We regretfully pass along news of the death of our author Susan Leigh Star, who passed away unexpectedly on March 24. At the time of her death, Star was on the faculty of the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh. Along with her husband, Geof Bowker, Star was a leader in the study of organization of information. One of her major works - Sorting Things Out, coauthored with Bowker - was a study of classification: the role that categories and standards play in the shaping of the modern world, and the moral-political consequences of classification systems. Here is a taste of the way they set out the contours of the study:
These standards and classifications, however imbricated in our lives, are ordinarily invisible. The formal, bureaucratic ones trail behind them the entourage of permits, forms, numerals, and the sometimes visible work of people who adjust them to make organizations run smoothly. In that sense, they may become more visible, especially when they break down or become objects of contention. but what are these categories? Who makes them, and how may change them? When and why do they become visible? How do they spread?
Star's graduate students have set up a blog, Remembering Leigh, to share memories of their former teacher. According to the university, the funeral will take place on Tuesday, March 30, at Freyvogel Funeral Home in Pittsburgh.
She will be missed.