Is the three-layer structure of evidence a generally useful principle?
In a previous post, @sfast wrote that evidence captured in ZK notes can be on three layers, but I am wondering whether this is really a useful general principle (as it's presented) or is something that is actually more specific to a more limited subset of certain types of knowledge work. The layers are:
- Data description and patterns.
- Interpretation of descriptions and patterns.
- Synthesis of patterns, descriptions and interpretation.
Although this division makes sense in the abstract, I have had trouble seeing how these layers could be implemented with my workflow, which is primarily writing about academic theory in the humanities. @ctietze Christian's comment on Sasha's post partly highlights the issue:
Sascha’s post and separation of layers reminds me of my struggle and I think that I could’ve used this approach for non-empirical reading of Kant as well: (1) What does Kant say, quoted? (2) What do I think does this mean? Why is it interesting? How does secondary literature interpret the part? (3) … well, there’s not much practical application of Pure Reason, besides beginning to think differently about the universe and everything of course.
Christian's 2nd layer actually includes a number of different things - his interpretation, others' interpretations, and maybe his analysis of their positions. And the third layer he cites need not be practical application, but could be a synthesis of one's interpretation of Kant's arguments, or of others' interpretations, etc.
My concern is that the three layers proposed are appropriate for communicating summaries and first-level interpretations of objective data/facts. A very typical case would be the type of writing that it seems to me that Sasha is doing, which is summarizing scientific findings to support a particular recommendation of a process or set of behaviors. (Of course, I'm making some inferences here, so feel free to correct me.)
The problem is that a lot of research is not based on summarizing sets of empirical facts and describing one's interpretation and synthesis of it. Rather, it can involve entering years-long conversations in which many people have made lots of different arguments, commented on each other's arguments, and responded to objections about those arguments. Recently I was taking notes on a source where author A was arguing against author B about a topic (specifically, interactive media), and I thought that author A's criticisms were wrong based on both logic and on other empirical data not mentioned in the source.
One problem in creating notes here is the notion of atomization - what counts as one idea? Is author B's idea one note, and then author's A's opinion is a 2nd linked to the 1st, and my objection to author A's opinion a 3nd note linked to the 2nd and 1st, and the empirical facts supporting my objection a 4th note linked to the 3rd and 2nd and 1st, etc.?
But also, what are the three layers here? Initially, you might think that author A's criticisms are data and I am interpreting the data. But those criticisms are themselves interpretations of author B's words, which are themselves interpretations of more objective facts about the world. And synthesizing B's specific arguments in a way that highlights the general, unstated conceptual problem underlying the individual problems with B's specific arguments - which would be layer 3 – is actually only a first step towards my explanation of how to reconceive the topic problem in a wholly new way. And that itself is just one step in a large argument about why we should think of this topic in this new way, which also involves providing examples and responding to potential counter arguments.
I suspect that @sfast will say something like "it doesn't really matter how many layers you use as long as it helps you produce articles", and I agree. But it's very hard to tell at the beginning of the process how to set up the ZK so that it will eventually lead to more a productive workflow than my current process (which is far from ideal, hence my looking into this).
I may be one of the few people in this community dealing with this type of writing and research, so if so, I apologize if it is not relevant to others. But since I have seen this three layer post frequently mentioned elsewhere in the forum, I'm interested in others' views on the topic. Are others using their ZK to take notes and write about ongoing interpretations and conversations? If so, how are you structuring your work?
It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!