Taxonomies in Daily Life
Taxonomies can be defined as structural methods for organization and classification. When people hear the term taxonomy, they often think of the classification of animals, plants and insects. While these are taxonomies, they are not the only ones in the world around us, of course it is important to classify animals, plants and insects to understand them. It is also important in zoos and aquariums to separate predators and prey, salt water and fresh water, carnivores and herbivores, aquatic animals and animals on dry land. These are only the tip of the iceberg. We live in a society that relies on things being classified, sorted, and having a category.
When we look around the world we are surrounded by taxonomies, at the grocery store, restaurants, the mall, Target, shoe stores and even in our own homes. Let us take a deeper dive into some of these taxonomies that you may not even realize are around you.
When you walk into Target you see a clothing section, a grocery section, cosmetics section, toys, storage, electronics…. etc. All of these ways of sorting and organizing are taxonomies. When we go to the grocery section of the store, we find things in different sections of classifications, refrigerated food in one section, produce has its own section, frozen food, candy. These sections are the classifications, and we break them down even further, produce is sorted by type, apples are with apples but separate from oranges, avocados are separate from kiwis. This makes it possible for us to find what we are looking for in a quick and efficient way. Can you imagine walking into the grocery section and having everything all mixed together in one big section? Some produce would bruise or get crushed, it would be absolute chaos trying to find anything.
The same can be said in any section of the store, we have a section with books, these are sorted by genre and often in alphabetical order. These taxonomies make it possible for us to find specific books without having to navigate a giant pile. Another section with video games and movies, the games are sorted by gaming system and release date, the movies by genre, blue ray, DVD and also a separate section for TV series.
When we come home from Target, we see the taxonomies in our home, we put the frozen food in the freezer, the boxed and canned foods in our cupboards or pantries, the household items such as toilet paper or soap where the other items in these classifications are in our home. We put the movies with our other movies, the books in our bookshelves. We are surrounded by our organizational classifications. Many of the same sections we saw while shopping, we also have in our homes. We follow many of the same classification systems that we see in the world around us because this is what we learn and what makes sense to us.
We learn this behavior as small children both at home and at school, we learn to put things back where they belong, to keep like things together, the markers go with the art supplies, our individual socks get paired with another sock and put in a place in our rooms. When we get to school our teachers help us learn the order of the alphabet, what order numbers go in, these are taxonomies. We learn where to put our backpacks and where to eat our lunch, where to find books and puzzles and pencils. We rely on taxonomies every day to help us make sense of the world around us, though we may not even realize we are classifying and organizing things because this is just how we are used to living. I encourage you to start looking around you and noticing all of the taxonomies in your life, both digital and physical.