Networked note-taking as feminist research method


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πŸ“– Atomicity

Last updated May 27, 2023

# Write notes to include only one key term or idea

Establishing a networked note-taking system requires reconceptualizing what makes up a note. Primarily, we are concerned here with notes which contain ideas: Notes on other types of information such as biographical data or shopping lists are not necessarily the most useful within the network (although biographical data can be usefully linked to particular ideas as a form of citation). Critically, however, these ideas can and should come from a variety of sources. Taking note of the ideas we encounter in our day-to-day life, not just academic literature, is an important way to diversify the knowledges we produce.

Working with ideas is where the strength of the network happens (see Figure 1). Unlike traditional idea-notes where one note is meant to capture the entire context of a reading, lecture, or observation session, however, networked note-taking relies on other notes for context. This means that individual notes are much shorter than traditional notes and are meant to capture one clear idea, or what Christian Tietze (2013) describes as atomicity, where the note-taker must keep relevant notes close together, but ultimately β€œseparate concerns from one another”—a concept which he derives from software engineering (para. 24). Andy Matuschak (n.d.-b) adds that atomicity is useful because it makes connections across notes much more specific.

Atomicity can be difficult to enact because it requires drawing boundaries around what makes up a complete idea, a concept which has blurry boundaries to begin with. Overly-atomized notes do not stand on their own and require too much traversing across the system to understand, while notes which are not atomized enough are difficult to link to others. In general, however, it is helpful to keep in mind that iteration encourages reviewing and revising notes as they are added to the system, presenting an opportunity to grow or divide a note as appropriate.

Figure 1. An atomic note in relation to others

A network graph of nodes. The key node is named “interface” and is connected to nearly a dozen others, including examples like “Human Computer Interaction (HCI)”, “cyborg,” and “@LightEtAl2018.”

Note. A screenshot of my notes rendered through Obsidian’s graph view. The highlighted node is a note titled β€œinterface” and each line represents a link to another note.

πŸ‘ˆ πŸ“– Four nodes overview

  1. πŸ“– Atomicity
  2. πŸ“– Flatness πŸ‘‰
  3. πŸ“– Interconnection πŸ‘‰
  4. πŸ“– Iteration πŸ‘‰