Knowledge Organization

Knowledge Organization is a research field about describing, representing, and organizing documents, bibliographical records, concepts, and subjects, whether these processes are done by human beings or computers. It has two main aspects: Knowledge organization systems (e.g., classification systems, thesauri and ontologies) and knowledge organization processes (e.g., description, naming, categorizing and indexing). Both aspects are represented in many different contexts, including archives, libraries, museums, databases, web-archives and search engines. In its full breadth, this field comprises the analysis, organization and communication of all kinds of domains of information and knowledge. Both aspects are also dependent on broader perspectives of knowledge organization (e.g., sociological and epistemological perspectives).

The research group works with knowledge organization in both a general theoretical level and within specific subfields like picture indexing and web indexing. Several members of the group work with contributions to the ISKO Encyclopedia of Knowledge Organization. We also work to be partners in the research project for developing an ontology for the writings of the logician and philosopher A.N. Prior (1914–1969).  In this connection we are interested developing the relevant theoretical aspects of knowledge organization, for example, problems related to the representation of different perspectives and interpretations of Prior’s work.

Research interests

Hans Dam Christensen

I work with knowledge organization in the narrow as well in the broad sense in relation to images, art history and museums. The publication "Rethinking image indexing?" (2016) problematizes more existing practices of picture indexing based on their theoretical assumptions as well as their practical realizations. The article "The framing of scientific domains: About UNISIST, domain analysis and art history" (2014) examines the discipline art history in a wide sense, including its historical phases. In my recent research the focus is increasingly on the knowledge organization systems and processes in museums.

Volkmar Engerer

My interests in the field of knowledge organization include among others the relationship between natural languages (for instance Danish, English, …) and controlled languages, which are used in information science (thesauri, classification schemata, semi-/non-structures query terms etc.). Are there “universals” in controlled languages, analogue to language universals in human (natural) language? How do semantic relationships in natural languages relate to them which are construed in controlled languages? Some more recent publications on these topics include the following:

  • Engerer (2017), “Exploring interdisciplinary relationships between linguistics and information retrieval from the 1960s to today”, Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 68/3 (March 2017), pp. 660-680. DOI: 1002/asi.23684.
  • Engerer (2017), “Control and Syntagmatization. Vocabulary Requirements in Information Retrieval Thesauri and Natural Language Lexicons”, Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 68/6 (June 2017), pp. 1480-1490. DOI: 1002/asi.23783.
  • Engerer (2018): „Das Vokabular zwischen Sprach- und Informationswissenschaft“, in: Janíková, Vera, Alice Brychová, Jana Velicková, Roland Wagner (Hrsg.) (2018), Sprachen verbinden. Beiträge der 24. Linguistik- und Literaturtage, Brno/Tschechien, 2016, Hamburg: Verlag Dr. Kovac, pp. 433 – 444.

Niels Ole Finnemann

Work with the history of digitalization and the development of concepts such as digital media, methods and materials. Recent years have focused on Internet-based communication- and knowledge formats (the third wave in the history of digitalization), including web archives and other complex and time-sensitive kinds of knowledge based on multiple sources, which are central in the global economy and for global monitoring and the coordination of natural resources, for example, in relation to the developmental goals of the UN. In relation to digital media the focus has been on the analysis of media, which are able to interfere with each other and thereby challenges former understandings of the computer as an autonomous and rule-governed machine as well as the narrow understanding of hypertext as an instrument for navigation for users.  

Recent publications:

Per Hasle

My approach to knowledge organization is two-pronged and draws on (1) rhetoric, and (2) the logic of time. Rhetorical elements are increasingly obvious and important in the development of e.g. websites and information systems as media of persuasion, and more general, influencing. A discipline such as Persuasive Technology bears witness to this. Within that part of rhetoric known as 'The Topics' an even stronger perspective can be found. 'The Topics' of rhetorical theory contains a cluster of concepts and methods aimed at investigating, organizing and presenting domains of knowledge (information). Hence, rhetoric anticipates knowledge organization by more than two millennia, and indeed can be seen as one particular approach to the field. Moreover, rhetoric shows considerable epistemological affinity to the domain-analytical approach to knowledge organization. - The logic of time is a field in its own right, and its relation to knowledge organization has so far not been explored – indeed the whole issue of temporality in relation to knowledge organization seems neglected and calls for future elaboration. The logic of time however offers a well-explored and powerful theoretical framework for undertaking such a task. Two members of this knowledge organization research group, Volkmar Engerer and myself, partake in the national research project The Primacy of Tense . The UCPH part of this project is particularly concerned with the development of a digital research infrastructure for studies of the logic of time and its founder Arthur N. Prior. I am responsible for this part of the national project. Examples of relevant publications:

Birger Hjørland

I work with theoretical aspects of taxonomy, semantic relations and concept analysis based on a theoretical development in the wake of thinkers like Martin Heidegger, the late Ludwig Wittgenstein and Thomas Kuhn. Other core aspects of my work are the implications of a meta-scientific perspective on knowledge organization (KO) and the changing roles of KO following the triumphs of search engines. I am the editor-in-chief of the ISKO Encyclopedia of Knowledge Organization ( Examples of recent publications are:

Lars Konzack

Working with digital culture and knowledge organisation based on genres. Special focus on video game genres and internet memes from a genre perspective. The theoretical inspiration for this may be found in Tzvetan Todorov, Roger Caillois, and Espen Aarseth.

Examples of recent publications:

  • Konzack, Lars. 2018. “Internet Phenomenon”. Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, editor. Fourth Edition. Hershey, PA: IGI global, 8015-22.
  • Konzack, Lars. 2018. “Transmediality”. The Routledge Companion to Imaginary Worlds, edited by Mark J. P. Wolf. New York, NY: Routledge, 134-140.

Martin Thellefsen

My approach to knowledge organization is from the perspective of semiotics. In my view, knowledge organization systems are sign systems that cultivate and sustain the meaning of objects (conceptual as well as natural). However, my interests are also related to knowledge organization systems (KOS), in particular contemporary KOS as e.g. ontologies and data driven information architectures. Also, I am generally concerned with studies of information and it’s underlying epistemological and ontological assumptions, including critical analysis of prevailing conceptual understandings. Examples of relevant publications:

  • Friedman, A., & Thellefsen, M. (2011). Concept theory and semiotics in knowledge organization. Journal of Documentation, 67(4), 644-674.
  • Thellefsen, M., Thellefsen, T., & Sørensen, B. (2018). Information as signs: A semiotic analysis of the information concept, determining it’s ontological and epistemological commitments. Journal of Documentation, 74(2), 372-382.
  • Thellefsen, T., Thellefsen, M., & Sørensen, B. (2013). Emotion, information, and cognition, and some possible consequences for library and information science. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 64(8), 1735-1750.


Christensen, Hans DamProfessor +45 353-21325E-mail
Engerer, Volkmar PaulAssociate professor +45 353-21341E-mail
Hasle, Per Frederik VilhelmProfessor +45 53 53 66 88E-mail
Hjørland, BirgerProfessor +45 353-21342E-mail
Konzack, LarsAssociate professor +45 353-21306E-mail
Thellefsen, Martin MuderspachAssociate professor +45 353-21355E-mail