Free Trial

Safari Books Online is a digital library providing on-demand subscription access to thousands of learning resources.

Share this Page URL

Chapter 5: Consistency > The Order of Things - Pg. 118

96 Chapter 5: Consistency classification system is linked deeply and inextricably to the social layers that produce it, and vice versa: all social systems deeply reflect themselves in the classification systems they produce. The book explores the fault line between folk classification, the one we constantly operate as we live our lives, and scien- tific classification, "a fracture that is constantly being redefined and changing its nature as the plate of lived experience is subducted under the crust of sci- entific knowledge" (Bowker & Star 1999, p. 67). One of the best and shortest examples deserves to be reported in full (Bowker & Star 1999, p. 38): Howard Becker relates a delightful anecdote concerning his classification by an airline. A relative working for one of the airlines told him how desk clerks handle customer complaints. The strategy is first to try to solve the problem. If the customer remains unsatisfied and becomes very angry in the process, the clerk dubs him or her "an irate." The clerk then calls the supervisor, "I have an irate on the line," shorthand for the category of an irritated passenger. One day Becker was having a difficult interaction with the same airline. He called the airline desk, and in a calm tone of voice, said, "Hello, my name is