Description and search labor for information retrieval

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Selection power is taken as the fundamental value for information retrieval systems. Selection power is regarded as produced by selection labor, which itself separates historically into description and search labor. As forms of mental labor, description and search labor participate in the conditions for labor and for mental labor. Concepts and distinctions applicable to physical and mental labor are indicated, introducing the necessity of labor for survival, the idea of technology as a human construction, and the possibility of the transfer of human labor to technology. Distinctions specific to mental labor, particular between semantic and syntactic labor, are introduced. Description labor is exemplified by cataloging, classification, and database description, can be more formally understood as the labor involved in the transformation of objects for description into searchable descriptions, and is also understood to include interpretation. The costs of description labor are discussed. Search labor is conceived as the labor expended in searching systems. For both description and search labor, there has been a progressive reduction in direct human labor, with its syntactic aspects transferred to technology, effectively compelled by the high relative costs of direct human labor compared to machine processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1783-1790
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology
Issue number12
Early online date24 Aug 2007
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Library and Information Sciences

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