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Heterarchy: an unranked or many-ranked structure

I've been writing Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter for the past few weeks. I came across the following term, heterarchy, which might be a word people using Zettelkasten should know.

Hofstadter's explanation is in relation to self-referencing (or recursive) structures, which are inter-connected in such a fashion that nothing can be said to be the top-level or bottom-level. It is not a flat hierarchy, but a heavily connected network of relationships. I thought that sounded very familiar to something I knew ;)

There is a Wikipedia article on the subject too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterarchy

Comments

  • Thanks for sharing that! Interesting concept. I particularly like the fact that there can be 'multiple hierarchies' within a heterarchy.

  • Finally! A term to describe one's Zettelkasten as a whole and simultaneously have another term for e.g. structure notes. -- That's not exactly easier to understand for folks who don't know the concept of heterarchy, but it can help be more clear in writing, when all we had before was "web of notes" and "hypertext" in opposition to structure notes.

    Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

  • @henrikenggaard
    I've been writing Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter for the past few weeks.

    NICE! You are writing it?!?!?! :wink:

    But serious. Many thanks for hinting at this concept. I it encapsulate many things I try to describe.

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast said:

    @henrikenggaard
    I've been writing Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter for the past few weeks.

    NICE! You are writing it?!?!?! :wink:

    Haha! I wish I could manage such a feat. Here I am struggling with my ~11 page article in my work :)

  • edited August 17

    @sfast is there any writings besides Johannes F.K. Schmidt serendipity paper in regards to the organization of Luhmann's zettelkasten. You see people mentioning the desire to not pigeon hole information by creating categories but it seemed that Luhmann himself used categories, which leads me to believe I'm missing something?

    From Schmidt's serendipity article, "The first collection features 108 sections differentiated by subject areas, exploring and reflecting on largely predetermined, fairly detailed fields of knowledge". Wouldn't this be the same as using categories and thereby creating a hierarchy of sorts?

    Is it just that the notes themselves are non-hierarchical, but its fine having non note based hierarchies /or categories. Or is that there is not really a hierarchy because there isn't a third level of ranking? It is just top level categories --> all the notes. Or it is a heterarchy in the sense of notes "possess the potential to be ranked a number of different ways."

  • edited August 17

    Wouldn't this be the same as using categories and thereby creating a hierarchy of sorts?

    Not really. According to my understanding of heterarchy, it is not the opposite of hierarchy. Rather, there can be multiple hierarchies.

    This goes for Luhmann as well: he gives notes a 'position' of sorts because the note has an identifier, branching out from an existing note, according to which it is placed in the collection of cards, which is based on topic, but that is just to easily retrieve it (which is important, given the physical nature of Luhmann's ZK). But other than that, internal links and references mean that multiple hierarchies can co-exist.

    In fact, he argues against a premade list of topics:

    For the inner life of the card index, for the arrangement of notes or its mental history, it is most important that we decide against the systematic ordering in accordance with topics and sub-topics and choose instead a firm fixed place (Stellordnung).

    [...]

    It is sufficient that we give every slip a number which is easily seen (in or case on the left of the first line) and that we never change this number and thus the fixed place of the slip.

    from Communicating with Slip Boxes, a translation of a text by Luhmann: http://luhmann.surge.sh/communicating-with-slip-boxes

    So the only thing that is fixed, is the number and the position in the physical Zettelkasten. All the other things (connections, branches, references to the notes in registers) are flexible and can be changed as the multiple hierarchies change.

  • @Nick said:
    @sfast is there any writings besides Johannes F.K. Schmidt serendipity paper in regards to the organization of Luhmann's zettelkasten. You see people mentioning the desire to not pigeon hole information by creating categories but it seemed that Luhmann himself used categories, which leads me to believe I'm missing something?

    These are the publications that stem from this Luhmann Archive: https://uni-bielefeld.de/(en)/soz/luhmann-archiv/publikationen.html

    From Schmidt's serendipity article, "The first collection features 108 sections differentiated by subject areas, exploring and reflecting on largely predetermined, fairly detailed fields of knowledge". Wouldn't this be the same as using categories and thereby creating a hierarchy of sorts?
    Is it just that the notes themselves are non-hierarchical, but its fine having non note based hierarchies /or categories. Or is that there is not really a hierarchy because there isn't a third level of ranking? It is just top level categories --> all the notes. Or it is a heterarchy in the sense of notes "possess the potential to be ranked a number of different ways."

    I belief that it could count as categories. However, I am not settled with my opinion on his Zettelkasten, though my early speculations seemed to be right. (e.g. Folgezettel)

    I am a Zettler

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