Can someone shed some more light on the meaning of "meaning"?
Since @sfast and I share a flat, we inevitably talk with each other more than both of us would like to. In a recent conversation about all the current Folgezettel and ID shenanigans, I wondered if it's our non-native-Englishness that gets in the way at times, e.g. when it comes to the use of "meaning", as in "meaningful connection".
Here's what confuses me.
In my 2015 post about Different Kinds of Ties Between Notes failed to make a fully comprehensive list, but addressed a couple of "ties" between notes. The whole post seems to be rather uncontroversial. That's part 1 of the confusion.
Here's a TL;DR of ties, sorted by strength of the tie, and slightly expanded:
- Fetching a random note (see script); maximum serendipity, but in fact no tie at all. Your excellent brain will still try to look for sense in the results. (Not part of the post above.)
- Word similarity. You get to this via full-text search: the results share the search string, that's it. (This point is scattered around comments and posts and not part of the post above.)
- Juxtaposition and sort order in a list, e.g. on the file system (your file naming scheme influences this; through the sequence of notes next to each other, you probably will automatically look for patterns, as humans tend to do, and assume what's close to each other belongs together)
- Tags/keywords; they are the result of a conscious act of grouping notes under a common term, especially to distinguish (accidental) word similarity from deliberate grouping
- Categories are stronger than tags, because they are exclusive; a note can have and belong to many tags, but a note can only have 1 category
- Hyperlinks are 1:1 connections between notes; they are deliberate (unless you use an automatic backlink-insertion-script)
Now you can fail at hyperlinking, like I did so many times in the past.
Confer [[XYZ]] is not a helpful hint in practice, I find. There are cases where I can see from the title that the linked note is making a case for the opposite positon of whatever Zettel I'm looking at. More often than not, I'm confused what kind of relation I saw back when I added this. I'm glad I dropped this lazy way of linking notes in favor of adding a bit more context, like
See [[XYZ]] for a discussion of the opposite opinion that bananas don't belong in bread.
I talked about Folgezettel in the post above, too. My argument was that you end up with a sequence where you can manually insert elements between existing elements. An automatically increasing numerical ID does not allow this; there, new stuff comes at the end. Date/time IDs, too, only go in one direction: forward. An effect of using Folgezettel, literal: note sequences, is to affect the juxtaposition of notes and the sort order of files. But since the placement is also deliberate, they fall between "Juxtaposition" and "Categories" on the scale at the top, I'd say. (Is this uncontroversial as well?)
Now part 2 of my confusion: the kinds of ties were uncontroversial, and their different strength of connection mentioned here on the forums from time to time, like "links form networks, tags only clusters, so links make a stronger connection". From my understanding, the strength of the tie is directly proportional, if not identical, with the meaning of the connection. Examples:
- A tagged cluster of notes is more meaningful than search results
- A random note finder will point you to any note, but it is ... random. The means of producing the result isn't meaningful, although our subsequent interpretation may be.
Sure: We can create meaning from even a random note finder result. That's because we are great at looking for similarities, stories, and connections. We can come up with ad hoc connections when "Banana" and "Bread" are presented to us in sequence by chance, e.g. "would bananas work as a basis for dough?" Similarly, "Meat" and "Table" might prompt you to think about furniture made from dead animals, but that's probably only useful in the context your next grunge fantasy novel. I fail to see any use in this and discard the offer to connect made by the random note finder. With randomness, the Zettelkasten doesn't contain a connection, unless we consequently re-ify the connection/the idea and create a note about "Banana Bread". The random juxtaposition of terms that prompted The Reader, The Creator of the Zettelkasten, you and I, to come up with a connection, it itself was not a connection at all. And when we are presented with a interesting data and come up with the most interesting connection between the data, then I argue we have to take note of that. Like creating new neural pathways. Like paving a path through the weeds between your house and your tool shed.
When the aim is to store connections, you won't say: "Ah, the random note finder did so well this time, I'll surely get this exact result and have the same idea later again!" -- Because by the nature of pure chance, you may never get this lucky again. So you preserve the connection. Create a "Banana Bread" note that links to both "Banana" and "Bread", for example, and then put this note in a list of tasty recipes.
So here's my request:
I fail to see how one can (1) accept different kinds of ties and a relative order of strength between them (even if one didn't accept the order presented above), but (2) not think of the kinds of ties to be ordered "by meaningfulness" in a similar way.
- Can anyone explain or elaborate what I might be missing?
- Do you think the order by strength is different than the one I presented above?
- Do you think the order by meaningfulness of the connection itself (not a post hoc interpretation/sensemaking) is different from ordering by strength?
Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/
It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!