The Integrative Levels Classification (ILC) is a recently developed knowledge organization system (KOS) that includes innovative features. Gnoli (2020) provides a general description of ILC with further bibliography.
While being inspired by traditional bibliographic classification schemes, it lists phenomena instead of disciplines, which makes it suitable for organizing any kind of documents, including museum specimens or digital information. Classes of phenomena are arranged according to the theory of levels of reality (Hartmann 1952), claiming that a series of levels of increasing organization can be identified in the real world, such that higher levels (e.g. consciousness) depend on lower ones (e.g. organisms) for their existence, but at the same time have emergent properties that cannot be found in lower levels (e.g. self-awareness). The series of ILC main classes is thus one of increasing organization, from the most primitive mathematical and physical entities to the most evolved achievements of human cultures (Gnoli, 2017a; Kleineberg, 2017):
The first edition (ILC1) was published in 2011 and included 7,052 classes and facets. A new edition (ILC2) has been published in 2019, which includes 10,851 classes and facets. ILC2 is available at the ILC project website (
Like any KOS in its first years, ILC evolves at a relatively quick pace, as a result of progress in research as well as feedback from testing it with actual applications. This paper focuses on the transition from ILC1 to ILC2, by illustrating the main changes that have been introduced in ILC2 and the theory behind them. Sections 2 and 3 concern changes in the list of main classes and relevant developments within some of them, especially mathematics. Section 4 concerns some changes in the fundamental categories on which facets are based. Section 5 concerns the notation for special facets as opposed to that for common facets, and their distinction from “attributes”. Section 6 briefly informs about publication in SKOS format, which will be the object of other papers. Section 7 discusses ongoing application to the BARTOC directory.
The sequence of ILC main classes has not changed much in its second edition. It is now acknowledged that such 25 levels can be grouped in some major “strata” as in Nicolai Hartmann’s version of levels theory: information (
A major change is that ILC1 class
After its move to
Among others, class
The main efforts in the expansion and development of the classification of mathematical structures have been conducted in order to reach an equilibrium between conflicting necessities, trying to maximize usability (both for the indexer and the user) while keeping the whole system as mathematically sound as possible.
Regarding mathematical soundness, we shall recall that all objects in mathematics are, ultimately, just sets. An ideal KOS for mathematical objects, reflecting the real technical nature of abstract structures in terms of sets, would become an extremely complicated system, which would appear practically unusable: in such a system, even common mathematical concepts would have extremely long and complex notations. Therefore, we had to acknowledge the unsuitability of such a perfect representation and accept some compromises in our classification.
Quite often, a given type of mathematical structure may be defined as a set endorsed by a family of properties: this leads to some problems when trying to include such objects in a KOS, as there is no a priori principle indicating in which order those properties shall be taken into account when defining their respective branchings. Occasionally, some properties can be seen as mathematically more fundamental than others, thus having a bigger priority and causing a branching at a prior rank of specificity, but most often there is no clear preference.
A related issue regards the uncertainty of the place of definition, as some structures may be well defined in different places in the tree. ILC endorses the principle of unique place of definition, so we had to choose only one spot for each structure type. By means of semantic factors it is nonetheless possible to indicate the semantical dependence of a concept with respect to another one defined in a different place in the schedules, thus keeping track of the ambiguity without loss of information.
Construction of classes for quantities and for dates is now possible by letters that stand for negative or positive digits in the same array and produce a correct ordering:
|numerals, decimal digits|
|−0 [zero in negative numbers]|
These digits can be reused to construct dates, as well as to identify persons (in a way similar to Colon Classification) by their birth time:
|year 1903 Common Era|
|persons by birth time|
|persons born in 1903 CE; Konrad Lorenz; John von Neumann|
Facets of ILC are based on a system of ten fundamental categories, expressed with digits
|ILC1 categories||ILC2 categories|
A remarkable innovation of ILC2 is the original category of “disorder” introduced at
In its most simple application, ILC allows for relevant concepts to be simply juxtaposed, as in mq nyr “animals: forests”. This application can be useful for quick indexing of a general collection of, for example, webpages, videos, or books.
Specialized collections like those of a domain bibliography may need more detailed expression of relationships between concepts, which can be performed by ILC facets. ILC has both
In ILC1, digits
Another improvement in the predictability of meaning from notation is that only facets that include a
The foci of a special facet are often
In ILC2, the latter meaning can now be expressed in the form of
Attributes usually consist of processes, properties or parts, that are conveniently listed in this order in schedules, though not marked in any particular way for now. However, processes can often be used as foci of process facets (
Expression of wheels as a part using a facet (in ILC1):
Expression of wheels as a phenomenon itself (newly added in ILC2):
This distinction between attributes (“wheels”) and faceted compounds (“vehicles, with wheels”) is an innovative feature of ILC as compared to other faceted classifications such as Colon or Bliss. It recognizes Brian Vickery’s (1975) conception, as reported by Coates (1988), that “facets may be characterised alternatively as categories of concepts or as a class of relationships between concepts”. The same consideration was also made by Jacques Maniez, as recently discussed by Hudon and Fortier (2018).
The structure of ILC as a freely faceted classification (Gnoli et al., 2011) has been analyzed in order to publish the scheme in SKOS format. SKOS has been chosen because it currently is the standard format for representing knowledge organization systems, despite other formats like OWL that allow for greater expressivity.
While not all structural elements can be represented accurately in SKOS, most classes, captions and synonyms can indeed be published as SKOS, which has been done in collaboration with University of South Wales Hypermedia Research Unit (Binding et al., 2020). The SKOS version of ILC2 is available on the ILC project website (
Visualization in Skosmos is also available on BARTOC Website by Andreas Ledl at Basel University Library.
Recent applications of ILC include indexing of the Basel Register of Thesauri, Ontologies and Classifications (BARTOC). In a previous study (Gnoli et al., 2018), ILC1 was used to classify a sample of KOSs in BARTOC. We assigned ILC1 class numbers in a freely combined way to 200 top-rated KOSs plus KOSs of the healthcare domain. By classifying the KOSs in BARTOC with ILC, we could compare the discipline-based DDC with the phenomenon-based ILC and analyze the knowledge dimensions of KOSs in BARTOC (Gnoli, Park, & Ledl, 2019). In accordance with the revision of ILC, ILC2 will be applied to the classification of KOSs in BARTOC.
Reclassification of KOSs in BARTOC can be done in two ways. The first way is to use a mapping table of ILC1 and ILC2. The class numbers of ILC1 applied to BARTOC are basic numbers listed in the ILC1 schedule, without facet indicators or combination of class numbers. Therefore, automatic reclassification is basically possible using mapping information between ILC1 and ILC2 classification scheme. In this process, not only the subclass numbers but also the main class numbers can be changed. For example, the KOS, Thesaurus of Clinical Signs is classified at
|ILC1 classmark||ILC2 classmark|
The first method is effective when the classmarks in ILC1 and in ILC2 are mapped in a 1:1 way. However, as ILC2 is revised, new classes are often created or subdivided. Therefore, it may be necessary to manually assign new classmarks in accordance with ILC2. The classmarks below are some examples of 1: N mapping between ILC1 and ILC2.
|ILC1 classmark||ILC2 classmark|
|“occupied as ||“occupation”|
|“cultural services”||“cultural services”|
Therefore, in this case, we can reclassify the KOS, International Migration and Colonization, by assigning new ILC2 classmarks after the analysis of the KOS characteristics. The KOS is classed at
|ILC1 classmark||ILC2 classmark|
We have reviewed the main changes introduced in ILC2 as compared to ILC1. These concern various areas, from specific classes and subclasses to general syntactical devices for expressing attributes and faceted combinations. Finally, we have shown how changes in classes can affect reclassification of BARTOC items, and evaluated some possible methods to perform it.
We believe that these cases can provide a useful example of how a general KOS with a yet young history can evolve in time. One challenge of this process clearly is conciliating freedom in experimenting new solutions with need of stability for test applications. Indeed, one can not wait until the system is “finished” before applying it, as applications are part of the feedback process that informs the evolution of the system itself. Our paper has tried to document various such changes that have been introduced in ILC2 in the very last years, both to keep track of them and to illustrate a process of KOS evolution between experimentation and stability.
|ILC1 classmark||ILC2 classmark|