Cataloguing, knowledge and power
This paper seeks to unpick the changing perceptions of the concepts contained in its title and investigate some of the relationships between them. It does this by exploring the history of modern cataloguing from the mid 1800s to the present day. It is argued that over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries cataloguing developments took place predominantly in the library world and, understood through the principles of European Enlightenment thought, catalogues were perceived to provide the public with access to external knowledge and thus empower them. It then identifies technological, cultural and ideological developments in the twentieth century, notably the rise of ‘postmodernism’, as challenges to both the primacy of library catalogues and the tradition of Enlightenment thought within which they were conceived. Finally, it argues that corporate digital companies are now at the forefront of cataloguing and explores the way in which the public have become the subject of these catalogues. Drawing upon Foucauldian theory, it is suggested that rather than allowing knowledge and power to flow to the public these catalogues enable corporate and government bodies to hold it over the public and use it to influence their lives in unprecedented ways.
Copyright (c) 2019 Thomas J. Cridford
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g. post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g. in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).
The points concerning acknowledgment in clauses 1 and 2 are waived if an author chooses to publish work under a Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain license. This waiver in no way affects standard academic conventions for the need to cite prior work.
If you have any queries about the choice of license, or which to discuss other options, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org