – there are two or three more chapters in this, and then we’ll be done 🙂