Tinderbox Forum

Concept mapping with Tinderbox

Hi everyone! I’m currently working in a new field of research and I’d like to build a file designed as a set of small concept maps in the spirit of their creator Joseph D. Novak: one map by topic.

But, that said, I’m tempted into creating a big map with a lot of connexions and a lot of concepts using external links too as on this second screenshot:

If you have any idea, any reflexion about concept mapping with Tinderbox, I’d be glad to have it. Thanks!

Am I missing something? Both maps look (almost) the same to me…

As @archurhh says, it’s a bit difficult to see this from the examples.

On balance, though, I’d point out two things just now.

  1. Structuralism was not entirely wrong. The intuition that ideas are structured is sound.
  2. Structuralism was not quite right: not everything can be trivially mapped, and whatever mappings you attempt will be contingent on all sorts of things, some unwelcome.

At the moment, I’m inclined to stand with Sartre: make structural conjectures, knowing that they may well be wrong. But make them now, Who knows: you might be right!

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I’m not sure this is helpful or not, but I started a new project a couple years ago and had a similar impulse to work with concept maps to sort out the field. I found it incredibly useful and kept at it throughout my early research.

After some initial attempts at creating a single large file though, what I ultimately settled on was a series of small scale maps each in their own file. Some files were only a single map. Others had several maps, often with a small container of unmapped quotations and commentary kept as an outline. I followed my instinct rather than any fixed principle in choosing the size or the scope of a file or a map. I remember one file had a fairly detailed concept map of a single major work. Another tied together several related writers’ work on a single question. I had very informal cross-references between the files (usually just typed text reminding me to look at something elsewhere) and occasionally links to external sources.

All of this sounds like a mess, but looking back, I can see that I was still working through my own relationship and responses to the materials and working at a small scale and in fragments kept me from becoming distracted by process. But because those various “local maps” were interrelated—I was after all making them all as part of the same project—it wasn’t difficult to begin pulling relevant pieces together into a larger project file when I was ready.

I considered deleting the earlier files once I’d moved the useful material into my project file, but didn’t, and it turns out that I review them more than I imagined I would. Their maps are quite strange and sometimes just wrong, but when I look something up in them they can spark ideas.

Not sure if any of that relates to what you’re doing, but that’s my recent experience.


I can echo @bcrane’s experiences; if I had to do my project construct all over, I would most probably do it all in a single project, but with using segregated “master Containers”; starting with them sealed off from each other, but slowly incorporating the bits into a “Working Container” as needs, direction, and purpose evolve.

I like the idea of drawing small disposable ‘could-easily-be-wrong’ concept maps, as well. Great for exploring unexpected avenues!

Thank you all for your comments.

You are right. My maps are pretty much the same. As I don’t think in English — which is not my native language — as easily as I do in French, I delegate to pictures the task to speak for me.

In fact, I think it is exactly because I tend to be tempted to make a big map that it is difficult for me to see and say precisely what I mean through these two pictures. Desire, for Sartre you refer to, is a « manque d’être », a lack of being, and that’s why I post my question on the forum: for thinking from your suggestions.

I use to write already a lot for research articles and I must admit that in my Tinderbox notes I don’t feel like enlarging myself on what I already know. I often find strange to write down fragments of knowledge I understand relatively well and that I could talk about without any notes. I just want to see connections between concepts and not take time to elaborate fleeting notes, for employing some typical words taken from the Zettelkasten method.

If I make an image, I would say that it is as if I were in the parisian subway. I’m searching for my way and find indispensable to look at a map. Where am I? What do I know about my present situation? And where am I going?

In a subway, every station is in principle connected, directly or not, to others. A subway map gives an overview of the whole. That’s exactly I’m trying to do (but using more pastelized colors than in the parisian metro).

My question is similar to this one: if every piece of knowledge is not necessarily, therefore structurally, linked to every other one, however, what kind of interlinked, “structurally” intertwined knowledge, can I build upon what I already know? (I’m not sure that this question is logically correct.)

And if I build my map as a whole, a map of maps, where does it start? What is the starting point? On this new screenshot, the starting point is an article written by a french lecturer about two deleuzian notions: diagramme and agencement.

I am always surprised to see how Tinderbox suggests such “philosophical” questions. There is something quite wittgensteinian in this questioning about the usage of a digital tool. Isn’t it surprising?

From your suggestion, I think I’m about to create « small scale maps » too with some « unmapped quotations ».


I would also consider the deployment of User Attributes to generate/track fuzzy connections between Notes.

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