Four nodes of a feminist note-taking methodology
Considering the varying conceptualizations of notes as representations, constructions, and structures of knowledge in relation to feminist epistemological concerns, I return to my original question: How can we take notes committed to producing socially just knowledges? In the remainder of this essay, I name four brief concepts foundational to a feminist note-taking methodology. I call these nodes to reflect their relationality, as no one concept is more important than the other. They are all required to work together to establish a feminist note network.
While it is possible to enact this system using analog means (as Luhmann and Moser demonstrate), I use digital technologies to enact this system. This includes writing notes in Markdown, a human-readable language which enables heading structures and basic text formatting like italics, bold, links, and blockquotes. Critically, Markdown enables not just hyperlinks to outside resources but also links between other Markdown files.1
While Markdown is human readable, it requires software to render its links and formatting. Consider software a window through which notes written in Markdown can be read, edited, interacted with, and navigated between. The software I use for note-taking and is subsequently used in my visual examples is called Obsidian. Obsidian is a robust, local, and free software which renders Markdown. One especially useful aspect of Obsidian is the ability to render a list or graph of all files which link to another. This allows the user to navigate both forward and backward through their linked notes. In my eyes, however, the primary advantage of Obsidian is that the files it renders are entirely local. This means that Obsidian requires no internet connection and is therefore much more reliable and secure than cloud-based note-taking systems. Obsidian is used by many in the PKM community and has a multitude of community-made plugins which can adapt the software to fit individual needs.2 Of course, since Markdown is not linked to a particular software, it is relatively simply to move one’s notes to another rendering software if Obsidian stops being supported or useful to you.
Last, the ideas in these nodes draw on strategies outlined by several thinkers working and sharing in the PKM scene, many of whom offer their own principles and guides to note-taking. Importantly, however, there is no distinct “right way” to take notes: Note-taking systems are unique to the individuals writing and reading these notes, their intended uses, and the underlying technologies available. Feminist perspectives on methods echo this notion, stressing the importance of context and social location on research processes ( Gunaratnam & Hamilton, 2017). These methods are no exception. I hope, however, that it can encourage other students and researchers to critically examine the impacts of their own note-taking practices on their work, and perhaps inspire the development of additional note-taking methodologies which hold social justice at their core—producing new and varying methods I hope will also be shared with others.
# The four nodes
I also recommend visiting both Obsidian’s official documentation ( Obsidian.md, n.d.) and checking out Obsidian-specific PKM community resources. Obsidian’s YouTube playlists of various community video walkthroughs of the software ( @obsdmd, n.d.), the Obsidian subreddit ( r/ObsidianMD, n.d.); and the Obsidian Roundup newsletter ( Konik, n.d.) are also good places get started. ↩︎