Zettelkasten Forum


Fascinating discussion of actual mapping in the mind

Matt Webb has a terrific post at Clues for software design in how we sketch maps of cities.

I have not begun to think about how this might impact my own use of The Archive and other forms of note-taking, but I recognise that there is a lot there that seems intuitively to resonate. I doubt that I am actually capable of implementing his suggestions of how software could behave to mirror some of those ideas, but I can see trying to at least think more coherently about them. Anyway, I thought it worth sharing here, though this may be the wrong topic.

Jeremy

Comments

  • Thanks for sharing this, Jeremy.

    As a reformed architect and city planner/urban designer I'm very familiar with Kevin Lynch's work from way back when.

    Interesting analogies. Could be useful to look at things in a similar fashion.

    Mark

  • @Jeremy , I second @ArchiMark. I'm in school right now (an MS) for GIS and cartography, and this is an interesting idea. There's also a good bit of research on cognitive maps, both in the spatial sense (the mental map of your house, say), and a non-spatial sense (thinking of a web of ideas as a landscape). I'm of the belief that being a cartographer, especially with a lean toward ecology and other systems-thinking disciplines, has influenced my ZK. The article you shared -- though I had not heard of Kevin Lynch -- does a good job giving some vocabulary to those structures.

    One of these days I'll get around to adding notes on The Phantom Tollbooth. The map that place has some resonance with what you shared.

    Observations logged here: write.as/via-poetica

  • Yes, fascinating stuff. Lynch coined the term "cognitive mapping," and that is what we Zettelnauts are endeavoring to do: build cognitive maps that trace the paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks of our various knowledge domains.

    Started ZK 4.2018. "The path is at your feet, see? Now carry on."

  • This is one of the difficult aspects of my work on the Zettelkasten Method, to be honest. It is very difficult to make connection from the neurologic substance to mental models. For example: It is very different if you learn numbers with you fingers or on a touch display. The behavioral confirmation is quite identical to a point: Both kids know numbers. But the ability to do calculus seems to be significantly impaired if a person learned by the later method. Manfred Spitzer has an awesome term for this: Digital Dementia.

    Think of a mathematical formular compared to the geometric figure: It is not obvious how we are able to make this kind of connections. The best approach at this point is to just accept it as a gift from god or nature (depending on your inclination).

    However, I can attest that there is something to it. Some people are mapping and others are just storing. The former benefit highly from many methods of knowledge work. The later run into problems quickly. To me, there is some association with The Collector's Fallacy. I am confident in my feel for it, but I can't put it in proper words (at least not, according to my standards).

    I am a Zettler

  • I'm not sure how relevant this might be, but about ten years ago there was a study of trainee London cab drivers which looked at how learning to navigate in London seemed to cause structural changes in the brain. The study is reported here. I don't know if things have changed in the intervening time, but I believe trainees were expected to learn routes as a series of street names and turns (rather than as a picture). But that might be to do with the need to test the trainees by getting them to recite the route. An interesting finding of the study was that the successful trainees were worse at recalling complex visual information than controls. Make of that what you will!

    As an aside, back in 1979 the process of training, known as "doing The Knowledge" was made into a comedy TV programme, called "The Knowledge". I remember it as featuring a brilliant performance by Nigel Hawthorne.

  • I remember The Knowledge as being very funny and very English.

    But anyway, one of the things that the article brought to mind for me was the different ways in which individuals contextualise direction instructions when telling others. The landmarks I see and notice and would use to tell you when to turn, for example, are completely different from those my partner would use. This individuality is what makes GPS such a relationship saver, and also why the best we can do with other people's accounts of how they use their ZK is to think about whether it might be a good idea for us to try the same thing. It might not be, if your view of landmarks is different.

  • I lived it Italy for ten years, and one thing that struck me was that in England directions were often given in relation to pubs (go to the Red Lion then turn left) whereas in Italy they seemed to be given in relation to churches (go past Sant'Antonio for 100 metres).

  • @sfast said:
    This is one of the difficult aspects of my work on the Zettelkasten Method, to be honest. It is very difficult to make connection from the neurologic substance to mental models. For example: It is very different if you learn numbers with you fingers or on a touch display. The behavioral confirmation is quite identical to a point: Both kids know numbers. But the ability to do calculus seems to be significantly impaired if a person learned by the later method. Manfred Spitzer has an awesome term for this: Digital Dementia.

    You're right: learning is situational and environmental.

    We don't learn just because of the text or the information: we also learn because we associate the environment and our body to it.
    Things like colors used in the text, images, our room, what we were doing while reading and studying, and many more, all of them are part of the learning.

    Sometimes I wonder how using only text may be an obstacle to a better understanding.

  • @MartinBB said:
    I lived it Italy for ten years, and one thing that struck me was that in England directions were often given in relation to pubs (go to the Red Lion then turn left) whereas in Italy they seemed to be given in relation to churches (go past Sant'Antonio for 100 metres).

    LOL!

    Well, churches are important elements of our Culture, history, and architecture.
    And usually they stand out from the other buildings.
    Anyway I never use churches, nor I've never seen people using them.
    Maybe in small villages, but not in big cities.

  • @IvanFerrero said:
    Sometimes I wonder how using only text may be an obstacle to a better understanding.

    I have a strong opinion on that: It is an obstacle. Or in weaker presentation: If you keep your tools to textual you pay for huge opportunity costs.

    A table provides you with spacial aspects of knowledge for example. But you have to create the table according to sound principles (on of the principles could be: Aim for grouping the lines by trait not by alphabetical order)

    I am a Zettler

  • This was an interesting article and map.

    I wish learning/notes could be presented in such a manner as well. The difficult part of learning any subject well is knowing where to start and determining the most relevant facts (this might be highly subjective).

    The map speaks to what is important to most people when lost - what are the major landmarks and how are they connected, rather than a jumble of street names.

    How could notes or text be presented is such a manner ? Here are the major concepts, here is how they are related, connected and relevant.

  • edited April 4

    There's nothing stopping you from making your own notes from a source like that on paper (or tablet) prior to creating zettels.

Sign In or Register to comment.