I posted an older story from Radiolab a few days ago, on trying to trace the history of the High Five, and so, since it’s the weekend, maybe you have 15 minutes to listen to another of their stories, this one from December 2011 — it’s worth it, I think.
It’s on international tax law (which is more exciting than you might think) and what happens when you import something classified as a “doll” (toys that represent people) versus a “toy” (not representing people). It gets interesting, though, when we see what happens when a toy manufacturer realizes the tax advantage to classifying their X-Men action figures as toys (i.e., non-human), despite the comic’s own plot involving the mutants’ fight for their right to be understood as human.
I first listened to this story after a student in one of my classes told me about it, using it as an example of how strategic agents use classification systems to attain their own goals. So glad she brought it to my attention — it’s a great e.g.
Looking at the implications of how we now rename governments as “regimes” once they fall out of our favor would be another good example — of how the way we classify signifies something about our interests and not about the identity of the object being named — but we’ll keep it a bit light for now and stick with dolls/toys, coz it’s the weekend.