Heterarchy - Neuron Zettelkasten


I found this discussion to be intriguing, to describe Zettelkasten as a heterarchy. I envision a Zettelkasten as interlinked hierarchies.

I’ve actually gone with the heterarchy perspective. I think I saw it mentioned on the zk .de site. Will need to check out the link you shared and report back!

Here’s the wikipedia definition:

A heterarchy is a system of organization where the elements of the organization are unranked (non-hierarchical) or where they possess the potential to be ranked a number of different ways.

(emphasis mine).

That’s the beauty of links. You can have hierarchy, but it’s not rigid—it’s fluid. This concept has to deal with levels of emergence. Instead of getting into the weeds with that, I’ll just focus on the idea of fluidity. With links we can apply “fluid frameworks” or as @mediapathic on the Obsidian forum coined, “fluid taxonomies”:

The notion that in an loosely-ordered system like a ZK, you can apply taxonomies in an on again, off again way, and not be beholden to any of them for longer than they are useful.

[These taxonomies] are useful abstractions, ways of arranging information to provide paths for specific purposes.

In my head I envision an amoeba, stretching in different, changing ways to meet the current need.


Hierarchies aren’t bad, and in fact, I think they’re necessary. We think about the world in hierarchies, but not rigidly. And some entity or piece of information, can fit into multiple hierarchies. That is the beauty of links, as you say. And why the notion of heterarchies resonates. And one doesn’t need to start with a pre-established hierarchy. They can emerge over time through revisiting your notes. It’s a very flexible and adaptable way to work with knowledge (and indeed, probably resembles what our minds do, revisiting and revising mental hierarchies as new information comes in).

omg I SO love this! Personally I think fluid ontologies are a major feature of the move from postmodernism to metamodernism.

Exactly. A dynamic relationship between linear and non-linear.

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