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In a nutshell
Category is just labeling, it is not used in the product functionally. It is just an editors hint.
A subtype is a categorization of an assettype, For flex assets it maps to the definition of the asset, ie an asset definition News of assettype Article will be a News subtype of the Article assettype. The definition holds the attributes an asset can have.
A assocaition is a link between one asset and another, for instance from a article to an image. It is used to retrieve for instance all images for a specific article (all 'image' associations form the aricle)