Classification is the process of grouping things according to shared properties, structure and characteristics. This is a foundation for thinking, knowledge and communication. The following are illustrative examples of a classification.
LanguageLanguage is largely a system of classification. For example, the noun "tree" describes a large set of plants that have properties in common such as a lifespan of more than two years. Likewise, verbs such as running or meditating classify actions and states.
Labels & TagsA common method of classification is to simply develop a set of labels, also known as tags, that can be attached to things. For example, labeling books as fiction and non-fiction.
CategoriesA system of assigning things to categories such as hurricanes that are categorized from Category 1 to Category 5 based on a scale that measures their severity. Categories suggest a single designation for each thing. This can be contrasted with labels that allow for an entity to be added to many groups such as a book that is labeled fiction, science fiction and American literature.
Coding SystemA coding system is a classification system that maps entities to numerical or alphanumeric codes. For example, healthcare systems often develop codes that map to things like diseases and medical procedures. Codes are less human usable than words and can represent a form of latent human error. However, they serve to introduce formality as codes map to a single concept whereas language tends to be somewhat ambiguous.
MappingMapping is the process of creating a link from one entity to another. For example, activity based costing is the practice of mapping all business costs to a product, service, business unit, program or project to provide accountability and visibility into cost.
ClassesA class is a collection of sets. For example, vehicle is a class that contains sets of trucks, cars, bicycles and other modes of transport.
Structured ClassificationsClasses can be given a structure such as a tree structure whereby classes have a parent-child relationship that can extend to any number of levels with each child inheriting properties from its parent. For example, culture is the parent of art and art is the parent of painting.
Statistical ClassificationStatistical classification is the process of assigning observations to a category or set of labels. This is a basic problem in statistics, science and artificial intelligence. For example, a self-driving car that needs to decide if a moving object is a pedestrian, car, bicycle or other entity such as leaves being blown by the wind. An algorithm that performs statistical classification is known as a classifier.
TaxonomyTaxonomy is the science or practice of designing classification systems. In many cases, a taxonomy has a complex structure with detailed specifications that can be used to classify things into categories. The term taxonomy comes from biology but is often used to describe other large classification systems in other subjects. For example, Bloom's taxonomy is a model for classifying educational learning objectives based on a three-tiered hierarchy.
OntologyOntology is a term from philosophy that extends from efforts to identify all entities that exist and the relationships between these entities. Generally speaking, ontologies are more complex than taxonomies as they include many types of relationships between entities as opposed to more simple parent-child relationships.
StandardsIn many cases, standards include a classification system such as a standard vocabulary and set of definitions that can be used to classify things. For example, a risk management standard that includes categories of risk.
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