91 Matching Annotations
  1. Last 7 days
    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. 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?)

    3. 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.

  2. 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.

    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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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.

    5. A-6 format

      This is 4-1/8 x 5-7/8 in which is close to the American 4x6 inch index card.

    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?

  6. 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?!

  7. Nov 2021
    1. Boehm: Professor Luhmann, which critics of your systems theory you fear the most? Luhmann: The stupid ones.

      Ha!

    2. 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. "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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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.

    1. I should perhaps also note that I try, whenever possible, not to collect raw quotes or information simply copied from the Internet or from books, but to write excerpts or summaries in my own words on the basis of my reading. Luhmann called this "reformulating writing" and argued that such an approach is most important for one's own intellectual life. But this idea is not a new discovery Luhmann made. In fact, the idea that excerpts should be used to keep on's research goes back to at least the Renaissance when people first began to make extensive excerpts on paper.

      This is also related to the ideas of invention as well as the analogy of the bee in relation to commonplaces. Link this to the bee analogy of Seneca the Younger and Macrobius in Saturnalia.

    2. Indeed, Luhmann's system functions very much like a library, with the note cards corresponding to the books and the index corresponding to the subject catalogue.

      Useful analogy here.

      Similarly W. Ross Ashby had a set of commonplace books, but used a more traditional index card system to create his index.

    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.

    2. Another reason is that it has influenced my thinking about these matters, since about 1999.

      Kuehn has been following Luhmann since 1999.

    3. Another theoretician of the index card system, the German sociologist Niklas Luhman, whose so-called "Zettelkasten" (slip-box) has achieved independent fame in Germany, used to talk about this first analytic step as "reduction for the sake of [building] complexity." [9]

      Luhmann used the idea of "one card, one fact" as the first step of "reduction for the sake of [building] complexity."

      Historically reducing things to their smallest essential form or building blocks makes it much easier to build up new complex things from them.

      Examples of this include:

      • Reducing numbers to binary 1 and 0
      • tk

      footnote:

      See Luhmann, Niklas (2000) Short Cuts. Edited by Peter Gente, Heidi Paris, Martin Weinmann. Frankfurt/Main: Zweitausendeins), p. 33.

    1. There are no privileged places in the note-card system, every card is as important as every other card, and no hierarchy is super-imposed on the system. The significance of each card depends on its relation to other cards (or the relation of other cards to it). It is a network; it is not "arboretic." Accordingly, it in some ways anticipates hypertext and the internet.

      Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten system doesn't impose a heirarchy upon it's contents and in some ways its structure anticipates the ideas of hypertext and the internet's structure.

    2. Luhmann also described his system as his secondary memory (Zweitgedächtnis), alter ego, or his reading memory or (Lesegedächtnis).

      Stumbled back upon this article almost a year and change later. Great to see that I'm at least consistent in what I would highlight. ;)

    1. -It looks like the system is also very similar to Luhmann’s Zettelkasten. Though again, his discipline seems to exceed mine because I am a lot less ordered.

      Ryan Holiday on 2014-04-01 mentioning Niklas Luhmann and his Zettelkasten and linking to another article.

      Note he doesn't use the phrase commonplace book here, though the comments includes it.

  11. Jul 2021
    1. I like the idea of some of the research into education, pedagogy, and technology challenges here.

      Given the incredibly common and oft-repeated misconception which is included in the article ("But Zettelkasten was a very personal practice of Nicholas Luhmann, its inventor."), can we please correct the record?

      Niklas Luhmann positively DID NOT invent the concept of the Zettelkasten. It grew out of the commonplace book tradition in Western culture going back to Aristotle---if not earlier. In Germany it was practiced and morphed with the idea of the waste book or sudelbücher, which was popularized by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg or even re-arrangeable slips of paper used by countless others. From there it morphed again when index cards (whose invention has been attributed to Carl Linnaeus) were able to be mass manufactured in the early 1900s. A number of well-known users who predate Luhmann along with some general history and references can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zettelkasten.

      I suspect that most of the fallacy of Luhmann as the inventor stems from the majority of the early writing about Zettelkasten as a subject appears in German and hasn't been generally translated into English. What little is written about them in English has primarily focused on Luhmann and his output, so the presumption is made that he was the originator of the idea---a falsehood that has been repeated far and wide. This falsehood is also easier to believe because our culture is generally enamored with the mythology of the "lone genius" that managed Herculean feats of output. (We are also historically heavily prone to erase the work and efforts of research assistants, laboratory members, students, amanuenses, secretaries, friends, family, etc. which have traditionally helped writers and researchers in their output.)

      Anyone glancing at the commonplace tradition will realize that similar voluminous outputs were to be easily found among their practitioners as well, especially after their re-popularization by Desiderius Erasmus, Rodolphus Agricola, and Philip Melanchthon in the emergence of humanism in the 1500s. The benefit of this is that there is now a much richer area of research to be done with respect to these tools and the educational enterprise. One need not search very far to discover that Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau's output could potentially be attributed to their commonplace books, which were subsequently published. It was a widely accepted enough technique that it was taught to them at Harvard University when they attended. Apparently we're now all attempting to reinvent the wheel because there's a German buzzword that is somehow linguistically hiding our collective intellectual heritage. Maybe we should put these notes into our digital Zettelkasten (née commonplace books) and let them distill a bit?

      syndication link: https://browninterviews.org/suddenly-you-realize-that-your-house-is-not-equipped-with-a-water-hose-or-even-emergency-exit-we-are-not-prepared-for-e-learning-at-such-a-large-scale-brown-interviews-dr-jingjing-lin/#comment-637

    2. But Zettelkasten was a very personal practice of Nicholas Luhmann, its inventor.

      Another incorrect attribution to Luhmann being the originator of the zettelkasten. THIS IS INCORRECT PEOPLE.

    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/

    1. Your post says nothing at all to suggest Luhman didn’t “invent” “Zettelkasten” (no one says he was only one writing on scraps of paper), you list two names and no links

      My post was more in reaction to the overly common suggestions and statements that Luhmann did invent it and the fact that he's almost always the only quoted user. The link was meant to give some additional context, not proof.

      There are a number of direct predecessors including Hans Blumenberg and Georg Christoph Lichtenberg. For quick/easy reference here try:

      If you want some serious innovation, why not try famous biologist Carl Linnaeus for the invention of the index card? See: http://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/history/research/centres/medicalhistory/past/writing/

      (Though even in this space, I suspect that others were already doing similar things.)

    1. These criteria – surprise serendipity, information and inner complexity

      These criteria – surprise serendipity, information and inner complexity – are the criteria any communication has to meet.

      An interesting thesis about communication. Note that Luhmann worked in general systems theory. I'm curious if he was working in cybernetics as well?

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

      You cannot think without writing; at least not in a sophisticated, connectable way. —Niklas Luhmann

      (Source of the original??)

      This is interesting, but is also ignorant of oral traditions which had means of addressing it.

  12. Jun 2021
    1. But it quickly began to feel, for me, like something more intense: a way to not just passively read but to fully enter a text, to collaborate with it, to mingle with an author on some kind of primary textual plane.

      Mingling with the author has a pleasant ring to it. Better than a "conversation with the text"? Definitely has a nicer warmth.

      He could have replace plane with something warmer as well.


      This is related in a way with the way [[Niklas Luhmann]] spoke about communicating with his [[Zettelkasten]] as means of collaborating. (See: http://luhmann.surge.sh/communicating-with-slip-boxes)

  13. May 2021
    1. But I'm not at all confident I would have made the initial connection without the help of the software. The idea was a true collaboration, two very different kinds of intelligence playing off each other, one carbon-based, the other silicon.

      Stephen Johnson uses the word collaboration to describe his interaction with his own notes in DevonThink, much the way Niklas Luhmann describes with working with his Zettlekasten.

      I'll also note that here in 2005, Johnson doesn't mention the idea of a commonplace book the way he does just a few years later.

    1. Hans Blumenberg carefully read Luhmann’s piece on ‘Communication with note card boxes’ in 1981. He compared their respective systems, and did not fail to record that he had “collaborated” with his own Zettelkasten for forty years, compared to Luhmann’s mere twenty-six.

      So Blumenberg predates Luhmann by quite a bit.

    1. Arthur Schopenhauer admired Lichtenberg greatly for what he had written in his notebooks. He called him one of those who "think ... for their own instruction", who are "genuine 'thinkers for themselves' in both senses of the words".[4] Other admirers of Lichtenberg's notebooks include Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Jacques Barzun.

      It would almost have to be the case that with his method and notebooks being so well known that they influenced Niklas Luhmann's idea of a zettelkasten.

  14. Apr 2021
    1. As I was gearing up to start my PhD last fall, I received a piece of advice that made a lot of sense at the time, and continues to do so. My colleague, Inba told me to 'write while I read', meaning that I should take notes and summarize research while I read it, and not just read and underline article after article. That way, not only do I not lose my thoughts while I'm reading an article, but I am actively thinking through the arguments in the paper while I am reading it and my writing is thoroughly grounded in the literature.

      This is generally fantastic advice! It's also the general underpinning behind the idea of Luhmann's zettelkasten method.

      I'll also mention that it's not too dissimilar to Benjamin Franklin's writing advice about taking what others have written and working with that yourself, though there he doesn't take it as far as others have since.

    1. An old bachelor is generally very precise and exact in his habits. He has no one but himself to look after, nothing to distract his attention from his own affairs; and Mr. Dodgson was the most precise and exact of old bachelors. He made a précis of every letter he wrote or received from the 1st of January, 1861, to the 8th of the same month, 1898. These précis were all numbered and entered in reference-books, and by an ingenious system of cross-numbering he was able to trace a whole correspondence, which might extend through several volumes. The last number entered in his book is 98,721.

      I'm curious what this system was? Was it influenced by systems of John Locke's commonplace book? It could also have been the sort of system which may have inspired Niklas Luhmann.

      Whatever it was, it must have been massive and somewhat well thought through if it reached such a tremendous size.

  15. Feb 2021
    1. When I meet with any thing, that I think fit to put into my common-place-book, I first find a proper head. Suppose for example that the head be EPISTOLA, I look unto the index for the first letter and the following vowel which in this instance are E. i. if in the space marked E. i. there is any number that directs me to the page designed for words that begin with an E and whose first vowel after the initial letter is I, I must then write under the word Epistola in that page what I have to remark.

      I must do some research into Niklas Luhmann to see if he was aware of Locke's work or the broader idea of commonplace books in general as it seems pretty obvious that his refinesments on their systems brought him to his conceptualization of the zettelkasten.