- Apr 2022
A filing system is indefinitely expandable, rhizomatic (at any point of timeor space, one can always insert a new card); in contradistinction with the sequen-tial irreversibility of the pages of the notebook and of the book, its interiormobility allows for permanent reordering (for, even if there is no narrative conclu-sion of a diary, there is a last page of the notebook on which it is written: its pagesare numbered, like days on a calendar).
Most writing systems and forms force a beginning and an end, they force a particular structure that is both finite and limiting. The card index (zettelkasten) may have a beginning—there's always a first note or card, but it never has to have an end unless one's ownership is so absolute it ends with the life of its author. There are an ever-increasing number of ways to order a card index, though some try to get around this to create some artificial stability by numbering or specifically ordering their cards. New ideas can be accepted into the index at a multitude of places and are always internally mobile and re-orderable.
link to Luhmann's works on describing this sort of rhizomatic behavior of his zettelkasten
Within a network model framing for a zettelkasten, one might define thinking as traversing a graph of idea nodes in a particular order. Alternately it might also include randomly juxtaposing cards and creating links between ones which have similarities. Which of these modes of thinking has a higher order? Which creates more value? Which requires more work?
- Feb 2022
The Internet is a giant mental network. In theory, it would be possible to create a miniature version of the web by creating one node with some content (an idea, a thought) and to ask people to create a branch off that node with a label of their own—based on what the initial node made them think about. People would keep on adding nodes, which would create interesting stories, like a non-linear cadavre exquis.
In fact, my allegiance to Scrivener basically boils down to just three tricks that the software performs, but those tricks are so good that I’m more than willing to put up with all the rest of the tool’s complexity.Those three tricks are:Every Scrivener document is made up of little cards of text — called “scrivenings” in the lingo — that are presented in an outline view on the left hand side of the window. Select a card, and you see the text associated with that card in the main view.If you select more than one card in the outline, the combined text of those cards is presented in a single scrolling view in the main window. You can easily merge a series of cards into one longer card.The cards can be nested; you can create a card called, say, “biographical info”, and then drag six cards that contain quotes about given character’s biography into that card, effectively creating a new folder. That folder can in turn be nested inside another folder, and so on. If you select an entire folder, you see the combined text of all the cards as a single scrolling document.
Steven Johnson identifies the three features of Scrivener which provide him with the most value.
Notice the close similarity of these features to those of a traditional zettelkasten: cards of text which can be linked together and rearranged into lines of thought.
One difference is the focus on the creation of folders which creates definite hierarchies rather than networks of thought.
Our brains work not that differently in terms of interconnectedness.Psychologists used to think of the brain as a limited storage spacethat slowly fills up and makes it more difficult to learn late in life. Butwe know today that the more connected information we alreadyhave, the easier it is to learn, because new information can dock tothat information. Yes, our ability to learn isolated facts is indeedlimited and probably decreases with age. But if facts are not kept
isolated nor learned in an isolated fashion, but hang together in a network of ideas, or “latticework of mental models” (Munger, 1994), it becomes easier to make sense of new information. That makes it easier not only to learn and remember, but also to retrieve the information later in the moment and context it is needed.
Our natural memories are limited in their capacities, but it becomes easier to remember facts when they've got an association to other things in our minds. The building of mental models makes it easier to acquire and remember new information. The down side is that it may make it harder to dramatically change those mental models and re-associate knowledge to them without additional amounts of work.
The mental work involved here may be one of the reasons for some cognitive biases and the reason why people are more apt to stay stuck in their mental ruts. An example would be not changing their minds about ideas of racism and inequality, both because it's easier to keep their pre-existing ideas and biases than to do the necessary work to change their minds. Similar things come into play with respect to tribalism and political party identifications as well.
This could be an interesting area to explore more deeply. Connect with George Lakoff.
Every intellectual endeavour starts from an already existingpreconception, which then can be transformed during further inquiresand can serve as a starting point for following endeavours. Basically,that is what Hans-Georg Gadamer called the hermeneutic circle
All intellectual endeavors start from a preexisting set of ideas. These can then be built upon to create new concepts which then influence the original starting point and may continue ever expanding with further thought.
Ahrens argues that most writing advice goes against the idea of the hermeneutic circle and pretends as if the writer is starting with a blank page. This can prefigure some of the stress and difficulty Ernest Hemingway spoke of when he compared writing to "facing the white bull which is paper with no words on it."
While it can be convenient to think of the idea of tabula rasa, in practice it really doesn't exist. As a result the zettelkasten more readily shows its value in the writing process.
you will have to deal with anincreasingly complex body of content, especially because it is notjust about collecting thoughts, but about making connections andsparking new ideas
Collecting thoughts is great, but there is more value in linking them, encouraging them to have sex, and making new and more exciting ideas.
Cross reference: Matt Ridley's When Ideas Have Sex https://www.ted.com/talks/matt_ridley_when_ideas_have_sex
- writing process
- Hans-Georg Gadamer
- networked thinking
- tabula rasa
- ideas have sex
- cognitive dissonance
- tools for thought
- cognitive load
- Hemingway's White Bull
- George Lakoff
- political affiliation
- context shifting
- hermeneutic circle
- networked thought
- associative memory
- cognitive bias
- mental models
- Jan 2022
Here, the card index func-tions as a ‘thinking machine’,67 and becomes the best communication partner for learned men.68
From a computer science perspective, isn't the index card functioning like an external memory, albeit one with somewhat pre-arranged linked paths? It's the movement through the machine's various paths that is doing the "thinking". Or the user's (active) choices that create the paths creates the impression of thinking.
Perhaps it's the pre-arranged links where the thinking has already happened (based on "work" put into the system) and then traversing the paths gives the appearance of "new" thinking?
How does this relate to other systems which can be thought of as thinking from a complexity perspective? Bacteria perhaps? Groups of cells acting in concert? Groups of people acting in concert? Cells seeing out food using random walks? etc?
From this perspective, how can we break out the constituent parts of thought and thinking? Consciousness? With enough nodes and edges and choices of paths between them (or a "correct" subset of paths) could anything look like thinking or computing?
- Dec 2021
It is impossible to think without writing; at least it is impossible in any sophisticated or networked (anschlußfähig) fashion.
The sentiment that it is impossible to think without writing is patently wrong. While it's an excellent tool, it takes an overly textual perspective and completely ignores the value of orality an memory in prehistory.
Modern culture has lost so many of our valuable cultural resources that we have completely forgotten that they even existed.
Oral cultures certainly had networked thought, Luhmann and others simply can't imagine how it may have worked. We're also blinded by the imagined size of societies in pre-agricultural contexts. The size and scope of cities and city networks makes the history of writing have an outsized appearance.
Further, we don't have solid records of these older netowrks, a major drawback of oral cultures which aren't properly maintained, but this doesn't mean that they didn not exist.
- Feb 2021
The promise also lies in doing things with the words, forging new links of association, remixing them. We have all the tools at our disposal to create commonplace books that would astound Locke and Jefferson. And yet we are, deliberately, trying to crawl back into the glass box.
Technology is providing us with the ability to build the most amazing commonplace books, thought spaces, and thinking machines, but somehow we're ignoring the power they have.
The overall increase in textual productivity may be the single most important fact about the Web’s growth over the past fifteen years. Think about it this way: let’s say it’s 1995, and you are cultivating a page of “hot links” to interesting discoveries on the Web. You find an article about a Columbia journalism lecture and you link to it on your page. The information value you have created is useful exclusively to two groups: people interested in journalism who happen to visit your page, and the people maintaining the Columbia page, who benefit from the increased traffic. Fast forward to 2010, and you check-in at Foursquare for this lecture tonight, and tweet a link to a description of the talk. What happens to that information? For starters, it goes out to friends of yours, and into your twitter feed, and into Google’s index. The geo-data embedded in the link alerts local businesses who can offer your promotions through foursquare; the link to the talk helps Google build its index of the web, which then attracts advertisers interested in your location or the topic of journalism itself. Because that tiny little snippet of information is free to make new connections, by checking in here you are helping your friends figure out what to do tonight; you’re helping the Journalism school in promoting this venue; you’re helping the bar across Broadway attract more customers, you’re helping Google organize the web; you’re helping people searching google for information about journalism; you’re helping journalism schools advertising on Google to attract new students. Not bad for 140 characters.
A fantastic example of the value of networked thought based solely on the ability of everyone's commonplace books to talk to each other.
- Nov 2020
The current intellectual sphere (centered on Twitter) makes interaction even easier. Its cost is an eroding sense of community.
- Oct 2020
Some notes on Thinking in Public
Trying out ideas in public, for/with small networks, in a distinctive way brings compound rewards for you.
This is definitely a restatement of the idea of blogging as a thought space, but done perhaps in a broader context. Tom's experiments with Discord for creating and documenting online conversations also becomes a method of networked thinking that allows these discussions to aggregate and reach wider audiences.