Joel Chan: Knowledge Synthesis, Analog Media and Zettel Questions

November 10, 2020 Norman Chella Season 1 Episode 13
Joel Chan: Knowledge Synthesis, Analog Media and Zettel Questions
Show Notes

In this episode, we talk with Joel Chan, Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland. 

His involves the following quote: 'My research seeks to understand and create generalizable configurations of people, computing and information that augment human intelligence and creativity. I want to help create a future where any person or community can design the futures they want to live in.'

In the pursuit of his research, he has stumbled into Roam and is dedicated to seeing its possibilities. Implementing a hybrid Zettelkasten and Zettel Question system, he has designed a system to achieve knowledge synthesis which is what we will be talking about in this episode. 

We covered:

  • Joel's workflow, how he creates notes, Zettels and Zettel Questions 
  • Synthesis and the sum of all its parts: How do you integrate knowledge from different fields to create something new?
  • Charles Darwin's notebooks, and Roam's competitor
  • Why is analog media so powerful?



  • 2:49 Joel's note-taking system: Lab notebooks
  • 4:24 Using Evernote Premium and the cabinets
  • 5:55 Professors have their second brains in students and collaborators
  • 8:35 Discovering [[Stian Håklev (侯爽)]]'s PhD Roam workflow
  • 11:23 New version of Zettels: Zettel Questions
  • 13:56 The best insights only come from a 'single mind'
  • 16:40 Why is analog media so powerful?
  • 18:22 Charles Darwin and Note Excision
  • 20:06 Mixed media and Roam's challenges
  • 23:09 Roam's biggest competitor, and Richard Feynman thinking on paper
  • 24:38 Emulating Roam features on paper, and terrible analog media practices
  • 27:54 The meaning of synthesis and polymathy
  • 28:59 Engaging in greater knowledge synthesis with Roam
  • 30:44 The manifest function and latent function of institutions
  • 31:43 The 3 requirements for synthesis
  • 34:36 Multiplicity and how it allows for synthesis
  • 38:14 [[What does Roam mean to you?]]


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