Transforming Taxonomic Interfaces: “Arm’s length” Cooperative work and the maintenance of a long-lived classification system

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


If scientific research can be described as "arm's length'' cooperative work, then the sciences engaged in the creation and maintenance of cooperatively built classification systems might be said to require extremely long arms; workers must reach across great distances of time, space and awareness to independently contribute to the creation and maintenance of a conceptual infrastructure. This is particularly the case for the field of biological taxonomy, in which researchers across the globe have, for more than three hundred years, cooperatively developed a massive knowledge organization system describing all life on earth. As taxonomists move from paper-based workflows to born-digital, data-first modes of publishing, new tools and approaches are needed to support their work. In this paper, we present research conducted as part of the "Transforming Taxonomic Interfaces" project aimed at improving interfaces for taxonomic software. We describe biological taxonomy in the context of CSCW, and identify key strategies taxonomists deploy to facilitate loosely coupled cooperative work. We also contribute a discussion ofsemantic refactoring, a unique kind of "articulation work'' entailed in developing, maintaining, and migrating classification systems. This work has implications for the design and study of knowledge organization systems and infrastructure, classification research, and for the development of general semantic web tools and software as well as those specifically for biological taxonomy.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • INHS
  • “arm’s length” cooperative work
  • Taxonomy
  • Articulation work
  • Semantic refactoring
  • Classification
  • Biodiversity informatics
  • Loosely coupled cooperative work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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