Construct with meaning

As a data analyst, I am often in the position of taking a big group and dis-aggregating that group into a small number of categories. It may sound simple enough, but over time I’ve learned that the art of categorization is mired with missteps indeed. For instance, race and gender are constructs: rigid boxes that hold no true meaning for humanity yet because someone back in the day decided to construct them, now we have to pay attention to them in order to achieve justice equitably.

My current mantra when it comes to categorization: construct with meaning.

For example:

  • My playlists on Tidal are organized by emotion / state of being. For instance,
    • dancing in the kitchen = joy
    • staring out the window = pensive
  • My Firefox browser bookmarks are organized by verb. For instance,
    • Use = nifty Internet tools
    • Do = materials for self-learning/DIY
    • Spend = favorite small, conscientious businesses to buy from
    • Eat = recipes
  • My kitchen is organized by type of cooking / technique. For instance,
    • All of my cutting-related implements are in a drawer together
    • All of my baking implements are in a cabinet together
    • All of my most-used pots and pans are in a cart together

I have found that it is unlikely that my first categorization attempt is the “right” one. Rather, it takes iteration to get to a robust structure that is truly effective, getting to the heart of why we need to categorize anyways. It’s not to simply put things into a list or a box. It’s to propel us, humans, to act / think in a way that expands our perspectives and feeds our souls.

First published May 4, 2021.