- Jan 2023
Re"...what is it like? How does it manifest?"For me, the idea that my zettelkasten becomes an entity outside myself is most often (and most obviously) felt in two situations (tho there are probably others):When I'm importing new ideas and a connection arises that I hadn't thought of previouslyWhen following trains of thought and connections arise that I didn't overtly intend to makeIn the first instance, I come across ideas I had forgotten about, and although it's not the direction I assumed the new idea would go, it becomes an exciting and possibly more lucrative way to take it.In the second instance, where I might be tracing a thought line to develop an article, I might, for example, zoom in on the graph view in Obsidian and see an idea that, while not formally connected to the ones I'm following, happens to be in close proximity spatially, and so it triggers a new direction I might want to take the article. (You can see this happen IRL in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OUn2-h6oVc&)In both cases, my zk feels like it's offering me more than what I would have gotten had I not been communicating with it. There is a sense that I and it are working together. I import new ideas with a rough sense of how they should connect. It shows alternatives to my thinking on the matter.Obviously, in both cases, all the ideas are my own. So, the zk is not necessarily developing ideas for me. But, because of the way in which the ideas are handled—non-hierarchically, rhizomatic, cross-categorical, cross-theme, etc.—non-habituated connections come to light, connections that are less conditioned by my own conventional ways of thinking.
A good description from Bob Doto.
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.
—Niklas Luhmann, ZK II: Zettel 9/8j
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!?!
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.
- Werner Heisenberg
- Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten
- Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
- Claude Shannon
- death by zettelkasten
- note collection loss and damage
- Erwin Schrödinger
- ghost in the machine
- useless machines
- Schrödinger's cat
- Niklas Luhmann
- fear uncertainty and doubt
- Dec 2022
9/8,3 Geist im Kasten? Zuschauer kommen. Sie bekommen alles zusehen, und nichts als das – wie beimPornofilm. Und entsprechend ist dieEnttäuschung.
I've read and referenced this several times, but never bothered to log it into my notes.
Ghost in the box? Spectators visit. They get to see everything, and nothing but that - like in a porn movie. And the disappointment is correspondingly high.
“I have a trick that I used in my studio, because I have these twenty-eight-hundred-odd pieces of unreleased music, and I have them all stored in iTunes,” Eno said during his talk at Red Bull. “When I’m cleaning up the studio, which I do quite often—and it’s quite a big studio—I just have it playing on random shuffle. And so, suddenly, I hear something and often I can’t even remember doing it. Or I have a very vague memory of it, because a lot of these pieces, they’re just something I started at half past eight one evening and then finished at quarter past ten, gave some kind of funny name to that doesn’t describe anything, and then completely forgot about, and then, years later, on the random shuffle, this thing comes up, and I think, Wow, I didn’t hear it when I was doing it. And I think that often happens—we don’t actually hear what we’re doing. . . . I often find pieces and I think, This is genius. Which me did that? Who was the me that did that?”
Example of Brian Eno using ITunes as a digital music zettelkasten. He's got 2,800 pieces of unreleased music which he plays on random shuffle for serendipity, memory, and potential creativity. The experience seems to be a musical one which parallels Luhmann's ideas of serendipity and discovery with the ghost in the machine or the conversation partner he describes in his zettelkasten practice.
- conversation partners
- Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten
- zettelkasten for art
- combinatorial creativity
- random walks
- zettelkasten for music
- random card generator
- ghost in the machine
- lone genius myth
- Brian Eno
No es magia.
I love that he points this out explicitly.
Some don't see the underlying processes of complexity within note taking methods and as a result ascribe magical properties to what are emergent properties or combinatorial creativity.
See also: The Ghost in the Machine zettel from Luhmann
Somehow there's an odd dichotomy between the boredom of such a simple method and people seeing magic within it at the same time. This is very similar to those who feel that life must be divinely created despite the evidence brought by evolutionary and complexity theory. In this arena, there is a lot more evolved complexity which makes the system harder to see compared to the simpler zettelkasten process.