Despite the fact that the first day of Spring occurred only a couple weeks ago, it appears that winter is finally upon us. The eighth and final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones officially premieres on April 14th, and the anticipation by fans continues to increase.
As a latecomer to Game of Thrones, I spent the majority of the first season attempting to figure out which kingdoms belonged to each continent and how all of the show’s characters are connected to each other. As a bit of a self-proclaimed data science nerd, by determining the familial and geographic connections between the plethora of kingdoms, I hoped to gain better insight into the various facets of the different characters and locations so that I could more effectively binge watch the show later. Needless to say, I spent the majority of the first season pausing the show to research all of the relationships. It was in this endeavor to become a true Game of Thrones fan that I recognized first-hand the value of a taxonomy in understanding large quantities of information. By having accessible and well organized taxonomies for Game of Thrones, I was not only able to visualize the geographic list of connections that exist between an increasingly complex number of provinces and cities, but I was able to quickly anticipate the repercussions of one character’s actions on all of the other characters in the show.
A Taxonomy of Westeros
Game of Thrones takes place on two major continents: Westeros and Essos. For the purposes of this blog, I will walk through how I created organized controlled vocabularies specifically for the continent of Westeros.
Metadata, or data about data, is descriptions of information. The description, usually in the form of keywords or “tags,” helps identify an object so that it can be found and used appropriately. So, when a user searches by topic, the tags will help return the right results. The metadata fields make your content easier to find, and allow your data to be used easily in more than one place. One type of metadata field is a controlled vocabulary, or taxonomy, in which values for that field are selected from a controlled list of terms. Taxonomies help to ensure quality and guide the consistent application of tags used to describe content. The use of multiple metadata fields, controlled by taxonomies, allow us to create facets by which a user can search for content from different perspectives. Since I wanted to create a faceted taxonomy, the two primary metadata fields that I selected for my taxonomies are geography and people for the continent of Westeros.
Taxonomy #1: The Geography of Westeros
Most of Westeros is covered by a political entity known as the seven kingdoms (with nine constituent regions). Using my knowledge of taxonomy, I organized the larger regions or provinces of the seven kingdoms within the continent of Westeros.
The graphic above served as my foundational geography taxonomy design for Westeros throughout the majority of the show. As more prominent locations were mentioned throughout the first few seasons, in relation to the provinces or regions of the seven kingdoms, I began to grow my taxonomy design to include any new locations within this scope as second level terms under each region. By the end of the seventh season, my taxonomy looked like this:
Taxonomy #2: The People of Westeros
As my geographical locations continued to grow, I recognized that Geography is only one way of discerning what Westeros looks like. Another way of defining Westeros is by its people, specifically the Houses and Bannermen. By having taxonomies built around two primary metadata fields, I was able to choose how I wanted to explore and better understand Westeros.
People Taxonomy, Level #1: Houses
In the last seven seasons, the show has killed off characters left and right, and some of the great families of Westeros are in serious danger of dying out altogether. While House Stark has suffered a few losses, other Houses are in more dire shape. As of Game of Thrones Season seven, Daenerys is the only known surviving member of the House Targaryen, and is currently building up her army’s strength at Dragonstone. House Tully has been displaced with their lands taken away from them. Currently, Sansa of House Stark is ruling Winterfell. As of season seven, the houses are as follows:
** = Indicate Houses where everyone from the ruling house has died, and so it is unclear who is currently ruling
People Taxonomy, Level #2: The Bannerman
As the breadth of the people of Westeros continued to grow wider, it was important to recognize the Bannerman associated with each of the ruling houses. In a taxonomy of people, these would be considered second level terms, meaning they are below the ruling house in the taxonomic hierarchy just as they are below the ruling house in terms of fealty.
In Westeros, lesser houses that have pledged fealty to the ruling house are known as bannermen. Bannermen rule their lands with autonomy, but pay their taxes to the lord of their ruling house. They have the ability to rely on their lord for protection and help, but are also expected to answer the call when their lord summons.
Each bannerman is his own respective lord with his own respective armies. The measure of a house seems to be its wealth and the number of bannermen that have sworn loyalty to it. It is important to note that houses and bannermen shift a lot throughout the show. Ultimately, when a lord is killed, his bannermen are no longer bound to him and have the ability to pledge fealty to another ruling house. It will be important to update our taxonomy as changes are made to the hierarchy of bannermen and ruling houses throughout Season 8. Ensuring that my taxonomy grows holistically to accommodate the growing and evolving taxonomies, speaks to the dynamism of taxonomies in general and the importance of taxonomy governance, which you can read more about here.
As of the end of Season 7, the well-known bannermen associated with each house are shown below:
From GoT to your Business Taxonomy
This Game of Thrones taxonomy is a perfect example of how designing a taxonomy can benefit any individual who is trying to organize and classify copious amounts of information so that it is more easily findable. In the same way that a GoT fan can binge watch every season, gain access to endless amounts of information, and streamline this information into a logical taxonomy, all of your business information is right in front of you, ready to be organized and classified. Like many effective taxonomies, the Game of Thrones taxonomy was relatively flat, user-friendly, and flexible. The facets outlined in the taxonomy above work together to provide an overall understanding and overview of Westeros and two of its major defining features. A business taxonomy can improve productivity by helping employees and other stakeholders find information quickly and reliably. By establishing a common terminology and structure, a taxonomy can also improve communication among various employee groups and add value by representing the company’s accumulated knowledge. As we move into the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, the use of a taxonomy design such as this will make it easier to keep track of who might win the game and, ultimately, sit on the iron throne.
Developing a strategy and approach for effective enterprise taxonomy design can feel as intimidating as hand-to-hand combat with the Night King. Whether you’re seeking to refresh an existing taxonomy design, align multiple designs, or create and implement a brand new taxonomy for your organization, Enterprise Knowledge possesses the expertise to ensure your efforts reflect the needs of your organization. Our efforts will provide you with an intuitive and sustainable design that includes the flexibility necessary to adapt with the evolving needs of your organization. To learn more about how we can support your taxonomy needs, contact us!
Photos courtesy of thrones.obdurodon.org and penguin.com