Lily’s Cat Has an Index

At least that’s what she keeps saying. We don’t exactly know from where she grabbed the term, but it’s there and she’s using it to refer to something like a book. We haven’t pressed the matter yet because we’re so tickled by her rambling about the house talking about an index. Of course I am tickled by it, both because of the roles that indices play in folklore studies but also because of their role in information systems in general.

One could argue, I guess, that the folktale and motif indices were simply signs of their times, of the burgeoning of data and information that demanded in many ways that better technology be invented to process it. Perhaps, had the computer arisen earlier, we would still be driven by our typological impulses. Certainly, I am glad for the corrective of the ethnographic impulse. It’s where I’ve done most of my work in the last decade, but now with the rise of humanities computing and tools that can be actually used by mere mortals, I wonder what the future will hold not only for the field but also for myself.

And a quick reminder on what an [index is](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Index_(publishing)):

> An index is a list of words or phrases (‘headings’) and associated pointers (‘locators’) to where useful material relating to that heading can be found in a document. In a traditional back-of-the-book index the headings will include names of people, places and events, and concepts selected by a person as being relevant and of interest to a possible reader of the book. The pointers are typically page numbers, paragraph numbers or section numbers. In a library catalog the words are authors, titles, subject headings, etc., and the pointers are call numbers. Internet search engines, such as Google, and full text searching help provide access to information but are not as selective as an index, as they provide non-relevant links, and may miss relevant information if it is not phrased in exactly the way they expect.

Wikipedia disambiguates the above from the following:

* Index (mathematics), for various meanings of the word in mathematics
* Index (economics), a single number calculated from an array of prices and quantities. E.g., *Price index*, a typical price for some good or service, or *Operating Index*, a tool to compare the operating performance of a company with its peer universe
* Index (typography), a largely obsolete punctuation mark
* Indexing (motion), a kind of motion in many areas of mechanical engineering and machining
* Index (finance), a list of stocks
* Index (database), a feature in a computerized database which allows quick access to the rows in a table
* Index (information technology), either an integer which identifies an array element, or a data structure which enables fast lookup
* Index (search engine), for supporting information retrieval in search engines
* Webserver directory index, a default or index web page in a directory on a web server, such as index.html
* Subject indexing, describing the content of a document by keywords

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