Zettelkasten Forum


Zettelkasten Schemata

edited May 15 in Random

Lately, I've been digging into various disciplines (with a bit of luck) to understand Zettelkasten better.

I'm speculating that the structure of society is a major influence in building the Zettelkasten — much like how Tim Berners-Lee got inspiration from the web.

Relevantly, Berners-Lee also got inspiration from two things:
1. Tracking associations in his notes. He wanted important information to be linked and **to be found***.
2. Connecting different databases. So you could say that the schema of building databases may help you understand ZK systems better.

In any case, I've been searching a lot and there were no concrete signs of people doing this system before Luhmann. Francis Bacon was only rumored to do it, to be fair.

All scholars before him either used a commonplace book with an Index, or index cards + catalogues.

My best guess is we can find better schemas for understanding Zettelkasten in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and database modeling. (as @pseudoevagrius says in @discordian's post)

But I don't think this is enough. Any leads?

I write about unconventional self-improvement advice at improveism.com

Comments

  • On your point about database schemas, I think you're onto something. I would suggest that the shortcomings of trying to store data in efficient ways using limited memory and space in a computer created a number of useful paradigms for organizing data outside of a computer. In this way the digital world is influencing how we interact with the analog in a feedback loop. For instance the linked list which was created specifically for use in computer science? What made the creators settle on it? Now when I see how some zettels link together I think of a linked list (even though I am a human and my entry point can be wherever). What might be worth while is looking at the history of data structures and how they influence the analog world now that knowledge of them somewhat commonplace. In my mind, systems like Bullet Journaling, Strike Thru, and even Zettelkastens are reflections of how we interact with machines at a lower level, and an attempt to replicate the best parts of that experience.

    It might also be worth looking at the cataloging systems of libraries, especially prior to Dewey. I can't seem to find anything other than a vague reference to it on wikipedia, but Leibniz apparently had a very interesting way of cataloging and organizing books in a library using a numerical system. Its described at length in Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle and it seemed bizarre. If anything, its interesting.

  • It seems to me that you are putting the cart before the horse. The Zettelkasten Method is not a thing that has an instrinsic nature to it that you can research and uncover. It is a byproduct of the problem of knowledge work. The development goes like this:

    1. Problem in knowledge work.
    2. Solving the problem via a technique.
    3. Integrating this technique into your overarching workflow.
    4. Observe the value of the technique by monitoring the outcome.

    Principles are patterns that emerge over many cicles of this four-step-process. Those can be tought. Examples are: Atomicity or hypertext. Those are not insights that emerged through research on the Zettelkasten Method, but observations of patterns of working systems (step 4).

    The first three steps are necessary. In theory, you can invent the tool before the problem but in 99% of the cases the problem is the cause of the tool. The solution is the effect of the problem.

    I am a Zettler

  • edited May 16

    Krajewski, Markus. 2002. Zettelwirtschaft: Die Geburt der Kartei aus dem Geiste der Bibliothek. Berlin: Kadmos / Krajewski, Markus. 2002. Note management: the birth of the card index from the spirit of the library. Berlin: Cadmos

    And

    Tenner, Edward. 1990. “From Slip to Chip: How Evolving Techniques of Information-Gathering and Retrieval Have Shaped the Way We Do Mental Work.” Princeton Alumni Weekly (Nov. 21): 9–14.

    It’s cool to learn about from a historical perspective, but I agree with sfast

  • @TRumnell @Nick Thanks for the input, I'll look more into them.

    @sfast "Putting the cart before the horse," eh? And who said I was inventing a tool? (Not anymore, at least)

    It seems like you have (familiar) assumptions of me that influenced your statements.

    To give context, I'm currently implementing everything I learned from your videos and posts, after I critiqued my own Zettelkasten "technique". The technique proved redundant in practice, as I said in another discussion.

    But this is a result of curiosity. I wanted to see some more models that could give me other perspectives on the same principles, rather than invent principles or new techniques.

    I write about unconventional self-improvement advice at improveism.com

  • @improveism On what topics/projects are working at? And what problems could be solved by Structure Zettel then?

    I am a Zettler

  • like how Tim Berners-Lee got inspiration from the web

    @improveism Just a nit: what do you mean by this?

    Also, can you add sources to back up your claims about what Berners-Lee wanted?

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

  • @ctietze Sure thing. Here he talks about design issues of the Web, specifically, scale. Berners-Lee talks about fractal design being "a general rule which can guide our design, and against which we can measure actual patterns of use."

    Also here in his notes for his talk at Bush Symposium (at the Fractal Design heading) he talks about how similar the fractal patterns in society and the Web are. I don't know which came first, but I think this implies he was inspired by societal structure influenced his design.

    When I saw that pattern, everything fell into place. That's actually how I started to really understand the superiority of Structure Zettel to Folgezettel. (and the redundancy of the latter) @sfast I discuss it here.

    Anyway, I'm working on a post to share what I've learned so far using the method. I find it interesting to find similar patterns of the method in other domains -- it helps improve how I explain this to others.

    I write about unconventional self-improvement advice at improveism.com

  • @improveism I don't see any application of the Zettelkasten Method.

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast said:
    @improveism I don't see any application of the Zettelkasten Method.

    Obviously not in a literal sense. Just like the Web, I see fractal patterns emerge in a Zettelkasten, although on a smaller scale.

    Anyway, I still don't get where you're coming from. My guess is you're assuming I'm trying to reinvent the wheel again.

    If you still believe I'm trying to reinvent the wheel, then you obviously didn't read the post I linked until the end.

    If my guess is wrong, then do tell me where you're coming from so I can understand.

    My other interpretation of what you said is that "the Web doesn't even apply principles of a Zettelkasten". But of course, my point is they might share some principles. That's why I'm looking for other schemas.

    I write about unconventional self-improvement advice at improveism.com

  • To be more concrete: What is your current project for which you use the Zettelkasten Method for?

    I am a Zettler

  • My current project fleshing out my overview note about the Zettelkasten Method. Here's a bit of a preview:

    I write about unconventional self-improvement advice at improveism.com

  • Exactly what I mean. I recommend you to do something other with the Zettelkasten Method than let it bite its own tail. :smile:

    I am a Zettler

  • Okay, I now get what you mean:

    Use the method for another project and then flesh out the overview note from what I've learned from experience. Is that correct?

    Still, I'm looking for schemata to see the ZK in other perspectives -- not for the purpose of learning the method itself. Otherwise, I'd really be putting the cart before the horse.

    I write about unconventional self-improvement advice at improveism.com

  • I think improveism is right here @sfast , I see no wrong in trying to understand a tool by looking at the perspectives of different fields.

    The connection between how the world-wide web was started by Tim Berners and the Zettelkasten method is quite intuitive, to be fair. He wanted to see connections between different aspects of society so he created a system of connected notes through hyperlinks.

    Looking at the zettelkasten through different lenses offers a deeper look into the technique which becomes an avenue for improving it. To that end, I think we should take this thread seriously.

  • @improveism my personal perspective that I’ve settled on is at its core the Zettelkasten is asking how you can structure your methods and tools to better facilitate development. I have a note pinned to the top of my index titled “Principle of Development.”

    With that in mind I’d look at schemas that tackle development:

    • structure building in language comprehension
    • How psychology thinks of human development (stages) stages Of Zettelkasten
    • Development of neural pathways, memory retrieval strengthens pathways. What if you had an AI program that tracked what pathways you went down in your notes breadcrumb style and kept a small list of 5 most trafficked pathways at the top of your index?
    • Incrementalism - SuperMemo guru blog incremental reading or incremental writing
    • https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development

    Hopefully that will help and I’m just not crazy 🤷🏻‍♂️

  • @JosephMoore said:
    I think improveism is right here @sfast , I see no wrong in trying to understand a tool by looking at the perspectives of different fields.

    The connection between how the world-wide web was started by Tim Berners and the Zettelkasten method is quite intuitive, to be fair. He wanted to see connections between different aspects of society so he created a system of connected notes through hyperlinks.

    Looking at the zettelkasten through different lenses offers a deeper look into the technique which becomes an avenue for improving it. To that end, I think we should take this thread seriously.

    I do not argue against the usefulness of the models. I am rather concerned for @improveism that he tries to improve on his understanding without the proper groundwork.

    A example from my work as a trainer: I am both a proponent and a practicioner of cold adaptation (ice baths, cold walks with few cloths etc). In Germany, I started a (very small) trend with my demonstrations on how I do it (I have a barrell on my balcony in the winter). Soon, there were quite some blogposts and on biohacker conventions many cold tubes were presented. The writings and the methods were riddled with mistakes. I always wondered until I came to the conclusion that they are all talking from theory. To quote a classic:

    In theory there is not difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.

    The main point is that I state that tools are not developed by theoretical thinking but through actually doing knowledge work and solving the methodological problems on the fly by tinkering.

    I am a Zettler

  • edited May 20

    @Nick that was pretty insightful — was thinking the other day that coining new terms work much like "capturing" meaning —like how structure notes capture patterns.

    The myelination part makes a lot of sense, in a sense the implication is that frequently used structures should be saved. But some sort of a "path heatmap" would be nice, too.

    EDIT: Actually I was wrong, it's more like: paths frequently used are developed the most. But that's just my theory.

    I write about unconventional self-improvement advice at improveism.com

  • I totally agree with you on this @sfast

    @sfast said:

    In theory there is not difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.

    The main point is that I state that tools are not developed by theoretical thinking but through actually doing knowledge work and solving the methodological problems on the fly by tinkering.

    By all means, nothing compares to taking action. However, on the premise that @improveism indeed practices the zettelkasten method, I figure that he is merely trying to supplement his actions by trying to perceive zettelkasten through different lenses and schemas.

    Don't you agree that looking at both sides of the coin is beneficial?

    On a side note, I love the conversations that happen within your website. I just think that looking at this method deeply would be helpful to all of us.

  • edited May 20

    @improveism I take that metaphor back, was just going to bed so didn’t correct it. The problem with the myelination tool is that is developed for fast thinking, speeding up the neural pathways, you know so you don’t get 🦁. Which isn’t necessary to have in Zettelkasten cause it is a slow thoughtful process.

    A better tool would be a search function where day you type in a term, say “myelination” and it shows you the most used path to that word, starting with an index entry.

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