- May 2022
In the case ofLévi-Strauss, meanwhile, the card index continued to serve inimportant ways as a ‘memory crutch’, albeit with a key differencefrom previous uses of the index as an aide-memoire. In Lévi-Strauss’case, what the fallibility of memory takes away, the card index givesback via the workings of chance. As he explains in an interview withDidier Erebon:I get by when I work by accumulating notes – a bitabout everything, ideas captured on the fly,summaries of what I have read, references,quotations... And when I want to start a project, Ipull a packet of notes out of their pigeonhole anddeal them out like a deck of cards. This kind ofoperation, where chance plays a role, helps merevive my failing memory. (Cited in Krapp, 2006:361)For Krapp, the crucial point here is that, through his use of indexcards, Lévi-Strauss ‘seems to allow that the notes may either restorememory – or else restore the possibilities of contingency which givesthinking a chance under the conditions of modernity’ (2006: 361).
Claude Lévi-Strauss had a note taking practice in which he accumulated notes of ideas on the fly, summaries of what he read, references, and quotations. He kept them on cards which he would keep in a pigeonhole. When planning a project, he would pull them out and use them to "revive [his] failing memory."
Questions: - Did his system have any internal linkages? - How big was his system? (Manageable, unmanageable?) - Was it only used for memory, or was it also used for creativity? - Did the combinatorial reshufflings of his cards provide inspiration a la the Llullan arts?
Link this to the ideas of Raymond Llull's combinatorial arts.
- Apr 2022
According to Krapp, admissions like this, along with Barthes’inclusion of facsimiles of his cards in Roland Barthes by RolandBarthes, are all part of Barthes ‘outing’ his card catalogue as ‘co-author of his texts’ (Krapp, 2006: 363). The precise wording of thisformulation – designating the card index as ‘co-author’ – and theagency it ascribes to these index cards are significant in that theysuggest a usage that extends beyond mere memory aid to formsomething that is instrumental to the very organisation of Barthes’ideas and the published representations of these ideas.
Krapp argues that, despite its ‘respectablelineage’, the card index generally ‘figures only as an anonymous,furtive factor in text generation, acknowledged – all the way into thetwentieth century – merely as a memory crutch’ (361).2 A keyreason for this is due to the fact that the ‘enlightened scholar isexpected to produce innovative thought’ (361); knowledgeproduction, and any prostheses involved in it, ‘became and remaineda private matter’ (361).
'Memory crutch' implies a physical human failing that needs assistance rather than a phrase like aide-mémoire that doesn't draw that same attention.
- index cards
- Roland Barthes
- card index as co-author
- note taking
- card index for writing
- memory crutch
- external scaffolding
- Peter Krapp
- external structures for thought
The Jesuit Francesco Sac-chini, in contrast, commended the interruption in reading that resulted fromstopping to copy a passage into one’s notebook: it slowed down reading and aidedretention.44
- May 2021
For more than a decade, I’ve revisited “this day in history” from my own blogging archive, looking back one year, five years, ten years (and then, eventually, 15 years and 20 years). Every day, I roll back my blog archives to this day in years gone past, pull out the most interesting headlines and publish a quick blog post linking back to them.This structured, daily work of looking back on where I’ve been is more valuable to helping me think about where I’m going than I can say.
Lots more examples of people doing this pattern on their own websites at https://indieweb.org/on_this_day