Connections “beyond” concepts?

I am still grappling with the connections between (or within, or “beyond”?) concepts. Responding to my previous post (“I would be more interested in new methods of emphasizing the network connections of varying strengths between the concepts, instead of hierarchically organized pigeon-holes, or snap-in jig-saw puzzle pieces.”), Stephen Downes wrote:

“I used to do this, creating gigantic concept maps, but the problem is that you’re tied to the sign, word and symbol. The interesting connections are subsymbolic, beyond conceptual, but there’s no easy way to bring that out.”

I think I understand Stephen’s issue with strict concept maps that fill a page with propositions of the kind

But the brain is not filled with propositions, as Stephen keeps emphasizing (e. g. [Downes 2012], p. 16). And to squeeze ideas into such symbols,

indeed looks like a nightmare.

But perhaps we should simply let go the traditional roles of nodes and connector lines, and find the ideas in sets of connectors? I experimented with such sets, and I colored four major concepts: sameness (green), diversity (red), abstracted formalization (blue), and immediate immersion (orange).


Now, the nodes in the graph are no longer containing the concepts, but the edges (connectors, ties) do, Does that make sense?

Perhaps the benefit of this approach would become clearer in an example with less precise ideas than Stephens’. There are more examples from previous discussions with friends, one involving synonyms and a “pink” vs. a “brown” concept of autonomy and indepedence, another depicts different word senses. Let me know what you think.

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2 Responses to Connections “beyond” concepts?

  1. “Now, the nodes in the graph are no longer containing the concepts, but the edges (connectors, ties) do, Does that make sense?”

    To me it certainly does make a LOT of sense. When reading what you propose, Luhmann’s system theory popped up in front of me: The elements of a system are the communications between (!) the communicating entities!


  2. x28 says:

    Thanks, Ewald, for reminding me of Luhmann whose famous index card cabinet (“Zettelkasten”) is a great example of densely connected concepts. Seeing these concepts/ ideas noted on cards as merely the artefact layer of connectivism (external/ social), would be a very stretchted explanation. The conceptual layer, by contrast, offers an alternate view of the nodes and ties, words and propositions: Sometimes, a proposition on a card would serve as a node in his network, and the word linking it to another card would be the tie.


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