In our discussion on Monday, we talked about the classification of clothes in a store like Walmart, and how the women’s/men’s sections may marginalize some shoppers. We asked: for a business like Walmart, is it more important to optimize the efficiency of shopping for most of your customers, or is it more important (and could it be more profitable) to provide equal, neutral categories that include all shoppers. We decided that it might be hard to de-categorize clothing sections of Walmart because it would reduce the ease and experience of shopping for the vast majority of customers.
However, when we consider the categorization of indigenous ontologies, we must adopt a new mode of thinking. The argument is the same: should we preserve inaccurate headlines that say “American Indian” because a majority of the population is likely to understand this term which makes it efficient? Or, should we strip down the existing system of tag lines and put effort toward improving the contextual accuracy of the categorization of indigenous information?
First, I think that we have to consider the context and the gravity of influence of the rhetoric in either situation. When Walmart cuts corners with its metadata, they’ve weighed the fact that this metadata’s rhetoric is not all that significant, and they take a risk in hopes of improved efficiency. However, when historical archives cut corners with their metadata to improve efficiency of research, they rewrite history. The rhetoric associated with the archival metadata makes a significant argument. The article, Imagining: Creating Spaces for Indigenous Ontologies, discusses how subjugating the Native Americans to a historical tag line ignores the current existence of these people. Also, they talk about how mediated titles rewrite a history of trauma, exploitation and genocide. Therefore, in the case of indigenous information pieces, efficiency does not trump accuracy.
One would hope that the information professionals will continue to improve their information systems, eventually reconciling efficiency and accuracy. It is one of the dangers of the digitized world that we will allow metadata to warp the histories of the marginalized. Therefore, in the case of the Native Americans, ” we should challenge ourselves to create systems that encourage flows of indigenous knowledge for and within indigenous communities” (700). Accuracy comes first.