Networked note-taking as feminist research method


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📽️ A feminist intervention

Last updated May 27, 2023

Next: 📽️ Writing as method


This isn’t inherently problematic—we’re all a part of this class of knowledge workers, and I certainly feel the “cognitive squeeze” of being a grad student. What I think is missing from these conversations, though, is the potential for using these approaches in ways that can specifically bolster feminist and social justice-oriented research.

PKM tends to actively erase what its systems are used for and the types of knowledges it produces. For example, when Luhmann and his zettelkasten is mentioned as an early example of networked note-taking, the focus is always on his prolific publication record—but never about what he published.

It’s this erasure that I have a problem with: It treats technologies, systems, and the knowledges they contribute to producing as value-neutral, despite its emphasis on individual productivity. But knowledge production is a foundational concern for feminist scholars, as feminist epistemology emerges by recognizing and challenging the way that structures of power like patriarchy, white supremacy, ableism, and cisheteronormativity are baked into the knowledges largely taken as objectively true in institutional spaces.

As Patricia Hill Collins (1989) argues, the racist and sexist exclusion of Black women from education, literacy, and jobs means their perspectives have been largely omitted from the processes of knowledge validation. This creates a teleological argument where the dominant group is convinced of both Black and female intellectual inferiority because of their absence that this dominant group enforced in the first place.

In response, feminists have pushed to legitimate experiential and embodied knowledges in institutional spaces of knowledge production and validation, developing and adding on to theoretical frameworks like standpoint ( Hartsock, 1985) and sitpoint theories ( Garland-Thomson, 2002) and the idea of situated knowledges ( Haraway, 1988)—each of which varyingly stresses the importance of intersectional, embodied positionality in knowledge production.

These theories rest on the notion that research and researchers, like all aspects of knowledge production, are always already entangled ( Gunaratnam & Hamilton, 2017). This also means that method is a critical space of intervention for feminist knowledge production, where research problems can be reformulated and addressed in ways which embrace positionality.