Zettelkasten Forum


Building Knowledge in Multiple Disciplines

Hello,

I was having a conversation with @Will and I mentioned that I see my ZK as having multiple "wings." One rather active one at the moment focuses on the topic of my university studies (GIS). Another active wing is clustered around the (different) discipline I teach (Literature & Poetics). Other wings cluster around other central interests -- don't worry, I won't list them all! (@_@) My point is that I don't want my ZK to be siloed even as structure is starting to emerge.

This brought a question to mind. Most of us, it seems, use our ZK to build knowledge in a discipline. What about building knowledge between disciplines? My mentor calls this "kaleidoscopic thinking" -- all the pieces are the same but they are reflected and rearranged in new ways.

How does your ZK support interdisciplinarity?

Observations logged here: write.as/via-poetica

Comments

  • Lol that was the whole point of Luhmann's Zettelkasten. From Johannes F.K. Schmidt's paper on Luhmann's Zettelkasten

    "Luhmann’s card index allows the production of new and often unexpected knowledge by relating concepts and thoughts that do not have much in common at first sight: One could say that it makes — to use Robert Merton’s term5 — serendipity possible in a systemically and theoretically informed way."

    My own ZK supports interdisciplinary because I read and take notes on interdisciplinary topics. It just happens naturally because I read a wide variety of topics. I consider notes knowledge that you don't have room for mentally, so I tend to look at my zettelkasten through the different types of knowledge. I also look at it through the lens of the humanities and branches of science.

  • @Sociopoetic said:

    Most of us, it seems, use our ZK to build knowledge in a discipline. What about building knowledge between disciplines? My mentor calls this "kaleidoscopic thinking" -- all the pieces are the same but they are reflected and rearranged in new ways.

    How does your ZK support interdisciplinarity?

    I'm very new to this, but I have felt no desire to build knowledge in one discipline; in fact, just the opposite. I've been around for a long-ish time, long enough to realize the multi-disciplinarity of the ideas roiling around in my brain. I do the same as @Nick - I write notes on a variety of topics, and so far, in a seemingly random manner. If some idea springs to mind and I think "That needs to go into my ZK", I immediately create a note in TA with a descriptive title (or just jot that title down in Notes on my phone), and then pursue it later that day or the next day. When adding tags and making connections between notes, I usually realize that the process of coming up with a new note was not all that random, but tied in some way to what I have been thinking or reading or talking about with a friend.

  • I get all this, and it's why I savor the ZKM. That said, I think I phrased my question poorly. I shall try again:

    Given a ZK with multiple disciplines, how have you noticed cross-disciplinary emerge? Do you prune and cultivate the connections in specific ways? Conversely, how do you nurture those connections without descending into the chaos of all-things-are-connected?

    Observations logged here: write.as/via-poetica

  • @Sociopoetic said:
    Given a ZK with multiple disciplines, how have you noticed cross-disciplinary emerge?

    I think it's easier to spot when you say it in very mundane terms: did you ever find yourself linking two notes from different fields of study together? (Like city architecture patterns + computer programming = programming design patterns?)

    It's hard to pin down what "nurture" and "emerging" is supposed to look like, because when I think "emergence", I foolishly expect something amazing. Like a surprise book. But a book like that would start very simple, one connection, one Zettel at a time.

    I'd like to think it's the same experience for most practicioners: when you link notes together, you sometimes have a "huh, that's weird, but cool" moment, and that's all there is. No heavenly trumpets, no anchel choirs to be heard -- and still you've 'done' interdisciplinary work somehow.

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

  • What counts as different disciplines?

    I've found a weird paradox. Knowledge about a subject gives the ability to tell subfields and domains apart -- yet the same knowledge can also be used to bridge seemingly unrelated topics.

  • @henrikenggaard said:
    What counts as different disciplines?

    I've found a weird paradox. Knowledge about a subject gives the ability to tell subfields and domains apart -- yet the same knowledge can also be used to bridge seemingly unrelated topics.

    I'm sorry but the thread of your question eludes me. Maybe a specific example of your "weird paradox" would help.

    @ctietze said:
    I'd like to think it's the same experience for most practicioners: when you link notes together, you sometimes have a "huh, that's weird, but cool" moment, and that's all there is. No heavenly trumpets, no anchel choirs to be heard -- and still you've 'done' interdisciplinary work somehow.

    This describes my experience. As an example yesterday I worked up a literature note on the book "Miniatures of a Zen Master" and one of the takeaways (more corporate-speak) was the notion of "How can I say that this very shithead is enlightened?". In exploring my current Zettelkasten for connections I found the note "This Very Mind Is The Buddha" expressed the same idea. No biggie, as these are both the same knowledge domain. Further exploration surfaced a connection from the very different domain of writing, the note "Writing is telepathy" in which I explore Stephen King's example of the power of writing and image transport in which he states "We’ve engaged in an act of telepathy. No mythy-mountain shit; real telepathy.”

    Find this to be "No mythy-mountain shit". Just ordinary. And yet somehow related to this conversation between my friends. And somehow 'interdisciplinary work" happens.

    Thank you for the kind teisho, Christian San.

    Will Simpson
    I'm a Zettelnant.
    Research: Rationalism, Zen, Dzogchen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

  • @henrikenggaard , I agree that very often we can apply knowledge across domains. That's largely what I meant by "the chaos of all-things-are-connected." Because significant and deep knowledge of several disciplines exists in my mind (and by extension, my ZK), of course they are connected. The challenge I see is how one can use the ZK to do that in meaningful and productive ways that lead to new insights.

    @ctietze and @Will, thank you for those examples. I am indeed discovering that it isn't as "trumpeted" as I think I anticipated, but it still happens. An example from today: a lecture spoke about "anthropogenic processes" being documented in GIS, and suddenly connections were made to my study of cybernetics and human-environment interaction. It was a small connection, but a resilient one.

    Observations logged here: write.as/via-poetica

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