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  1. Last 7 days
    1. I will share my processes to take notes using different methods. The very first method I use is the Index Cards Method.

      Professor Raul Pacheco-Vega calls his note taking process the "Index Cards Method" and only subtly differentiates it from Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten method.

  2. Mar 2023
    1. German academic publishing in Niklas Luhmann's day was dramatically different from the late 20th/early 21st centuries. There was no peer-review and as a result Luhmann didn't have the level of gatekeeping that academics face today which only served to help increase his academic journal publication record. (28:30)

  3. Feb 2023
    1. if you break it down it's just six notes a day 00:11:11 and that doesn't include Saturdays and Sundays

      Ahrens' 6 notes per day calculation doesn't include Saturdays or Sundays

    1. “I only dowhat is easy. I only write when I immediately know how to do it. If Ifalter for a moment, I put the matter aside and do something else.”(Luhmann et al., 1987, 154f.)[4]

      https://youtu.be/qRSCKSPMuDc?t=37m30s (all links are on takesmartnotes.com)<br /> Luhmann, Niklas, Dirk Baecker, and Georg Stanitzek. 1987. Archimedes und wir: Interviews. Berlin: Merve.

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    1. In addition to specific operations such as rewriting, there are also controls for elaboration and continutation. The user can even ask Wordcraft to perform arbitrary tasks, such as "describe the gold earring" or "tell me why the dog was trying to climb the tree", a control we call freeform prompting. And, because sometimes knowing what to ask is the hardest part, the user can ask Wordcraft to generate these freeform prompts and then use them to generate text. We've also integrated a chatbot feature into the app to enable unstructured conversation about the story being written. This way, Wordcraft becomes both an editor and creative partner for the writer, opening up new and exciting creative workflows.

      The sense of writing partner here is similar to that mentioned by Niklas Luhmann in Communicating with Slip Boxes: An Empirical Account (1981), though in his case his writing partner was a carefully constructed database archive of his past notes.

      see: Luhmann, Niklas. “Kommunikation mit Zettelkästen: Ein Erfahrungsbericht.” In Öffentliche Meinung und sozialer Wandel / Public Opinion and Social Change, edited by Horst Baier, Hans Mathias Kepplinger, and Kurt Reumann, 222–28. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 1981. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-322-87749-9_19.<br /> translation at https://web.archive.org/web/20150825031821/http://scriptogr.am/kuehnm.

    1. A Luhmann web article from 2001-06-30!

      Berzbach, Frank. “Künstliche Intelligenz aus Holz.” Online magazine. Magazin für junge Forschung, June 30, 2001. https://sciencegarden.net/kunstliche-intelligenz-aus-holz/.


      Interesting to see the stark contrast in zettelkasten method here in an article about Luhmann versus the discussions within the blogosphere, social media, and other online spaces circa 2018-2022.


      ᔥ[[Daniel Lüdecke]] in Arbeiten mit (elektronischen) Zettelkästen at 2013-08-30 (accessed:: 2023-02-10 06:15:58)

    1. Niklas Luhmann's Zettelkasten<br /> http://fremdlesen.de/?p=297

      cartoon of Luhmann's zettelkasten asking him for a beer

      Zettelkasten: Niklas hol' mir 'n Bier!<br /> Niklas Luhmann: Hatte ich doch bloss nie diessen ver-fluchten zettelkasten erfunden!

      translation:

      Niklas get me a beer!<br /> If only I had never invented that damn note box!

      Link to: Effort of maintaining a zettelkasten: https://hypothes.is/a/ahU8YqmoEe2tL79vZF9PvQ

    1. According to Shulman, "Cargo-cult is a belief that mock airplanes made of manure and straw-bale may summon the real airplanes who bring canned beef. Reverse cargo-cult is used by the political elites in countries lagging behind who proclaim that, in the developed world, airplanes are also made of manure and straw-bale, and there is also a shortage of canned beef."[29]

      "Екатерина Шульман: Практический Нострадамус, или 12 умственных привычек, которые мешают нам предвидеть будущее". vedomosti/ (in Russian). Retrieved 24 June 2021.


      A Note on the Cargo Cult of Zettelkasten

      Modern cargo cults can be seen in many technology and productivity spaces where people are pulled in by exaggerated (or sometimes even real claims) of productivity or the general "magic" of a technology or method.

      An example is Niklas Luhmann's use of his zettelkasten which has created a cargo cult of zettelkasten aspirants and users who read one or more of the short one page blog posts about his unreasonable productivity and try to mimic it without understanding the system, how it works, or how to make it work for them. They often spend several months collecting notes, and following the motions, but don't realize the promised gains and may eventually give up, sometimes in shame (or as so-called "rubbish men") while watching others still touting its use.

      To prevent one's indoctrination into the zettelkasten cult, I'll make a few recommendations:

      Distance yourself from the one or two page blog posts or the breathless YouTube delineations. Ask yourself very pointedly: what you hope to get out of such a process? What's your goal? Does that goal align with others' prior uses and their outcomes?

      Be careful of the productivity gurus who are selling expensive courses and whose focus may not necessarily be on your particular goals. Some are selling very pointed courses, which is good, while others are selling products which may be so broad that they'll be sure to have some success stories, but their hodge-podge mixture of methods won't suit your particular purpose, or worse, you'll have to experiment with pieces of their courses to discover what may suit your modes of working and hope they'll suffice in the long run. Some are selling other productivity solutions for task management like getting things done (GTD) or bullet journals, which can be a whole other cargo cults in and of themselves. Don't conflate these![^1] The only thing worse than being in a cargo cult is being in multiple at the same time.

      If you go the digital route, be extremely wary of shiny object syndrome. Everyone has a favorite tool and will advocate that it's the one you should be using. (Often their method of use will dictate how much they love it potentially over and above the affordances of the tool itself.) All of these tools can be endlessly configured, tweaked, or extended with plugins or third party services. Everyone wants to show you their workflow and set up, lots of which is based on large amounts of work and experimentation. Ignore 99.999% of this. Most tools are converging to a similar feature set, so pick a reasonable one that seems like it'll be around in 5 years (and which has export, just in case). Try out the very basic features for several months before you change anything. Don't add endless plugins and widgets. You're ultimately using a digital tool to recreate the functionality of index cards, a pencil, and a box. How complicated should this really be? Do you need to spend hundreds of hours tweaking your system to save yourself a few minutes a year? Be aware that far too many people touting the system and marketers talking about the tools are missing several thousands of years of uses of some of these basic literacy-based technologies. Don't join their island cult, but instead figure out how the visiting culture has been doing this for ages.[^2] Recall Will Hunting's admonition against cargo cults in education: “You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for $1.50 in late fees at the public library.”[^3]

      Most people ultimately realize that the output of their own thinking is only as good as the inputs they're consuming. Leverage this from the moment you begin and ignore the short bite-sized advice for longer form or older advice from those with experience. You're much more likely to get more long term value out of reading Umberto Eco or Mortimer J. Adler & Charles van Doren[^4] than you are an equivalent amount of time reading blog posts, watching YouTube videos, or trolling social media like Reddit and Twitter.

      Realize that reaching your goal is going to take honest-to-goodness actual work, though there is potential for fun. No matter how shiny or optimized your system, you've still got to do the daily work of reading, watching, listening and using it to create anything. Focus on this daily work and don't get sidetracked by the minutiae of trying to shave off just a few more seconds.[^5] In short, don't get caught up in the "productivity porn" of it all. Even the high priest at whose altar they worship once wrote on a slip he filed:

      "A ghost in the note card index? Spectators visit [my office to see my notes] and they get to see everything and nothing all at once. Ultimately, like having watched a porn movie, their disappointment is correspondingly high." —Niklas Luhmann. <small>“Geist im Kasten?” ZKII 9/8,3. Niklas Luhmann-Archiv. Accessed December 10, 2021. https://niklas-luhmann-archiv.de/bestand/zettelkasten/zettel/ZK_2_NB_9-8-3_V. (Personal translation from German with context added.)</small>


      [^1] Aldrich, Chris. “Zettelkasten Overreach.” BoffoSocko (blog), February 5, 2022. https://boffosocko.com/2022/02/05/zettelkasten-overreach/.

      [^2]: Blair, Ann M. Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age. Yale University Press, 2010. https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300165395/too-much-know.

      [^3]: Good Will Hunting. Miramax, Lawrence Bender Productions, 1998.

      [^4]: Adler, Mortimer J., and Charles Van Doren. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. Revised and Updated edition. 1940. Reprint, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972.

      [^5]: Munroe, Randall. “Is It Worth the Time?” Web comic. xkcd, April 29, 2013. https://xkcd.com/1205/.


      Recommended resources

      Choose only one of the following and remember you may not need to read the entire work:

      Ahrens, Sönke. How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers. Create Space, 2017.

      Allosso, Dan, and S. F. Allosso. How to Make Notes and Write. Minnesota State Pressbooks, 2022. https://minnstate.pressbooks.pub/write/.

      Bernstein, Mark. Tinderbox: The Tinderbox Way. 3rd ed. Watertown, MA: Eastgate Systems, Inc., 2017. http://www.eastgate.com/Tinderbox/TinderboxWay/index.html.

      Dow, Earle Wilbur. Principles of a Note-System for Historical Studies. New York: Century Company, 1924.

      Eco, Umberto. How to Write a Thesis. Translated by Caterina Mongiat Farina and Geoff Farina. 1977. Reprint, Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press, 2015. https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/how-write-thesis.

      Gessner, Konrad. Pandectarum Sive Partitionum Universalium. 1st Edition. Zurich: Christoph Froschauer, 1548.

      Goutor, Jacques. The Card-File System of Note-Taking. Approaching Ontario’s Past 3. Toronto: Ontario Historical Society, 1980. http://archive.org/details/cardfilesystemof0000gout.

      Sertillanges, Antonin Gilbert, and Mary Ryan. The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods. First English Edition, Fifth printing. 1921. Reprint, Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1960. http://archive.org/details/a.d.sertillangestheintellectuallife.

      Webb, Sidney, and Beatrice Webb. Methods of Social Study. London; New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1932. http://archive.org/details/b31357891.

      Weinberg, Gerald M. Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method. New York, N.Y: Dorset House, 2005.

  4. Jan 2023
    1. Note 9/8j says - "There is a note in the Zettelkasten that contains the argument that refutes the claims on every other note. But this note disappears as soon as one opens the Zettelkasten. I.e. it appropriates a different number, changes position (or: disguises itself) and is then not to be found. A joker." Is he talking about some hypothetical note? What did he mean by disappearing? Can someone please shed some light on what he really meant?

      On the Jokerzettel

      9/8j Im Zettelkasten ist ein Zettel, der das Argument enthält, das die Behauptungen auf allen anderen Zetteln widerlegt.

      Aber dieser Zettel verschwindet, sobald man den Zettelkasten aufzieht.

      D.h. er nimmt eine andere Nummer an, verstellt sich und ist dann nicht zu finden.

      Ein Joker.

      —Niklas Luhmann, ZK II: Zettel 9/8j

      Translation:

      9/8j In the slip box is a slip containing the argument that refutes the claims on all the other slips. But this slip disappears as soon as you open the slip box. That is, he assumes a different number, disguises himself and then cannot be found. A joker.

      Many have asked about the meaning of this jokerzettel over the past several years. Here's my slightly extended interpretation, based on my own practice with thousands of cards, about what Luhmann meant:

      Imagine you've spent your life making and collecting notes and ideas and placing them lovingly on index cards. You've made tens of thousands and they're a major part of your daily workflow and support your life's work. They define you and how you think. You agree with Friedrich Nietzsche's concession to Heinrich Köselitz that “You are right — our writing tools take part in the forming of our thoughts.” Your time is alive with McLuhan's idea that "The medium is the message." or in which his friend John Culkin said, "We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us."

      Eventually you're going to worry about accidentally throwing your cards away, people stealing or copying them, fires (oh! the fires), floods, or other natural disasters. You don't have the ability to do digital back ups yet. You ask yourself, can I truly trust my spouse not to destroy them?,What about accidents like dropping them all over the floor and needing to reorganize them or worse, the ghost in the machine should rear its head?

      You'll fear the worst, but the worst only grows logarithmically in proportion to your collection.

      Eventually you pass on opportunities elsewhere because you're worried about moving your ever-growing collection. What if the war should obliterate your work? Maybe you should take them into the war with you, because you can't bear to be apart?

      If you grow up at a time when Schrodinger's cat is in the zeitgeist, you're definitely going to have nightmares that what's written on your cards could horrifyingly change every time you look at them. Worse, knowing about the Heisenberg Uncertainly Principle, you're deathly afraid that there might be cards, like electrons, which are always changing position in ways you'll never be able to know or predict.

      As a systems theorist, you view your own note taking system as a input/output machine. Then you see Claude Shannon's "useless machine" (based on an idea of Marvin Minsky) whose only function is to switch itself off. You become horrified with the idea that the knowledge machine you've painstakingly built and have documented the ways it acts as an independent thought partner may somehow become self-aware and shut itself off!?!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNa9v8Z7Rac

      And worst of all, on top of all this, all your hard work, effort, and untold hours of sweat creating thousands of cards will be wiped away by a potential unknowable single bit of information on a lone, malicious card and your only recourse is suicide, the unfortunate victim of dataism.

      Of course, if you somehow manage to overcome the hurdle of suicidal thoughts, and your collection keeps growing without bound, then you're sure to die in a torrential whirlwind avalanche of information and cards, literally done in by information overload.

      But, not wishing to admit any of this, much less all of this, you imagine a simple trickster, a joker, something silly. You write it down on yet another card and you file it away into the box, linked only to the card in front of it, the end of a short line of cards with nothing following it, because what could follow it? Put it out of your mind and hope your fears disappear away with it, lost in your box like the jokerzettel you imagined. You do this with a self-assured confidence that this way of making sense of the world works well for you, and you settle back into the methodical work of reading and writing, intent on making your next thousands of cards.

    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpvEY-2dSdU

      In this episode, I explain the memory system I created in order to expand my memory to new heights. I call it the Sirianni Method and with it, you can learn how to create an intentional photographic memory.

      Who the hell is the Sirianni this is named for, himself? (In the comments he mentions that "it's my italian grandpa's last name, I always liked it and a while back started naming things after it)

      tl;dr: He's reinvented the wheel, but certainly not the best version of it.

      What he's describing isn't remotely related to the idea of a photographic memory, so he's over-hyping the results, which is dreadful. If it were a photographic memory, he wouldn't need the spaced-repetition portion of his practice. While he mentions how he's regularly reviewing his cards he doesn't mention any of the last century+ of research and work on spaced repetition. https://super-memory.com/articles/20rules.htm is a good place to start for some of this.

      A lot of what he's doing is based on associative memory, particularly by drawing connections/links to other things he already knows. He's also taking advantage of visual memory by associating his knowledge with a specific picture.

      He highlights emotion and memory, but isn't drawing clear connections between his knowledge and any specific emotions that he's tying or associating them to.

      "Intentional" seems to be one of the few honest portions of the piece.

      Overview of his Sirianni method: pseudo-zettelkasten notes with written links to things he already knows (but without any Luhmann-esque numbering system or explicit links between cards, unless they're hiding in his connections section, which isn't well supported by the video) as well as a mnemonic image and lots of ad hoc spaced repetition.

      One would be better off mixing their note taking practice with associative mnemonic methods (method of loci, songlines, memory palaces, sketchnotes, major system, orality, etc.) all well described by Lynne Kelly (amongst hundreds before her who got smaller portions of these practices) in combination with state of the art spaced repetition.

      The description of Luhmann's note taking system here is barely passable at best. He certainly didn't invent the system which was based on several hundred years of commonplace book methodology before him. Luhmann also didn't popularize it in any sense (he actually lamented how people were unimpressed by it when he showed them). Popularization was done post-2013 generally by internet hype based on his prolific academic output.

      There is nothing new here other than that he thinks he's discovered something new and is repackaging it for the masses with a new name in a flashy video package. There's a long history of hucksters doing this sort of fabulist tale including Kevin Trudeau with Mega Memory in the 1990s and going back to at least the late 1800s with "Professor" Alphonse Loisette and the system he sold for inordinate amounts to the masses including Mark Twain.

      Most of these methods have been around for millennia and are all generally useful and well documented though the cultural West has just chosen to forget most of them. A week's worth of research and reading on these topics would have resulted in a much stronger "system" more quickly.

      Beyond this, providing a fuller range of specific options and sub-options in these areas so that individuals could pick and choose the specifics which work best for them might have been a better way to go.

      Content research: D- Production value: A+

      {syndication link](https://www.reddit.com/r/antinet/comments/10ehrbd/comment/j4u495q/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3)

    2. he [Luhmann] popularized method of expanding your memory called the zettelkasten method (04:49)

      At least he doesn't go with the invention myth, but it's also false that he was the one who popularized it... others online popularized it.

    1. I have a bit of a soft spot for Niklas Luhmann ever since David Seidl introduced me to his ideas. I think it was at an EGOS conference in the early 2000s.

      https://petersmith.org/blog/2022/12/10/zettelkasten/

      Peter Smith was introduced to Niklas Luhmann at an European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS) Conference in the early 2000s, ostensibly a business related group.


      I came across this via an IndieWeb reference and webmention.

    1. I think the point is somewhat different. Luhmann was an academic writing for other academics and wrote technically due to fears of misunderstanding by those with a different educational background, as was a quite reasonable fear at the time.

      Was Luhmann's obtuse style, in part, a means of publicly sharing content, but doing so in a way as to restrict the knowledge to those who had an increased level of context for understanding it? How similar is this to the pattern of restricted knowledge in some Indigenous cultures where people passed along knowledge in restricted ways?

      Is there a word or phrase to synopsize this sort of hard to understand academic-speak?

  5. Dec 2022
    1. La efectividad de este sistema no se basa en la ética de trabajo enfermiza de su creador, y si en su similitud con el funcionamiento de nuestro cerebro.

      Though to a great extent, his work ethic was really key to his output, something which was facilitated by his method.

      Another example of building the myth of the method while sidelining the ethic which could be paired with it.

    1. People are fascinated with how Luhmann became a book-writing academicresearch machine. The answer? The Antinet.

      He highlights this here because it seems convenient to his thesis about a "true way", but Scheper has also mentioned in other venues that it was Luhmann's tenacity of working at his project that was largely responsible for his output.

      I believe he made that statement in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgMh6iuFbT4

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  6. Nov 2022
    1. Groethe-Hammer, Michael. 2022. The Communicative Constitution of The World: A Luhmannian View on Communication, Organizations, and Society in The Routledge Handbook of The Communicative Constitution of Organization.

  7. Oct 2022
    1. When I first read the Zettelkasten paper, in the late 90s, the interesting point was the physical filing system.

      Mark Bernstein, the creator of Tinderbox, indicates that he read Niklas Luhmann's paper "Communicating with Slip Boxes: An Empirical Account" (1992) in the late 1990s.

    1. Deutsch himself pointed to criticswho called him a ‘chiffonier’ or historical rag-picker, though he defended his ‘incon-venient though undeniable facts’ (Deutsch, 1916). A number of contemporaries recog-nized the limits of his interest in individual facts. ‘I get the impression’, one figure put it,‘that the charm of the facts of history, was so great for Deutsch, he lost himself socompletely . . . in the study of them, that he was never altogether able to say he is throughwith studying them and that he is ready for writing’ (Schulman, 1922). One review ofDeutsch’s Scrolls (1917), which collected some of his scattered articles, reflected thatthe articles lacked organization. ‘In order to obtain value,’ the reviewer insisted, ‘factsmust be organized . . . Isolate a fact as one isolates a germ in the laboratory, such a factbecomes worthless for historical purposes’ (Leiber, 1917).

      Just as people chided Niklas Luhmann for his obtuseness in writing based on his zettelkasten, Gotthard Deutsch's critics felt he didn't write enough using his.

  8. Sep 2022
    1. Artykuł poświęcony metodzie Zettelkasten Niklasa Luhmanna. Autor omawia ją na swój sposób, bardziej jednak zachwalając lub pisząc ogólnie, niż opisując szczegółowo. Podaje kilka informacji, opisuje swoje podejście i rozwiązania, powiela przy tym jednak parę błędnych przekonań.

      Zaletą tekstu jest jednak to, że autor powołuje się na źródła, podaje parę ciekawych, w tym także naukowych, tekstów. Ogólnie sądzę, że to dobre wprowadzenie dla kogoś, kto nie zna tej metody, choć problemem jest powtarzanie błędnych przekonań. Z kolei dla osoby średniozaawansowanej nie ma tu nic odkrywczego i nowego.

    1. Artykuł jest właściwie skrótem, czy transkrypcją, materiału wideo na temat adresowania, numerowania notatek Zettelkasen.

      Autor przedstawia 5 konwencjI numerowania notatek: samego Niklasa Luhmanna, Boba Doto, Scotta Schepera, Dana Alloso oraz własną.

      Przedstawia różne sposoby tworzenia adresu notagraficznego.

    1. Niklas Luhmann read a secret, little-known German book in early 1951 which formed the foundation for his Zettelkasten.

      According to Scott Scheper's conversation with Clemens Luhmann, Niklas' son, Niklas Luhmann read Heyde (1931) in 1951. He would have been 24 years old and just out of law school at the University of Freiburg (1946-1949) and starting into a career in public administration in Lüneburg. (It would have been before he went to Harvard in 1961 and before he left the civil service in 1962. (Wikipedia entry for dates here)

    1. By the way, Luhmann's system is said to have had 35.000 cards. Jules Verne had 25.000. The sixteenth-century thinker Joachim Jungius is said to have had 150.000, and how many Leibniz had, we do not know, though we do know that he had one of the most ingenious piece of furniture for keeping his copious notes.

      Circa late 2011, he's positing Luhmann had 35,000 cards and not 90,000.

      Jules Verne used index cards. Joachim Jungius is said to have had 150,000 cards.

    1. Jeff Miller@jmeowmeowReading the lengthy, motivational introduction of Sönke Ahrens' How to Take Smart Notes (a zettelkasten method primer) reminds me directly of Gerald Weinberg's Fieldstone Method of writing.

      reply to: https://twitter.com/jmeowmeow/status/1568736485171666946

      I've only seen a few people notice the similarities between zettelkasten and fieldstones. Among them I don't think any have noted that Luhmann and Weinberg were both systems theorists.

      syndication link

  9. Aug 2022
    1. Jahraus, Oliver, Armin Nassehi, Mario Grizelj, Irmhild Saake, Christian Kirchmeier, and Julian Müller, eds. Luhmann-Handbuch: Leben – Werk – Wirkung. Springer, 2012. https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-476-05271-1

    1. level 3sscheper · 2 days agoI did an interview with Luhmann's youngest son, Clemens. He told me he was trying to get his father to switch to using a computer for the last 15 years of his life (Clemens studied computer science in America when he was 16). Luhmann's response: "If it ain't broke, why change?" According to Clemens, Luhmann felt they were distracting and refused to own one. Now... if he were getting started today I'd guess he'd probably use digital (but who knows, he may switch to using analog).
  10. Jul 2022
    1. https://vimeo.com/729407073

      <iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/729407073?h=054ecbcc7b" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; fullscreen; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

      MakingKnowledge: Scott Scheper from Dan Allosso on Vimeo.


      Various names Luhmann gives to the effects seen in his slip box: - ghost in the box - second mind - alter ego - communication partner

      These are tangential ideas and words which lead up to the serendipity of combinatorial creativity, but aren't quite there.

    1. German sociologist

      Somehow there are more references to Luhmann in the literature as "The Sociologist from Bielefeld", almost the same what that everyone referred to Aristotle as "The Philosopher".

    1. Langlois, Charles-Victor / Seignobos, Charles (1898): Introduction to the Study of History. London

      Niklas Luhmann cites Langlois and Seignobos' Introduction to the Study of History (1898) at least once, so there's evidence that he read at least a portion of the book which outlines some portions of note taking practice that resemble portions of his zettelkasten method.

    1. What is the use of this pedantic method of note-taking, involvingmasses of paper and a lot of hard thinking, not to mention the shufflingand reshuffling, which is apparently the final cause of this intolerableelaboration? will be asked by the post-graduate student eager to pub¬lish an epoch-making treatise on the History of Government, or, per¬chance, on the History of Freedom, within the two years he has allottedto the taking of his doctorate. The only answer I can give is to citeour own experience.

      Compare this statement to the no less grandiloquence of Niklas Luhmann's mission statement: "Theory of society; duration: 30 years; costs: none”.

      link to: -https://hyp.is/RyY9ZPfYEeytOHPQUhhzdQ/www.reddit.com/r/antinet/comments/vlape5/luhmanns_zettelkasten_use_case/

      This quote would seem to indicate that Luhmann had read or seen this book.

      Luhmann's zettelkasten (search on 2022-07-19) only shows one card referencing some of her other work: https://niklas-luhmann-archiv.de/bestand/zettelkasten/zettel/ZK_1_NB_33-1d1A4-1_V

    2. taking in sociological investigation

      The simplest and most direct way of bringing home to the reader the truth of this dogmatic assertion of the scientific value of note-taking in sociological investigation...

      Beatrice Webb indicates that it is an incontrovertible truth that sociologists should use a card index (zettelkasten) as a primary tool in their research.

      We ought to closely notice that she wrote this truism about the field of sociology in a book published in 1926, the year prior to Niklas Luhmann's death.


      How popular was her book with respect to the remainder of the field of sociology subsequently? What other sociology texts may have had similar ideas? Webb obviously quotes some of this technique in the late 1800s as being popular within the area of history. How evenly was it spread across the humanities in general?


      Is Beatrice Webb's card index amongst her papers? Where might they be stored today?

    1. Niklas Luhmann’s [ 6,7 ] terminology, we refer to these dominant symbolic networks associal systems. When approached not as aggregations of people but rather as patterns of communicationssustained among people, social systems can be observed to have enormous powers over humanbeings.
      • definition of social systems
      • social systems focus on the pattern of communication, not on the people who participate in those patterns
    1. Over the course of his intellectual life, from about 1943 until hissudden death in 1980, Barthes built a card index consisting of morethan 12,250 note cards – the full extent of this collection was notknown until access to it was granted to the manuscript researchers ofthe Institut Mémoires de l’édition contemporaine (IMEC) inFrance (Krapp, 2006: 363).3

      Roland Barthes accumulated a card index of more than 12,250 note cards beginning in 1943 which were held after his death in 1980 at the Institut Mémoires de l’édition contemporaine (IMEC) in France.

      Barthes' dates 12 November 1915 – 26 March 1980 age 64

      He started his card index at roughly age 28 and at around the same time which he began producing written work. (Did he have any significant writing work or publications prior to this?)

      His card collection spanned about 37 years and at 12,250 cards means that was producing on average 0.907 cards per day. If we don't include weekends, then he produced 1.27 cards per day on average. Compare this with Ahrens' estimate of 6 cards a day for Niklas Luhmann.


      With this note I'm starting the use of a subject heading (in English) of "card index" as a generic collection of notes which are often kept in one or more boxes. This is to distinguish it from the more modern idea of zettelkasten in the Luhmann framing which also connotes a dense set of links between the cards themselves, though this may not have been the case historically. Card index is also specifically separate from 'index card' which is an individual instance of an item that might be found in a card index. At present, I'm unaware of a specific word in English which defines the broader note taking context or portions thereof relating to index cards in the same way that a zettelkasten implies. This may be the result of the broad use of index cards for so many varying uses in the early 20th century. For these other varying uses I'll try to differentiate them henceforth with the generic 'index card files' which might also be used to describe the containers in which cards might be found.

    1. I tried using Roam for about two weeks once. I used Roam and only Roam, diligently. After only two weeks, my knowledge graph was utterly unintelligible and distressing.

      While one can take a lot of notes in two weeks, even just six quality notes a day (Niklas Lumann's pace was six per day while Roland Barthes was closer to 1 and change per day) only provides about 84 cards or zettels. This isn't enough to make anything distressing or unintelligible. It's also incredibly far short of creating any useful links to create anything. He should have trimmed things down and continued for about 24 weeks to see any significant results. (Of course this also begs the question: what was his purpose in pursuing such a system in the first place?)

    1. The presenter in the video has 70 notes across 3 months which is drastically lower than what I have.

      Somewhere I think I read that Luhmann only added about 6 cards a day to his zettelkasten. (I suspect they averaged his 90K output over the span of years he said he used it....)

      My fleeting note output right now is potentially too much, and I certainly should be spending more time refining and building on my (note-based) thoughts.

      It's not how many thoughts one has, but their quality and even more importantly, what one does with them.

      https://www.reddit.com/r/Zettelkasten/comments/jho1em/i_found_a_gem/

  11. Jun 2022
    1. Luhmann remarked that, when the Faculty of Sociology at Bielefeld University, newly established in 1969, asked its professors to report on the research projects they were working on, his reply was “Theory of society; duration: 30 years; costs: none” (Luhmann, 1997, p. 11).

      “Theory of society; duration: 30 years; costs: none”

      Quote from

      Luhmann, N. (1997). Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft (2 vols). Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Suhrkamp. Published in translation as Theory of society (2 vols.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press 2012–2013.

    1. Das gerichtliche Aktenzeichen dient der Kennzeichnung eines Dokuments und geht auf die Aktenordnung (AktO) vom 28. November 1934 und ihre Vorgänger zurück.[4]

      The court file number is used to identify a document and goes back to the file regulations (AktO) of November 28, 1934 and its predecessors.

      The German "file number" (aktenzeichen) is a unique identification of a file, commonly used in their court system and predecessors as well as file numbers in public administration since at least 1934.

      Niklas Luhmann studied law at the University of Freiburg from 1946 to 1949, when he obtained a law degree, before beginning a career in Lüneburg's public administration where he stayed in civil service until 1962. Given this fact, it's very likely that Luhmann had in-depth experience with these sorts of file numbers as location identifiers for files and documents.

      We know these numbering methods in public administration date back to as early as Vienna, Austria in the 1770s.


      The missing piece now is who/where did Luhmann learn his note taking and excerpting practice from? Alberto Cevolini argues that Niklas Luhmann was unaware of the prior tradition of excerpting, though note taking on index cards or slips had been commonplace in academic circles for quite some time and would have been reasonably commonplace during his student years.

      Are there handbooks, guides, or manuals in the early 1900's that detail these sorts of note taking practices?

      Perhaps something along the lines of Antonin Sertillanges’ book The Intellectual Life (1921) or Paul Chavigny's Organisation du travail intellectuel: recettes pratiques à l’usage des étudiants de toutes les facultés et de tous les travailleurs (in French) (Delagrave, 1918)?

      Further recall that Bruno Winck has linked some of the note taking using index cards to legal studies to Roland Claude's 1961 text:

      I checked Chavigny’s book on the BNF site. He insists on the use of index cards (‘fiches’), how to index them, one idea per card but not how to connect between the cards and allow navigation between them.

      Mind that it’s written in 1919, in Strasbourg (my hometown) just one year after it returned to France. So between students who used this book and Luhmann in Freiburg it’s not far away. My mother taught me how to use cards for my studies back in 1977, I still have the book where she learn the method, as Law student in Strasbourg “Comment se documenter”, by Roland Claude, 1961. Page 25 describes a way to build secondary index to receive all cards relatives to a topic by their number. Still Luhmann system seems easier to maintain but very near.


      <small><cite class='h-cite via'> <span class='p-author h-card'> Scott P. Scheper </span> in Scott P. Scheper on Twitter: "The origins of the Zettelkasten's numeric-alpha card addresses seem to derive from Niklas Luhmann's early work as a legal clerk. The filing scheme used is called "Aktenzeichen" - See https://t.co/4mQklgSG5u. cc @ChrisAldrich" / Twitter (<time class='dt-published'>06/28/2022 11:29:18</time>)</cite></small>


      Link to: - https://hypothes.is/a/Jlnn3IfSEey_-3uboxHsOA - https://hypothes.is/a/4jtT0FqsEeyXFzP-AuDIAA

    1. First, while using the previous retrieval methods, it is a good ideato keep your focus a little broad. Don’t begin and end your searchwith only the specific folder that matches your criteria.

      The area of serendipity becomes much more powerful when one has ideas both directly interlinked, ideas categorized with subject headings or tags, or when one can have affordances like auto-complete.

      The method Forte suggests and outlines allows for some serendipity, but not as much as other methods with additional refinements. Serendipity in Forte's method isn't as strong as in others.

      In this section he's talking about some of the true "magic of note taking" which is discussed by Luhmann and others.

      link to:<br /> Luhmann's writings on serendipity and surprise when using his zettelkasten (Communication with the Slipbox...)<br /> Ahrens mentions of this effect

    2. On average I capture just twonotes per day

      Tiago Forte self-reports that he captures two notes a day.


      Link to other's notes per day including Barthes, Luhmann, et al.

    1. The addressing system that many digital note taking systems offer is reminiscent of Luhmann's paper system where it served a particular use. Many might ask themselves if they really need this functionality in digital contexts where text search and other affordances can be more directly useful.

      Frequently missed by many, perhaps because they're befuddled by the complex branching numbering system which gets more publicity, Luhmann's paper-based system had a highly useful and simple subject heading index (see: https://niklas-luhmann-archiv.de/bestand/zettelkasten/zettel/ZK_2_SW1_001_V, for example) which can be replicated using either #tags or [[wikilinks]] within tools like Obsidian. Of course having an index doesn't preclude the incredible usefulness of directly linking one idea to potentially multiple others in some branching tree-like or network structure.

      Note that one highly valuable feature of Luhmann's paper version was that the totality of cards were linked to a minimum of at least one other card by the default that they were placed into the file itself. Those putting notes into Obsidian often place them into their system as singlet, un-linked notes as a default, and this can lead to problems down the road. However this can be mitigated by utilizing topical or subject headings on individual cards which allows for searching on a heading and then cross-linking individual ideas as appropriate.

      As an example, because two cards may be tagged with "archaeology" doesn't necessarily mean they're closely related as ideas. This tends to decrease in likelihood if one is an archaeologist and a large proportion of cards might contain that tag, but will simultaneously create more value over time as generic tags increase in number but the specific ideas cross link in small numbers. Similarly as one delves more deeply into archaeology, one will also come up with more granular and useful sub-tags (like Zooarcheology, Paleobotany, Archeopedology, Forensic Archeology, Archeoastronomy, Geoarcheology, etc.) as their knowledge in sub areas increases.

      Concretely, one might expect that the subject heading "sociology" would be nearly useless to Luhmann as that was the overarching topic of both of his zettelkästen (I & II), whereas "Autonomie" was much more specific and useful for cross linking a smaller handful of potentially related ideas in the future.

      Looking beyond Luhmann can be highly helpful in designing and using one's own system. I'd recommend taking a look at John Locke's work on indexing (1685) (https://publicdomainreview.org/collection/john-lockes-method-for-common-place-books-1685 is an interesting source, though you're obviously applying it to (digital) cards and not a notebook) or Ross Ashby's hybrid notebook/index card system which is also available online (http://www.rossashby.info/journal/index.html) as an example.

      Another helpful tip some are sure to appreciate in systems that have an auto-complete function is simply starting to write a wikilink with various related subject heading words that may appear within your system. You'll then be presented with potential options of things to link to serendipitously that you may not have otherwise considered. Within a digital zettelkasten, the popularly used DYAC (Damn You Auto Complete) may turn into Bless You Auto Complete.

  12. May 2022
    1. Paper as Passion: Niklas Luhmann and His CardIndexMarkus Krajewskitranslated by Charles Marcrum II

      Some interesting tidbits here. Painful to read in translation. I wonder how clear it would be in the original? Sometimes it seems to drift into the magical and mystical rather than staying rooted in the simple physical world. This rehashes many of the ideas he's had in other places.

      I'm not sure how this all really relates to the overarching space of the overall book however.

    2. “ Communication is . . . autopoietic insofar as it can only beproduced in a recursive relationship to other communications, that is to say, only in anetwork, to the reproduction of which each individual communication contributes.”42
      1. Luhmann, Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft , 82f.
    3. Communication “is the smallest possible unit of a social system,namely that unit to which communication can still react through communication.”40
      1. Luhmann, Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft , 82.
    4. Despite the librarian card-theoreticalrecommendation of only using cardboard or strong paper as a bearer of information,17Luhmann relies on plain typewriter paper for spatial economy, which can quickly lead,however, to the deterioration of the medium with frequent browsing.

      For Luhmann's time, the librarian recommendation for substrate was either cardboard or strong paper as the carrier for information, but he eschewed this recommendation in favor of plain typewriter paper because it took up less space. This came at the cost of deterioration of many of his cards through regular use however.

    5. WhenNiklas Luhmann decided in 1951, toward the end of his legal studies, to no longergather loose sheets into portfolios, as Goethe once did,9 but rather to take up work ona slip box, just like his implicit benchmark Hegel, the position of the Other becameoccupied by a paper machine.

      Niklas Luhmann created his slip box in 1951 after the model of Hegel rather than using the method of loose sheets into portfolios as Goethe had done.

      1. See Ernst Robert Curtius, “ Goethes Aktenf ü hrung,” in Kritische Essays zur europäischen Literatur (Bern: Francke, 1954), 57 – 69.

      Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832)

    6. Paper as Passion: Niklas Luhmann and His CardIndexMarkus Krajewskitranslated by Charles Marcrum II

      Starting here...

    1. autoph uh german how is it in english i think it's i i yeah i've looked it up i think it's autopiosis or auto autopilosis yes in germany it's

      Niklas Luhmann used his zettelkasten to develop an organic theory to understand an organic subject in an autopoetic way.

    2. you saw the inevitable blog posts in the blogosphere and the youtubers picked it up and if you actually did it like cold adaption it was very easy to see who actually did 00:04:34 it themselves and then had some practical experience and some people like just researched it and like i think you you know it like when people say like the 12 best tips for x and y 00:04:47 yeah and um you have this kind of blog post that's obvious like easy grabs for content

      There are likely far more people talking about zettelkasten and writing short, simple blogposts and articles about it than those who are actually practicing it and seeing benefit from it.

      Finding public examples of people practicing and showing their work in the zettelkasten space are few and far between.

      This effect likely increases the availability bias of Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten which is frequently spoken of, but it also has the benefit of being online, even if it's primarily written in German.

    3. illuminate

      Illuhmannate: insight one gains from using their zettelkasten with inspiration from Niklas Luhmann

    1. it is true that the systems theory does not emanate with given, natural or morally, absolutely predetermined external variables, instances or criteria, but assumes that all scales of the assessment of action are formulated in the society itself and at once written as an abstraction to its heaven, even although it is changing with the development of society.

      This sounds a lot like the formulation of anthropology that I've been contemplating.

    1. https://www.otherlife.co/pkm/

      The PKM space has gotten crazy, but mostly through bad practice, lack of history, and hype. There are a few valid points I see mirrored here, but on the whole this piece is broadly off base due to a lack of proper experience, practice and study. I definitely would recommend he take a paid course to fix the issue, but delve more deeply into recommended historical practices.

    2. Many writers have devised lots of little systems, and the fact that everyone into PKM mentions this one guy supports my argument. What percentage of history's greatest and most prolific writers did not use a Zettelkasten? More than 99%, probably. Luhmann is an exception that proves the rule.

      There is a heavy availability heuristic at play here. Most people in the recent/modern PKM space are enamored with the idea of zettelkasten and no one (or very few) have delved in more deeply to the history to uncover more than Luhmann. There definitely are many, many more. If we expand the circle to include looser forms like the commonplace book then we find that nearly every major thinker since the Renaissance kept some sort of note taking system and it's highly likely that their work was heavily influenced by their notes, notebooks, and commonplace books.

      Hell, Newton invented the calculus in his waste book, a form of pre-commonplace book from which he apparently never got his temporary notes out into a more personal permanent form.

      A short trip to even the scant references on the Wikipedia pages for commonplace book and zettelkasten will reveal a fraction of the extant examples.

    1. name means a slit box in german as in like a slip of paper a box containing such slips of paper it was invented or at least the modern form was described by a sociologist 00:02:32 named nicholas lumon

      Another example of someone misattributing the invention of the zettelkasten to Niklas Luhmann. At least Soren Bjornstad modifies the attribution to say modern form, but I suspect that this is more of a verbal hedge more than being backed up with actual evidence, though perhaps the video will bear out more detail?

      The availability heuristic is so strong in Luhmann's case, that he is attributed the invention. I find that few people can point to or ever mention any others who used the method.

    1. Luhmann realised his note-taking was not leadinganywhere. So he turned note-taking on its head.

      Here Ahrens doesn't say that Luhmann invented the zettelkasten, but he comes pretty close and is heavily implying it rather than delving into the ways which Luhmann may have been taught this practice.

  13. Apr 2022
    1. What do I need to see to believe that the zettelkasten method is working? .t3_uc59sc._2FCtq-QzlfuN-SwVMUZMM3 { --postTitle-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; --postTitleLink-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; }

      Luhmann is not an outlier, he's just the only example known in English social media and the blogosphere over the past couple of years. Try searching for "card index" (English), "fichier boîte" (French), or even "commonplace book" (a simplified version of and predecessor of the zettelkasten) and you'll find lots of examples. Over the past year or so I've been working at improving the number of examples available. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zettelkasten. Recently I've just uncovered Roland Barthes (12,250+ index cards) and Vladimir Nabokov (author of Lolita fame: https://www.openculture.com/2014/02/the-notecards-on-which-vladimir-nabokov-wrote-lolita.html).

      Some of the common things I see people doing wrong are not putting in the work and particularly not creating links between their cards. Others don't have a clear reason why they're actually doing the practice. Based on anecdotal evidence from people who are well practiced at it and have done it a while, it can take from 500 to 1000 cards to see the sort of fun serendipity and value in having a zettelkasten. Having something specific or even an area in which you actively want to write as an end goal can be very helpful. If you're writing even 1-3 solid cards a day, that is the leverage in productivity. Barthes averaged about 1 and change compared to Luhmann's 6 cards a day. Once you have lots of cards that are all linked together, pick your favorite up with all the ones that go with it and you've got a solid article or even the start of a book.

    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Wp6q5hUdtA

      Nice example of someone building their own paper-based zettelkasten an how they use it.

      Seemingly missing here is any sort of indexing system which means one is more reliant on the threads from one card to the next. Also missing are any other examples of links to other cards beyond the one this particular card is placed behind.

      Scott Scheper is using the word antinet, presumably to focus on non-digital versions of zettelkasten. Sounds more like a marketing word that essentially means paper zettelkasten or card index.

    1. On Zettel 9/8a2 he called the Zettelkasten "eine Klärgrube" or a "septic tank;" (perhaps even "cesspool"). Waste goes in, and gets separated from the clearer stuff.

      Niklas Luhmann analogized his zettelkasten to a septic tank. You put in a lot of material, a lot of seemingly waste, and it allows a process of settling and filtering to allow the waste to be separated and distill into something useful.

  14. Mar 2022
    1. the going through abstraction and re-specification so i think i became interested in cetera carson also because i saw a lot of similarities 01:11:30 to what historians of science describe as experimental work in laboratories and that is especially in the field of science and technology 01:11:43 studies especially the work of hanzio greinberger he works for the max planck institute for history of science in berlin and the way he describes 01:11:55 um experimental work as a form of material deconstruction um is my blueprint for understanding 01:12:10 the work of lumen

      Sönke Ahrens used Hans-Jörg Rheinberger's description of experimental work as a form of material deconstruction as a framework for looking at Niklas Luhmann.

    2. nicholas lerman is a sample of one 01:09:54 and if the zerocarton is a tool for thinking there are all these other thinkers out there who are thinking um and do we know how they're thinking how their 01:10:07 how you know what note systems are they using i'd like to i'd like to be able to place lerman yeah amongst all these others and and sort of in the zerocast and 01:10:23 see what others are doing as well and yeah i mean if there was one project i would have loved to do is going around 01:10:36 asking everyone i whose work i admire how do you do it how do you do it exactly what do you do in the morning how do you sit down how do you digest the books you're reading 01:10:48 um i was obsessed with the idea and it's just because i'm too shy to follow up on that

      Some discussion of doing research on zettelkasten methods and workflows.


      What do note taking methods and processes look like for individual people?


      What questions would one ask for this sort of research in an interview setting (compared to how one would look at extant physical examples in document-based research)? #openquestions


      Link this to the work of Earle Havens on commonplace books through portions of history.

    3. i knew that that this is that might be different but no i of course you you don't connect it 00:27:44 that much with your own book it's more about that you see the idea and the idea is lumens idea and you're trying to describe it as good as possible

      Even Sönke Ahrens has indirectly attributed the idea of the zettelkasten directly to Niklas Luhmann.

      2022-03-24

    1. Make a Career One Note at a Time

      Ahrens compares the writing output of Anthony Trollope to Niklas Luhmann and suggests that Luhmann wins hands down because the zettelkasten provides some additional leverage above and beyond the basic linear output of Trollope.

  15. Feb 2022
    1. By 1777, the government of Lower Austria starts a renewed numbering of houses. “ As many new houses were built after the last conscription which have no number yet, this is also an opportunity for the rectifi cation of the house numbers. ” New entries are to be treated as follows: “ If for instance three new houses are found between numbers 12 and 13, the fi rst is to be 12a, the second 12b, the third 12c. ” 7 Moreover, the conscription decree further increases the depth of addressing, including “ women, Jews, and farm animals. ”

      Starting with a decree by Her Majesty Maria Theresa on December 24, 1770 to create conscription numbers on Viennese houses and expanded in 1777, the government of Lower Austria created a number system to identify all houses as well as to men, women, Jews, and farm animals. Because new houses had been built since the beginning of the system houses built between whole numbered houses were assigned address including the whole number along with an alphabetic letter a, b, c, and so on depending on the number of new spaces.

      It can't escape one's notice that this is substantially similar to the numbering system which Niklas Luhmann used for his zettelkasten.

    1. You can look up for yourself some ofhis notes on their website.[12] Soon, you will be able to access thewhole digitalised slip-box online.

      For those interested in looking at a system in English but with a slightly different form, but ostensibly similar, try W. Ross Ashby's digitized note collection: http://www.rossashby.info/

      Perhaps not coincidentally, Ashby was a research colleague of Luhmann's.

    2. cut out paper as Luhmann hadto.

      On the back of his notes, you will find not only manuscript drafts, but also old bills or drawings by his children. [footnote]

      While it's possible that Luhmann may have cut some of his own paper, by the time he was creating his notes the mass manufacture of index cards of various sizes was ubiquitous enough that he should never have had to cut his own. He certainly wasn't forced to manufacture them the way Carl Linnaeus had to.

    3. Iwonder how long it will take until the advantages of Luhmann’s slip-box and work routines become equally obvious to everyone. But bythen, everyone will already have known it all along the way.

      Ahrens focuses almost exclusively on Niklas Luhmann in his book How to Take Smart Notes. Sadly he misses that many others used not only the zettelkasten but other closely similar techniques including the commonplace book as a means of knowledge gathering and productivity.

      There are thousands of productive researchers and writers who have broadly used many of these techniques to great advantage. In fact, it's almost hard to find famous writers or thinkers in the early Renaissance or since who did not use these systems.

      Certainly Luhmann's system was one of the most refined of the group and his success is heavily underlined by his gargantuan output, but by not highlight other users of these systems, we're missing a lot more of the power of these systems.

    4. Schmidt, Johannes F.K. 2013. “Der Nachlass Niklas Luhmanns –eine erste Sichtung: Zettelkasten und Manuskripte.” SozialeSysteme 19 (1): 167–83.

      I'd like to read this but suspect there isn't an English translation lying around.

    5. When he was asked if he missed anything in his life, he famouslyanswered: “If I want something, it’s more time. The only thing thatreally is a nuisance is the lack of time.” (Luhmann, Baecker, andStanitzek, 1987, 139)
    1. Ahren’s book and ideas are not his original creation, but based on the method of Niklas Luhman referred to as the Zettelkasten. I see various references to Luhman’s ideas lately and predict this will become “a thing” in education.

      Another example of how much we've forgotten of our commonplacing and note taking traditions in rhetoric, and this from someone who's actively used note cards in the past.

      Luhmann did not invent the zettelkasten. (I should make bumper stickers...)

      Oops: https://www.zazzle.com/niklas_luhmann_bumper_sticker-128462770354241554

  16. Jan 2022
    1. “One cannot think without writing.” (Luhmann 1992, 53)

      Similar statements have been made by others:

      I could quote Luhmann on this as well, who thought that "without writing one cannot think," But there is nothing peculiarly "Luhmannian" about this idea. Isaac Asimov is said to have said "Writing to me is simply thinking through my fingers." And, to give one other example, E. B. White (of "Strunk and White" fame) claimed that "writing is one way to go about thinking." In other words, writing is thinking. And since I do almost all my significant writing in ConnectedText these days, it might be called my "writing environment."—Manfred Kuehn

      I think this was Luhmann's full quote:

      Ohne zu schreiben, kann man nicht denken; jedenfalls nicht in anspruchsvoller, anschlussfähiger Weise.

      (Translation) You cannot think without writing; at least not in a sophisticated, connectable way.

      Luhmann’s “you” or "one" in his quote is obviously only a Western cultural referent which erases the existence of oral based cultures which have other ways to do their sophisticated thinking. His ignorant framing on the topic shouldn’t be a shared one. Oral cultures managed to do their thinking through speech and memory.

    1. I could quote Luhmann on this as well, who thought that "without writing one cannot think," But there is nothing peculiarly "Luhmannian" about this idea. Isaac Asimov is said to have said "Writing to me is simply thinking through my fingers." And, to give one other example, E. B. White (of "Strunk and White" fame) claimed that "writing is one way to go about thinking." In other words, writing is thinking. And since I do almost all my significant writing in ConnectedText these days, it might be called my "writing environment."

      Various quotes along the lines of "writing is thinking".

      What is the equivalent in oral societies? Memory is thinking?

    1. Schmidt, J. F. (2018). Niklas Luhmann’s Card Index: The Fabrication of Serendipity. Sociologica, 12(1), 53–60. https://doi.org/10.6092/issn.1971-8853/8350

      A quick overview of Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten and it's basic shape with a few interesting quotes. Nothing really brilliant or new here for me. There were two portions mentioning computer science which gave too much credulity to the comparison between the zettelkasten and a computer and erased the earlier history of these techniques. I'm hoping that there's far more in the longer article in the book Forgetting Machines.

      I'm a bit irked to continually find that Luhmann's second system is still incomplete and particularly section 9.

    2. As Luhmann noted,19 this concept goes back to the general structure

      of the brain modeled by W.R. Ashby:20 the capacity of the brain does not derive from a huge number of point-to-point-accesses but on the relations between the nodes (i.e. notes).

      Evidence that Niklas Luhmann was aware of W. Ross Ashby. The secondary question to be asked here: did they each know of each others' note taking methods and systems which are highly similar?

      Index card no. 9/8b of the second collection. (Niklas Luhmann)

    3. Generally speaking, his mode of referencing — developed in the 1950s! — make use of an idea thatwould later become the common technology of “hyperlinks” in the computer age. Luhmann himself calledhis system of references a “web-like system.”16 The metaphor of the web also suggests interpreting it alongnetwork-theoretical lines.17

      This so-called link to computer science and prefiguring the internet is a bit too credulous here. Vannevar Bush prefigured the idea in 1945, but one can look back further to Konrad Gessner centuries before to make the same connections.

    4. Three types of linking can be distinguished:a) References in the context of a larger structural outline: When beginning a major line of thoughtLuhmann sometimes noted on the first card several of the aspects to be addressed and marked themby a capital letter that referred to a card (or set of consecutive cards) that was numbered accordinglyand placed at least in relative proximity to the card containing the outline. This structure comesclosest to resembling the outline of an article or the table of contents of a book and therefore doesn’treally use the potentials of the collection as a web of notes.b) Collective references: At the beginning of a section devoted to a specific subject area, one can oftenfind a card that refers to a number of other cards in the collection that have some connection withthe subject or concept addressed in that section. A card of this kind can list up to 25 references andwill typically specify the respective subject or concept in addition to the number. These referencescan indicate cards that are related by subject matter and in close proximity or to cards that are farapart in other sections of the collection, the latter being the normal case.c) Single references: At a particular place in a normal note Luhmann often made a reference to anothercard in the collection that was also relevant to the special argument in question; in most cases the re

      ferred card is located at an entirely different place in the file, frequently in the context of a completely different discussion or subject.

      Niklas Luhmann's index card system had three different types of links. Direct links to individual notes, outlines with links to cards (similar to tables of contents or maps of content), and what Schmidt (2018) refers to as "collective references". These collective references sound a lot like search queries for related topics that have links to a variety of resources/cards related to a particular topic and sound like a table of contents, but without a specific hierarchy.

    1. But this is not the main reason. The other three programs try to achieve the connection or linking between different topics or cards (mainly) by assigning keywords. But this is not what Luhmann's approach recommended. While he did have a register of keywords, this was certainly not the most important way of interconnecting his slips. He linked them by direct references (Verweisungen). Any slip could refer directly to the physical and unchanging location of any other slip.

      Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten had three different forms of links.

      • The traditional keyword index/link from the commonplace book tradition
      • A parent/child link upon first placing the idea into the system (except when starting a new top level parent)
      • A direct link (Verweisungen) to one or more ideas already in the index card catalog.

      Many note taking systems are relying on the older commonplace book taxonomies and neglect or forego both of the other two sorts of links. While the second can be safely subsumed as a custom, one-time version of the third, the third version is the sort of link which helps to create a lot of direct value within a note taking system as the generic links between broader topic heading names can be washed out over time as the system grows.


      Was this last link type included in Konrad Gessner's version? If not, at what point in time did this more specific direct link evolve?

  17. Dec 2021
    1. https://luhmann.surge.sh/learning-how-to-read

      Learning How to Read by Niklas Luhmann

      Not as dense as Mortimer J. Adler's advice, but differentiates reading technical material versus poetry and novels. Moves to the topic of some of the value of note taking as a means of progressive summarization which may have implications for better remembering material.

    2. In narrative texts, the unity of the text is the result of a tension; it results from ignorance of the future which the reader is constantly [made] aware of; but it is also the result of a backward movement since, as Jean Paul noted, the resolution of the tension depends on the fact that the reader must be able to recur to parts of the text he has already read.

      Niklas Luhmann is broadly quoting Jean Paul here. It should be noted that Jean Paul was a notable user of a note taking method very similar to that of the zettelkasten. What evidence, if any, exists for the connection between their systems. Was Jean Paul's system widely known during or after his own lifetime?

    1. https://luhmann.surge.sh/communicating-with-slip-boxes Communicating with Slip Boxes: An Empirical Account by Niklas Luhmann (transl. Manfred Kuehn)

    2. The slip box provides combinatorial possibilities which were never planned, never preconceived, or conceived in this way.

      This is a reframing of some of Raymond Llull's work into the zettelkasten context.

    3. Usually it is more fruitful to look for formulations of problems that relate heterogeneous things with each other.

      A great quote, but this is likely a nebulous statement to those with out the experience of practice. Definitely worth expanding on this idea to give it more detail.

    4. Bibliographical notes which we extract from the literature, should be captured inside the card index. Books, articles, etc., which we have actually read, should be put on a separate slip with bibliographical information in a separate box.

      Ross Ashby's note taking system, also within the field of systems theory, shows the use of an index card set up for bibliographical notes, however in Ashby's case, the primary notes were placed into notebooks and not onto note cards.

      Was there an ancestral link within the systems theory community that was spreading these ideas of note taking or were they (more likely) just so ubiquitous in the academic culture that such a link wouldn't have mattered?

      (Earlier ancestors like Beatrice Webb may have been a more influential link.)

    5. Considering the absence of a systematic order, we must regulate the process of rediscovery of notes, for we cannot rely on our memory of numbers. (The alternation of numbers and alphabetic characters in numbering the slips helps memory and is an optical aid when we search for them, but it is insufficient. Therefore we need a register of keywords that we constantly update.

      Luhmann indicated that one must keep a register of keywords to assist in the rediscovery of notes. This had been the standard within the commonplacing tradition for centuries before him. The potential subtle difference is that he seems to place more value on the placement links between cards as well as other specific links between cards over these subject headings.

      Is it possible to tell from his system which sets of links were more valuable to him? Were there more of these topical heading links than other non-topical heading links between individual cards?

    6. Luhmann, Niklas. "Kommunikation mit Zettelkästen." Öffentliche Meinung und sozialer Wandel/Public Opinion and Social Change. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 1981. 222-228.

      https://luhmann.surge.sh/communicating-with-slip-boxes

      Note the 1981 original publication date.

    1. Luhmann, for sure, had little (if any) awareness of this long tradition. His excerpting habits should not be regarded as a result of cultural inheritance. A direct contact with early modern excerpting systems is not demonstrable, and Luhmann himself never once mentioned them in his publications.

      Alberto Cevolini argues that Niklas Luhmann was unaware of the prior tradition of excerpting, however even his complex numbering system shows incredibly high similarity to the numbering system of houses used in 1770 Vienna near the time at which Konrad Gessner delineated his note taking system which also used excerpting.

      cross reference Markus Krajewski in Paper Machines, chapter 3, page 28:

      By 1777, the government of Lower Austria starts a renewed numbering of houses. “ As many new houses were built after the last conscription which have no number yet, this is also an opportunity for the rectification of the house numbers.” New entries are to be treated as follows: “If for instance three new houses are found between numbers 12 and 13, the first is to be 12a, the second 12b, the third 12c.”

      Given this evidence, it's more likely that Luhmann was taught this system, he researched it, or perhaps like the broader ideas, it was floating around so heavily in the culture of his time and place from centuries earlier that it was simply a natural fit. More evidence about the prevalence for street numbering may be needed from his time period to know how common this general numbering system was.

    2. The card index appeared to be simply what it was: a wooden box for paper slips. On one of these file cards, Luhmann once summarized his own reflections on just such an experience: ‘People come, they see everything and nothing more than that, just like in porn movies; consequently, they leave disappointed’ (Figure 1).8
      1. Cf. Schmidt, ‘Luhmanns Zettelkasten’, 7. The heading of this file card is formulated in form of a question: ‘Geist im Kasten?’ (‘Does Spirit hide in the filing cabinet?’). Obviously, the answer is no. Many thanks to Johannes Schmidt for providing the image of this file card.

      In a zettel in his system entitled "Does Spirit hide in the filing cabinet", Niklas Luhmann wrote the note: "People come, they see everything and nothing more than that, just like in porn movies; consequently, they leave disappointed." This is a telling story about the simplicity of the idea of a slip box (zettelkasten, card catalog, or commonplace book).

      yellowed index card with the identifier 9/8,3 with almost illegible handwriting in German Niklas Luhmann, Zettelkasten II, index card no. 9/8,3

      It's also a testament to the fact that the value of it is in the upfront work that is required in making valuable notes and linking them. Many end up trying out the simple looking system and then wonder why it isn't working for them. The answer is that they're not working for it.

    3. Cevolini, Alberto. “Where Does Niklas Luhmann’s Card Index Come From?” Erudition and the Republic of Letters 3, no. 4 (October 24, 2018): 390–420. https://doi.org/10.1163/24055069-00304002.

      How have I not come across this article before?!

  18. Nov 2021
    1. "In the Zettelkasten, there is a note that contains the argument that disproves all assertions on all other notes. But this note disappears once you open the Zettelkasten. That is, it changes its number and relocates itself, making it impossible to find. A joker."

      Ha! A great meta card to have in one's system!

    2. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1re3lYaALScZ49189XIGqUVjQlMPe9uOfLEyz8y7mJuE/edit#

      https://vimeo.com/173128404

      Some better in-depth examples of how Niklas Luhmann used his zettelkasten as well as some of the problems he would have faced and how they were solved (or weren't).

    3. Now that we're digitizing the Zettelkasten we often find dated notes that say things like "note 60,7B3 is missing". This note replaces the original note at this position. We often find that the original note is maybe only 20, 30 notes away, put back in the wrong position. But Luhmann did not start looking, because where should he look? How far would he have to go to maybe find it again? So, instead he adds the "note is missing"-note. Should he bump into the original note by chance, then he could put it back in its original position. Or else, not.

      Niklas Luhmann had a simple way of dealing with lost cards by creating empty replacements which could be swapped out if found later. It's not too dissimilar to doing inventory in a book store where mischievous customers pick up books, move them, or even hide them sections away. Going through occasionally or even regularly or systematically would eventually find lost/misfiled cards unless they were removed entirely from the system (similar to stolen books).

    4. When we look at the Zettelkasten, it looks quite inconspicuous and small and doesn't give away the secret. The outer appearance is trivial, so what is it then that made Luhmann refer to it as his second brain.

      the translation for "second brain" is direct? Does he provide a source for where this was recorded? It's the first time I've heard the phrase outside of Tiago Forte's use.

    5. "The Zettelkasten takes more of my time than the writing of books." —Niklas Luhmann (via vimeo.com/173128404)

      Some people complain about the amount of time that working in their zettelkasten or notes may take, and it may take a while, but it is exactly the actual work of creation that takes the longest. The rest of the process is just the copying over and editing.

    1. According to your catalog, if you have made one, in which every division or subdivision bears a serial letter or number, you can put your slips in order. When they are once arranged, you will find them again without any trouble at the moment of work.

      So here we have in print (we may need to double check the original French from 1921) an indicator of a note taker recommending using serial numbers on slips before Niklas Luhmann's birth.

  19. Oct 2021
    1. In my journey to find a solution, I found this strange and old method of taking notes called Zettelkasten, or slip-box in English. Niklas Luhmann, the creator of the method, was a highly productive social scientist

      Another source in the public wrongly crediting Niklas Luhmann with the creating of the zettelkasten.

    1. In den digitalen Sammlungen der Universitätsbilbiothek Bielefeld kann jetzt in einer Bilddatenbank der erste Zettelkasten, den Niklas Luhmann zwischen 1951 und 1962 erstellt hat, eingesehen werden. Die ca. 24.000 Zettel umfassende Sammlung besteht aus 108 thematischen und 2 bibliographischen Abteilungen sowie einem Schlagwortverzeichnis. Mithilfe einer durch das Niklas Luhmann-Archiv erstellten detallierten Inhaltsübersicht, die als pdf heruntergeladen werden kann, und einer entsprechenden Navigationsleiste können die verschiedenen Abteilungen gezielt angewählt werden.

      In the digital collections of the Bielefeld University Library, the first slip box , which Niklas Luhmann created between 1951 and 1962, can now be viewed in an image database . The collection, which includes around 24,000 pieces of paper, consists of 108 thematic and 2 bibliographical sections as well as a subject index. With the help of a detailed table of contents created by the Niklas Luhmann archive, which can be downloaded as a PDF, and a corresponding navigation bar, the various departments can be specifically selected.

      Note that this is just the first slip box...

    1. https://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Missing-Link-Luhmanns-Denkmaschine-endlich-im-Netz-4364512.html?seite=all

      An interesting overview of Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten and how it was digitally archived with some potential ideas about how this might be done for other such systems or for ideas for those building and designing their own digital gardens.

    2. Retrodigitalisierung und Archivierung bedeutet weit mehr als Scannen, transkribieren und ordentlich wegspeichern. Die Digitalisierung des Zettelkastens scheint ein besonders komplexes Unterfangen zu sein, dass sehr spezifische Antworten und Lösungen erfordert. Können andere, ähnliche Projekte von Ihren Erfahrungen profitieren?

      Machine translation:

      Retro digitization and archiving means much more than just scanning, transcribing and storing properly. The digitization of the card box seems to be a particularly complex undertaking that requires very specific answers and solutions. Can other, similar projects benefit from your experience?

      It would be interesting to compare the digitization efforts of this process with that of W. Ross Ashby's notes: http://www.rossashby.info/.

    3. Ein Beispiel: Seit Beginn des Projektes wurden bis heute von den Editoren bereits gut 2800 bibliographische Datensätze zu Literatur angelegt, mit der Luhmann gearbeitet hat. Dazu kommen die gut 2100 Publikationen von Luhmann selbst. Und wir sind erst mittendrin.

      Machine translation:

      An example: since the beginning of the project, the editors have already created a good 2,800 bibliographical records on literature that Luhmann has worked with. Then there are the 2100 publications by Luhmann himself. And we are only in the middle of it.

      I wonder what this ratio looks like for other writers and researchers? I'd suspect Niklas Luhmann to be several standard deviations above the average.

    4. Analog zur Struktur des Zettelkastens baut Luhmanns Systemtheorie nicht auf Axiome und bietet keine Hierarchien von Begriffen oder Thesen. Zentrale Begriffe sind, ebenso wie die einzelnen Zettel, stark untereinander vernetzt und gewinnen erst im Kontext Bedeutung.

      machine translation:

      Analogous to the structure of the card box, Luhmann's system theory is not based on axioms and does not offer any hierarchies of terms or theses. Central terms, like the individual pieces of paper, are strongly interlinked and only gain meaning in the context.

      There's something interesting here about avoiding hierarchies and instead interlinking things and giving them meaning based on context.

      Could a reformulation of ideas like the scala naturae into these sorts of settings be a way to remove some of the social cruft from our culture from an anthropological point of view? This could help us remove structural racism and other issues we have with genetics and our political power structures.

      Could such a redesign force the idea of "power with" and prevent "power over"?

    5. Luhmann benennt den Nachteil, dass der "ursprünglich laufende Text oft durch Hunderte von Zwischenzetteln unterbrochen ist" – ein Problem, das in der weiter unten beschriebenen digitalen Edition mittels eines Navigationssystems gelöst wurde.

      Machine translation:

      Luhmann names the disadvantage that the "originally running text is often interrupted by hundreds of slip sheets" - a problem that was solved in the digital edition described below using a navigation system.

      One of the problems Luhmann had with his paper version of a zettelkasten is solved by the digital edition's navigation.

    6. In Absehung einiger Spitzfindigkeiten haben Schmidt, Gödel und Zimmer in einem Konferenzbeitrag die wichtigsten vier Merkmale gekennzeichnet, die das "theoretische Kreativpotential der Sammlung" ausmachen. Namentlich sind das eine nichthierarchische Ordnungsstruktur, das Nummerierungssystem, das Verweisungssystem und ein Schlagwortverzeichnis.

      Machine translation:

      Aside from a few quibbles, Schmidt, Gödel and Zimmer identified the four most important features that make up the "theoretical creative potential of the collection" in a conference contribution . Namely, these are a non-hierarchical structure, the numbering system, the reference system and a keyword index.

      This is as close a definition to Niklas Luhmann's particular zettelkasten as we might get. Keep in mind that given the variations and special cases which appear even in his own zettelkasten that these wouldn't necessarily define the form of all zettelkasten.

      Broad features of Niklas Luhmann's Zettelkasten:

      • non-hierarchical structure
      • the numbering system
      • reference system
      • keyword index
    7. Johannes Schmidt vom Niklas Luhmann-Archiv bemerkte hierzu, dass der Kasten in vielerlei Hinsicht einer unscharfen Logik folge. Man stelle sich einen Botaniker vor, dessen Klassifikationssystem durch einen unerwarteten Pflanzenfund ins Wanken gerät. Ähnlich mussten Schmidt und seine CCeH-Mitstreiter Martina Gödel, Patrick Sahle und Sebastian Zimmer immer wieder aufgrund von überraschenden Zettelmerkmalen ihr Datenmodell nachbessern und modifizieren.

      Machine translation

      Johannes Schmidt from the Niklas Luhmann Archive remarked that the box follows a fuzzy logic in many respects. Imagine a botanist whose classification system is shaken by an unexpected plant find. Similarly, Schmidt and his CCeH colleagues Martina Gödel, Patrick Sahle and Sebastian Zimmer had to repeatedly improve and modify their data model due to surprising note features.

      The form and shape of Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten was not as static as some may have supposed.

    8. Die vollständige digitale Reproduktion des Zettelkastens einschließlich aller Vernetzungen stellt die größte und reizvollste Herausforderung dieses Langzeitprojektes dar. Der Entwickler Sebastian Zimmer vom CCeH bezeichnete die Aufgabe als facettenreich und anspruchsvoll: "Immer wieder gibt es Spezialfälle zu entdecken. Dadurch ist der Spaß an der Sache gewährleistet, und es wird nie langweilig."

      Machine translation:

      The complete digital reproduction of the card box including all interconnections is the greatest and most appealing challenge of this long-term project. The developer Sebastian Zimmer from the CCeH described the task as multifaceted and demanding: "There are always special cases to discover. This guarantees fun and it never gets boring. "

      The idea that digitizing his zettelkasten has many special cases is an indicator that the system morphed and grew as he used it. He likely settled into some specific uses over time, but it's likely that the overall shape is similar to other note taking forms, but he worked to make things fit his particular style.

  20. Sep 2021
    1. Jot down connections and tangential thoughts, underline key passages, and make a habit of building a dialogue with the author(s).

      Some people consider annotations to be a conversation with the author. But you're also having a conversation with yourself and your own thoughts. (Cross reference Niklas Luhmann's having a conversation with himself via his notes.)

      Further, there are platforms like Hypothes.is or social platforms like Twitter where you can move the conversation out of the page and engage with others. However, for this Hypothes.is has more power because it keeps the conversation linked to the original text and the original context (which I'll explicitly translate here as "with the text") to underline the point.

      cf:

      cum (Latin) : with

      textus (Latin) : tissue, web, texture, fabric, connection, language

      contextus (Latin) : context, connection, coherence, connexion, coherency, text

  21. Aug 2021
    1. The Zettelkasten methodology was developed by German Social Scientist Niklas Luhmann.

      Here again is another example indicating that Niklas Luhmann developed the idea instead of it having evolved over several hundred years from the commonplace book and becoming more specific with the wide adoption of index cards in society once mass manufacture was more easily available.