173 Matching Annotations
  1. Apr 2024
    1. 00:26 Zettelkasten wasn't conceived by Niklas Luhmann; this is a myth (which the person in the video puts forward). Zettelkasten has a long history, and, Niklas Luhmann had a specific taste and version of it.

    1. RE: Thinking about Luhmann's ZKI and ZKII at https://hypothes.is/a/nEPjVPN3Ee6EheNfkl3DfA

      I have to wonder if there's an explicit nod to both ZKI and ZKII in Daniel Lüdecke's naming of ZKN3 here? or had he simply gone through prior iterations of the software himself?

    2. If a variation of any importancebecomes necessary then it is best to start a new index.

      Given his experience in the space, the work of creating a second index (card index/zettelkasten), marks an important change or shift in perspective.

      This may shed light on Niklas Luhmann's practices between ZKI and ZKII. What were the important differences between the two? Presumably closer focus was important for ZKII.

  2. Mar 2024
    1. The quality of the cardshould correspond to the performances required of it. Cardsused for permanent registers or indexes should be of good strongquality, for temporary work a cheaper card can usually be employed.

      Index card quality can be important for cards that are repeatedly used.

      This admonition was more frequently attended to with respect to library card catalogs, but potentially less followed in personal use—Niklas Luhmann's self-cut paper slips which wore ragged over time come quickly to mind here.

    1. People marveled at new invention after new invention and there was a tendency to see mechanical and especially electrical advances as somehow endowed with life. The phonograph, for example, was held to be alive and print adverts even claimed it had a soul.

      I love the tying together of the "aliveness" of a zettelkasten with the "soul" of the phonograph here.

  3. Feb 2024
  4. Jan 2024
    1. I've sketched it out elsewhere but let's memorialize the broad strokes here because we're inspired at the moment... come back later and add in quotes from Luhmann and other sources (@Heyde1931).

      Luhmann was balancing the differences between topically arranged commonplaces and the topical nature of the Dewey Decimal System (a standardized version across thousands of collections) and building neighborhoods of related ideas.

      One of the issues with commonplace books, is planning them out in advance. How might you split up a notebook for long term use to create easy categories when you don't know how much room to give each in advance? (If you don't believe me, stop by r/commonplacebooks where you're likely to see this question pop up several times this year.) This issue is remedied when John Locke suggests keeping commonplaces in chronological order of their appearance and cross-indexing them.

      This creates a new problem of a lot of indexing and increased searching over time as the commonplace book scales. Translating to index cards complicates things because they're unattached and can potentially move about, so they don't have the anchor effectuated by their being bound up in a notebook. But being on slips allows them to be more easily shuffled, rearranged, and even put into outlines, which are all fantastic affordances when looking for creativity or scaffolding things out into an article or book for creation.

      As a result, numbering slips creates a solid anchor by which the cards can be placed and always returned for later finding and use. But how should we number them? Should it be with integers and done chronologically? (1, 2, 3, ..., n) This is nice, but makes a mish-mash of things and doesn't assist much in indexing or finding.

      Why not go back to Dewey, which has been so popular? But not Dewey in the broadest sense of using numbers to tie ideas to concrete categories. An individual's notes are idiosyncratic and it would be increasingly rare for people to have the same note, much less need a standardized number for it (and if they were standardized, who does that work and how is it distributed so everyone could use it?) No, instead, let's just borrow the decimal structure of Dewey's system. One of the benefits of his decimal structure is that an infinity of new books can be placed on ever-expanding bookshelves without needing to restructure the numbering system. Just keep adding decimal places onto the end when necessary. This allows for immense density when necessary. But, importantly, it also provides some fantastic level of serendipity.

      Let's say you go to learn about geometry, so you look up the topic in your trusty library card catalog. Do you really need to look at the hundreds of records returned? Probably not. You only need the the Dewey Decimal Number 516. Once you're at the shelves, you can browse through that section to see what's there and interesting in the space. You might also find things on the shelves above or below 516 and find the delights of topology and number theory or abstract algebra and real analysis. Subjects you might not necessarily have had in mind will suddenly present themselves for your consideration. Even if your initial interest may have been in Zhongmin Shen's Lectures on Finsler geometry (516.375), you might also profitably walk away with James E. Humphreys' Introduction to Lie Algebras and Representation Theory (512.55).

      So what happens if we use these decimal numbers for our notes? First we will have the ability to file things between and amongst each other to infinity. By filing things closest to things which seem related to each other, we'll create neighborhoods of ideas which can easily grow over time. Related ideas will stay together while seemingly related ideas on first blush may slowly grow away from each other over time as even more closely related ideas move into the neighborhood between them. With time and careful work, you'll have not only a breadth of ideas, but a massive depth of them too.

      The use of decimal numbering provides us with a few additional affordances:

      1 (Neighborhoods of ideas) 1.1 combinatorial creativity Neighborhoods of ideas can help to fuel combinatorial creativity and forge new connections as well as insight over time. 1.2 writing One might take advantage of these growing neighborhoods to create new things. Perhaps you've been working for a while and you see you have a large number of cards in a particular area. You can, to some extent, put your hand into your box and grab a tranche of notes. By force of filing, these notes are going to be reasonably related, which means you should be able to use them to write a blog post, an article, a magazine piece, a chapter, or even an entire book (which may require a few fistfuls, as necessary.)

      2 (Sparse indexing) We don't need to index each and every single topic or concept into our index. Because we've filed things nearby, if a new card about Finsler geometry relates to another and we've already indexed the first under that topic, then we don't need to index the second, because our future selves can easily rely on the fact that if we're interested in Finsler geometry in the future, we can look that up in the index, and go to that number where we're likely to see other cards related to the topic as well as additional serendipitous ideas related to them in that same neighborhood.

      You may have heard that as Luhmann progressed on his decades long project, broadly on society and within the area of sociology, he managed to amass 90,000 index cards. How many do you suppose he indexed under the topic of sociology? Certainly he had 10s of thousands relating to his favorite subject, no? Of course he did, but what would happen over time as a collection grows? Having 20,000 indexed entries about sociology doesn't scale well for your search needs. Even 10 indexed entries may be a bit overwhelming as once you find a top level card, hundreds to thousands around it are going to be related. 10 x 100 = 1,000 cards to flip through. So if you're indexing, be conservative. In the roughly 45 years of creating 90,000 slips, Luhmann only indexed two cards with the topic of "sociology". If you look through his index, you'll find that most of his topical entries only have pointers to one or two cards, which provide an entryway into those topics which are backed up with dozens to hundreds of cards on related topics. In rarer, instances you might find three or four, but it's incredibly rare to find more than that.

      Over time, one will find that, for the topics one is most interested in, the number of ideas and cards will grown without bound. Here it makes sense to use more and more specific topics (tags, categories, taxonomies) all of which are each also sparsely indexed. Ultimately one finds that in the limit, the categories get so fractionalized that the closest category one idea has with another is the fact that they're juxtaposed closely by number. The of the decimal expansion might say something about the depth or breadth of the relationship between ideas.

      Something else arises here. At first one may have the tendency to associate their numbers with topical categories. This is only natural as it's a function at which humans all excel. But are those numbers really categories after a few weeks? Probably not. Treat them only as address numbers or GPS coordinates to be able to find your way. Your sociology section may quickly find itself with invasive species of ideas from anthropology and archaeology as well as history. If you treat all your ideas only at the topical level, they'll be miles away from where you need them to be as the smallest level atomic ideas collide with each other to generate new ideas for you. Naturally you can place them further away if you wish and attempt to bridge the distance with links to numbers in other locations, but I suspect you'll find this becomes pretty tedious over time and antithetical when it comes time to pull out a handful and write something. It's fantastically easier to pull out a several dozen and begin than it is to go through and need to pull out linked cards in a onesy-twosies manner or double check with your index to make sure you've gotten the most interesting bits. This becomes even more important as your collection scales.

    1. King’s box of notecards makes me think of Niklas Luhmann’s Zettelkasten. Did you come across any hint that King was familiar with Luhmann’s organizing structure? If he was, it’s unfortunate he missed the part about clearly identified reference notes!

      reply to Karen Hume at https://jillianhess.substack.com/p/martin-luther-king-jrs-organizational/comment/47959537

      It is incredibly unlikely that King was aware of Luhmann's organizational structure as their practices were contemporaneous right down to their starting years. Luhmann's ZK1 comprises 7 sections with about 23,000 notes written from about 1952 to 1961 while the Morehouse Collection indicates that concerning King's research notes archive "The bulk of the notes were taken as reference material for King’s coursework while a doctoral student at Boston University (1952-1955), including notes taken specifically as reference material for King’s dissertation..." I've been actively searching for several years now, and have yet to find anyone following Luhmann's structure until after the Marbach Exhibition "Zettelkästen. Machines of Fantasy" in 2013. Broadly most have historically followed a variation of a subject heading organization, with or without indexing, similar to that found in the commonplace book tradition and described in Johannes Erich Heyde's book Technik des wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens; eine Anleitung, besonders für Studierende (multiple editions including 1931 & 1951), which was a work Luhmann read when devising his own system.

      Incidentally it looks like MLK was using Weis No. 35 boxes, a version of which is still available, now from Globe-Weis: https://amzn.to/3vVcO3c. Perhaps some enterprising teachers will help students create their own versions now?

    1. reply to oxytonic on 2023-01-08 at https://hypothes.is/a/8QdgetQOEe2XG6u5i9iAHQ

      In my experience, alternating alphanumeric codes give you the "gist" of the original context. Purely with reference to my rough outline, my notecard "3516/b" implies psychology (3XXX), cognition (35XX), and memory (351X). Even the single slash implies a level of abstraction and/or specificity.

      But it's not enough because it runs the risk of locking you in. Forward links on the card (or forward links to the card!) offer comparable if not competitive recontextualization, which is most likely what Luhmann means by "multiple storage".


      Caution: My note here has some significant missing context which results from significant additional research.

      The primary issue with analog slip boxes, particularly in academic research of Luhmann's day, was one of multiple storage. No one else I'm aware of prior to his time used Luhmann's filing scheme (and very few after until about 2013). Instead most filed multiple copies of their notes under category headings like "psychology", "cognition", and "memory" (to use your example) so that those ideas would be readily available when they came to work on their ideas relating to cognition, for example. This involved a tremendous amount of copying work. (For reference, see Heyde, Johannes Erich. Technik des wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens: zeitgemässe Mittel und Verfahrungsweisen. Junker und Dünnhaupt, 1931. which is the handbook which Luhmann used to scaffold his method.) It was this copying and filing under multiple categories which was commonly referred to as multiple storage. Many academics got around it by hiring assistants or secretaries who would do this duplicative work and filing on their behalf; Luhmann didn't have this additional help and it may have been a portion of the pressure for the evolution of his method.

      Instead Luhmann used branching and cross-indexing his ideas along with regular use and familiarity of the space within his boxes. While his zettelkasten may seem on the surface to be done by category, the way you suggest, it definitely is not. Some of this appearance is suggested by editorial decisions made by the curators of his digital archive and, in larger part, by Scott Scheper who (sadly in my opinion) recommends using the Academic Outline of Disciplines as top level categories a practice which heavily belies some of what Luhmann was doing. While Luhmann was inspired by the Dewey Decimal System, he wasn't using the parts of it that equated numbers with topics, in part because he didn't need to and it would have been counterproductive to his ultimate method—specifically causing him to deal with multiple storage. Modern (digital) database theory and practice allows some note takers an easier way around this problem.

      For more on this see: - https://boffosocko.com/2022/10/27/thoughts-on-zettelkasten-numbering-systems/ - https://boffosocko.com/2023/01/19/on-the-interdisciplinarity-of-zettelkasten-card-numbering-topical-headings-and-indices/

  5. Dec 2023
    1. 735: _Nen_Kumi Name______ : 2006/03/04 (Sat) 23:35:55 ​​ID:??? >>732  5×3 was used as a book search card. (Almost all electronic now) It 's a little smaller than the popular version of the productivity notebook, making it ideal for portable notes. Other purposes include memorization cards and information retrieval. However, B7 and mini 6-hole system notebooks are almost the same size, so they are being pushed out and are not widely used in Japan.   How to do it in a book called How to Write an American-style Essay. 1.Write a tentative table of contents. 2.Write out the required literature on 5x3 cards.   a Classification code in the upper right corner b Author name and book title in the middle. c Assign a serial number to the top left. d Below is where you can get information.Finally,   write down all the information necessary for the paper's citation list. (4-a) 3. Rewrite the literature cards into a list. (It's a pain twice, but he says to do it.) 4. Write the information on 5x3 cards.   a Prepare literature cards and literature. Finish your bibliography cards. (2-e)   bWrite an information card ① One memo per card, information is the golden rule ② Write it in your own words ③ When copying, enclose it in quotation marks.   ⑤ Serial number of the literature card in the upper left ⑥ Tentative table of contents and card keyword in the upper right 5. Once all the literature cards are checked, rearrange them in the order of the table of contents. Elaboration. 6. The rest is drafting, footnotes, reviewing, citing, proofreading, and finishing.

      https://web.archive.org/web/20060422014759/http://that4.2ch.net/test/read.cgi/stationery/1021438965/l50

      Apparently there is a Japanese text with the title "How to Write and American-style Essay" which recommends using classification codes in the upper right and an assigned serial number in the top left.

      How was this related (or not) to Luhmann's practice or to the practices of the Dewey Decimal System? [Update: not related at all, see: https://hypothes.is/a/bDEoiqT3Ee6lAeNajBBsjw]

    1. It's not that tree structures don't have to be hierarchical, it's that what you're describing is not a tree structure.This..."If we visualized all links in Luhmann's ZK, we would have a forest with many links between branches and trees."...is not a tree structure.Tree structures are by design hierarchical. They are meant to show "hereditary" (so to speak) relationships in a linear trajectory. This is accepted in more or less every discipline where they are employed. To equate Luhmann's ZK as having anything to do with that is just false. It's a mistake, and is, unfortunately, one that is regularly perpetuated.Even Schmidt (and by proxy Kieserling), who visually depict Luhmann's "analog" "branches" very much as a tree structure (aka a hierarchy) go out of their way to state on the Archive's website that having done so was an editorial decision done out of convenience and should not be taken literally or be read as representative of the structure of Luhmann's zettelkasten:"The hierarchization of the organizational structure carried out by the Niklas Luhmann archive is an editorial decision, the order of [Luhmann's zettelkasten] does not follow a strict hierarchy logic." (Schmidt)But, what about trees....?"A tree structure, tree diagram, or tree model is a way of representing the hierarchical nature of a structure in a graphical form." (guru wikipedia)For those in the back...."The zettelkasten is in no way a hierarchy." (Kieserling)And, in case there's any doubt (as many think the alphanumeric numbering schema is itself representative of a hierarchy), Schmidt couldn't be more clear:"[T]he number structure does not represent a hierarchical structure."What you're describing (see above) is more along the lines of a rhizome:"We will enter, then, by any point whatsoever; none matters more than another.... We will be trying only to discover what other points our entrance connects to, what crossroads and galleries one passes through to link two points, what is the map of the rhizome and how the map is modified if one enters by another point." (Deleuze and Guattari 1986: 3)Rhizomes are the antithesis of tree structures.“We’re tired of trees.... They’ve made us suffer too much.” (.ibid)

      Collection of Bob Doto's notes on tree structures with respect to N. Luhmann's zettelkasten

      (via https://www.reddit.com/r/Zettelkasten/comments/188das5/comment/kbni2ft/?utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=web2x&context=3)

  6. Nov 2023
    1. 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 <s>death</s> birth.


      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. documented evidence of oral transmission of index card use as a method

      reply to u/atomicnotes at https://www.reddit.com/r/Zettelkasten/comments/1843k2w/comment/kaypbk2/?utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

      I'm reasonably certain that most of the transmission of the traditions was specifically from person to person rather than from text to person. Yours is an interesting and important (and rare oral) example of person to person zettelkasten transmission, of which I've been collecting some scant examples. (Other examples appreciated, inquire within.)

      Interestingly a lot of this transmission is still happening every day (though now more "visibly" online) in fora like Reddit, zettelkasten.de, Discord, in social media, and even smaller group courses. As Annie Murphy Paul indicates in The Extended Mind, people like to imitate rather than innovate. Perhaps Luhmann, being on his own outside of the establishment, was more likely to innovate because he was on his own and took Heyde's advice, but evolved it to his needs rather than asking questions on Reddit?

  7. Oct 2023
    1. Nein. Ich habe den Zettelkasten aus der simplen Überlegung her-aus angefangen, daß ich ein schlechtes Gedächtnis habe. Zunächsteinmal hatte ich Zettel in Bücher gelegt, auf die ich mir Notizenmachte, auf diese Weise gingen die Einbände der Bücher kaputt.Dann habe ich mir mit Mappen geholfen, als die jedoch dickerwurden, fand ich nichts mehr in ihnen. Ab 1952 oder 1953 begannich dann mit meinem Zettelkasten, weil mir klar wurde, daß ich fürein Leben planen müsse und nicht für ein Buch.

      Machine translation:

      No. I started the Zettelkasten out of the simple thought that I have a bad memory. First of all, I put pieces of paper in books on which I wrote notes, so the covers of the books got ruined. Then I helped myself with folders, but when they got thicker I couldn't find anything in them. In 1952 or 1953, I started my Zettelkasten because I realized that I had to plan for a life and not for a book.

      There's some missing interstitial space here about how precisely he came to it outside of the general motivation for the thing in general.

      52/53 would have been after law school and in his administrative days and before his trip to Harvard in 61.

    2. — Ich muß Ihnen sagen, daß ich nie etwas erzwinge, ich tueimmer nur das, was mir leichtfällt. Ich schreibe nur dann, wenn ich

      sofort weiß, wie es geht. Wenn ich einen Moment stocke, lege ich die Sache beiseite und mache etwas anderes.

      Was machen Sie dann'?

      Na, andere Bücher schreiben. Ich arbeite immer gleichzeitig an mehreren verschiedenen Texten. Mit dieser Methode, immer an mehreren Dingen zu arbeiten, habe ich nie Blockierungen.

      Rough translation:

      — I have to tell you: I never force anything, I only do what comes easy to me. I only write when I immediately know how to do it. If I falter for a moment, I put the matter aside and do something else.

      (Interviewer): What do you do then?

      Well, write other books. I always work on several different texts at the same time. With this method of always working on multiple things, I never have any blockages.

    3. Wenn Sie nun einen Aufsatz zu schreiben beginnen, wie setzen Siedann Ihren Zettelkasten in Funktion?Da mache ich mir zunächst einen Plan für das, was ich schreibenwill, und hole dann aus dem Zettelkasten das heraus, was ich ge-brauchen kann.Im Gegensatz zu einem Baumeister, der ausschließlich vorgefer-tigte Teile zusammenmontiert, muß ein Wissenschaftler doch auchneue Ideen haben, die nicht bereits in den einzelnen Teilen enthal-ten sind. Solche Ideen kommen ja nicht aus einem Zettelkasten?Doch. Ich habe zum Beispiel eine große Menge von Zetteln zumBegriff "funktionale Differenzierung", ich habe ebenfalls eine Reihevon Notizen über "selbstreferentielle Systeme", und ich habe einengroßen Komplex von Notizen über "Binarität". Im Augenblick sitzeich an einem Vortrag über ökologische Probleme in modernenGesellschaften, und meine Arbeit besteht darin, Zettel aus den skiz-zierten drei begrifflichen Bereichen zu sichten und so zu kombinie-ren, daß ich etwas Substantielles zu diesem Thema sagen kann. Dieneuen Ideen ergeben sich dann aus den verschiedenen Kombina-tionsmöglichkeiten der Zettel zu den einzelnen Begriffen. Ohne dieZettel, also allein durch Nachdenken, würde ich auf solche Ideennicht kommen. Natürlich ist mein Kopf erforderlich, um die Einfällezu notieren, aber er kann nicht allein dafür verantwortlich gemachtwerden. Insofern arbeite ich wie ein Computer, der ja auch in demSinne kreativ sein kann, daß er durch die Kombination eingegebe-ner Daten neue Ergebnisse produziert, die so nicht voraussehbar

      waren. Diese Technik, so glaube ich, erklärt auch, warum ich überhaupt nicht linear denke und beim Bücherschreiben Mühe habe, die richtige Kapitelfolge zu finden, weil eigentlich ja jedes Kapitel in jedem anderen Kapitel wieder vorkommen müßte

      Niklas Luhmann's process for writing from his box

      Machine translation:

      Q: When you start writing an essay, how do you put your note box to work?

      I first make a plan for what I want to write and then take out what I can use from the note box.

      Q: In contrast to a builder who only assembles prefabricated parts, a scientist must also have new ideas that are not already contained in the individual parts. Ideas like these don't come from a note box?

      But. For example, I have a large set of notes on the term "functional differentiation", I also have a set of notes on "self-referential systems", and I have a large set of notes on "binarity". At the moment I am giving a lecture on ecological problems in modern societies, and my work consists of sifting through pieces of paper from the three conceptual areas outlined and combining them so that I can say something substantive on this topic. The new ideas then arise from the different possible combinations of the pieces of paper for the individual terms. Without the notes, just by thinking about it, I wouldn't come up with ideas like that. Of course my mind is required to record the ideas, but it cannot be held solely responsible for them. In this respect, I work like a computer, which can also be creative in the sense that by combining input data it produces new results that could not have been predicted. I think this technique also explains why I don't think linearly at all and why I have trouble finding the right sequence of chapters when writing books, because every chapter should actually appear in every other chapter.

    4. Sie verschwenden, wenn wir das richtig verstanden haben, nie einenGedanken; alles was Ihnen durch den Kopf gegangen ist, geht so-fort in den Zettelkasten?Ja, wenngleich nicht alles, was ich in dem Zettelkasten gesammelthabe, später dann auch verwendet wird.

      An interviewer asked Luhmann if every thought that went through his head was saved into his zettelkasten, and Luhmann replied yes. This is obviously a level of conversational hyperbole.

    5. Im wesentlichen eigene Gedanken, manchmal auch Zitate, aber dasgeschieht ganz selten

      Luhmann indicates that most of his zettelkasten notes are his own thoughts, but some are quotes, which he uses rarely.

    6. das Jurastudium, in dem man eine Reihe von Organisations-Trickslernte und zugleich eine Art Augenmaß,

      In this interview, Lumnann indicates that he learned a number of organizational tricks while studying law.

      What specifically were these? Relation to his ZK?


      Any relation to Bruno First's memory work which grew out of his legal studies in the early 1900s?

    7. Viel gelesen und vor allen Dingen begonnen, mit einem Zettelka-sten zu arbeiten, also Zettel vollgeschrieben. In den Zetteln habeich die Literatur, mit der ich mich vorwiegend beschäftigte, verar-beitet, also Soziologie und Philosophie. Damals habe ich vor allemDescartes und Husserl gelesen. In der soziologischen Theorie hatmich der frühe Funktionalismus beschäftigt, die Theorien von Mali-nowski und Radcliffe-Brown; dies schloß ein, daß ich mich auchsehr stark mit Kulturanthropologie und Ethnologie befaßte

      With heavy early interest in anthropology, sociology and philosophy including Malinowski, it's more likely that Luhmann would have been trained in historical methods which included the traditions of note taking using card indices of that time.

    8. Zunächst war ich ein Jahr am Oberverwaltungsgericht Lüneburg zurOrganisation eines Referenz-Systems für Verwaltungsgerichtsent-scheidungen; das Gericht sollte sehen können, was an obergerichtli-chen Entscheidungen jeweils vorlag

      In the early 1950s, Luhmann spent a year at the Lüneburg Higher Administrative Court organizing a reference system for the administrative court decisions to enable researchers to see what decisions had been made in the higher courts.

      Though he had begun his zettelkasten during his studies, this referencing system may have influenced the structure of his own note taking system.


      Can we pin the dates on these practices down more closely?

    9. "Biographie, Attitüden, Zettelkasten" ist unter dem Titel "Der Zettelkasten kostet michmehr Zeit als das Bücherschreiben" in der Frankfurter Rundschau am Samxtag, den27. April 1985, S. ZB 3 gekürzt erschienen.

      "Biography, Attitudes, Zettelkasten" was published under the title "The Zettelkasten costs me more time than writing books" in the Frankfurter Rundschau on Saturday, April 27, 1985, p. ZB 3, abridged.

    10. Der Zeitaufwand besteht für mich im wesentlichen darin, ein Ma-nuskript zu tippen. Wenn ich es einmal geschrieben habe, dannnehme ich in der Regel keine Revision mehr vor, mit Ausnahmeübrigens an dem letzten Buch,

      To some extent, Luhmann felt that his books wrote themselves. He spent an inordinate amount of time writing out notes and filing them into his zettelkasten. The writing portion consisted primarily of typing out the manuscript and after writing it, he usually didn't revise it.

      Link to https://hypothes.is/a/LG--lGpmEe6yvy8lp7nfPw

    11. DerZettelkasten kostet mich mehr Zeit als das Bücherschreiben.

      Luhmann felt that he spent more time working with his zettelkasten than the amount of time it took him to write his papers or books.

    12. Meine Produktivität ist im wesentlichen aus demZettelkasten-System zu erklären

      Luhmann attributed his productivity to the use of his zettelkasten.

    13. Mit dem Zettelkastenhabe ich bereits während des Studiums, Anfang der fünfziger Jahre,

      During his studies Niklas Luhmann began using his zettelkasten in the early 1950s.

    1. @chrisaldrich thank you for this detailed response about your use of Obsidian and organization for digital Zettelkasten. I am not sure if this is the current forum or discussion to ask this but I would be curious to see how you have integrated or coordinated your analog Zettelkasten and notetaking with what you describe here. I've followed your posts about the use of index cards for a long time. I'd love to see how you use the very different affordances of these environments together.

      reply to u/wtagg at https://www.reddit.com/r/Zettelkasten/comments/16wgq4l/comment/k356507/?utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

      Perhaps the easiest way to frame things is that I use my digital note taking as scaffolding in the learning and research process and the zettels in the digital space are the best filtered outcomes from some of that. If you compare my practice to that of Luhmann's one might consider most of my digital practice to be equivalent to his ZKI. Most of my analog practice is more highly focused and deliberate and is more closely limited to a small handful of topics related to my specific areas of research on memory, orality, intellectual history, Indigenous studies, education, anthropology, and mathematics (and is potentially more like Luhmann's ZK II). As a result, in hindsight—thanks for asking—, I'm simultaneously building my ZK I and ZK II instead of switching mid-career the way Luhmann did. But to be clear, a lot of my ZKII material filters (or digests, if you prefer that analogy) its way through the ZKI process along the way.

  8. Sep 2023
    1. found via:

      Niklas Luhmann rejected out of town teaching positions for fear that his hard copy / analog zettelkasten might get destroyed in the moving process 🧵

      — Bob Doto (@thehighpony) August 19, 2022
      <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

      "He rejected a number of other universities' interests in hiring him...at an early stage, arguing that he couldn't risk taking his Zettelkasten with him in the event of an accident to lose by car, ship, train or plane." https://t.co/SmK2gLJpQ0

      — Bob Doto (@thehighpony) August 19, 2022
      <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

      reference ostensibly in this text, but may need to hunt it down.

      Bob confirmed that it was Luhmann Handbuch: Leben, Werk, Wirkung, 2012

    1. Jerry Michalski says that The Brain provides him with a "neighborhood perspective" of ideas when he reduces the external link number for his graph down to 1.

      This is similar to Nicholas Luhmann's zettelkasten which provided neighborhoods of related notes based on distance from any particular note.

      Also similar to oral cultures who relied on movement through their environment for encoding memories and later remembering them. [I'll use the tag "environmental memory" to track this until a better name comes along.]

    1. Merchants and traders have a waste book (Sudelbuch, Klitterbuch in GermanI believe) in which they enter daily everything they purchase and sell,messily, without order. From this, it is transferred to their journal, whereeverything appears more systematic, and finally to a ledger, in double entryafter the Italian manner of bookkeeping, where one settles accounts witheach man, once as debtor and then as creditor. This deserves to be imitatedby scholars. First it should be entered in a book in which I record everythingas I see it or as it is given to me in my thoughts; then it may be enteredin another book in which the material is more separated and ordered, andthe ledger might then contain, in an ordered expression, the connectionsand explanations of the material that flow from it. [46]

      —Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Notebook E, #46, 1775–1776


      In this single paragraph quote Lichtenberg, using the model of Italian bookkeepers of the 18th century, broadly outlines almost all of the note taking technique suggested by Sönke Ahrens in How to Take Smart Notes. He's got writing down and keeping fleeting notes as well as literature notes. (Keeping academic references would have been commonplace by this time.) He follows up with rewriting and expanding on the original note to create additional "explanations" and even "connections" (links) to create what Ahrens describes as permanent notes or which some would call evergreen notes.

      Lichtenberg's version calls for the permanent notes to be "separated and ordered" and while he may have kept them in book format himself, it's easy to see from Konrad Gessner's suggestion at the use of slips centuries before, that one could easily put their permanent notes on index cards ("separated") and then number and index or categorize them ("ordered"). The only serious missing piece of Luhmann's version of a zettelkasten then are the ideas of placing related ideas nearby each other, though the idea of creating connections between notes is immediately adjacent to this, and his numbering system, which was broadly based on the popularity of Melvil Dewey's decimal system.

      It may bear noticing that John Locke's indexing system for commonplace books was suggested, originally in French in 1685, and later in English in 1706. Given it's popularity, it's not unlikely that Lichtenberg would have been aware of it.

      Given Lichtenberg's very popular waste books were known to have influenced Leo Tolstoy, Albert Einstein, Andre Breton, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. (Reference: Lichtenberg, Georg Christoph (2000). The Waste Books. New York: New York Review Books Classics. ISBN 978-0940322509.) It would not be hard to imagine that Niklas Luhmann would have also been aware of them.


      Open questions: <br /> - did Lichtenberg number the entries in his own waste books? This would be early evidence toward the practice of numbering notes for future reference. Based on this text, it's obvious that the editor numbered the translated notes for this edition, were they Lichtenberg's numbering? - Is there evidence that Lichtenberg knew of Locke's indexing system? Did his waste books have an index?

    1. -It looks like the system is also very similar to Luhmann’s Zettelkasten

      Ryan Holiday's system puts some of the work farther from the note taking origin compared with Nicholas Luhmann's system which places more of it up front.

      How, if at all, do the payoffs from doing each of these vary for the end user of the system?

  9. Aug 2023
    1. Old web demo I made of sociologist Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten with automatic reference and back reference indices (don't visit on mobile data, it's a data-heavy app 16MiB) .t3_16562do._2FCtq-QzlfuN-SwVMUZMM3 { --postTitle-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; --postTitleLink-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; --postBodyLink-VisitedLinkColor: #989898; }

      via u/epilys at https://www.reddit.com/r/Zettelkasten/comments/16562do/old_web_demo_i_made_of_sociologist_niklas/

      https://epilys.github.io/bibliothecula/web-demo/zettel.html

      I wrote this one as a weekend project for fun back in 2021. It was supposed to be a demo for this article that gives a way to use a database software (called sqlite) to create a Zettelkasten:

      https://epilys.github.io/bibliothecula/notekeeping.html

    1. For context, I don't use a traditional Zettelkasten system. It's more of a commonplace book/notecard system similar to Ryan HolidayI recently transitioned to a digital system and have been using Logseq, which I enjoy. It's made organizing my notes and ideas much easier, but I've noticed that I spend a lot of time on organizing my notesSince most of my reading is on Kindle, my process involves reading and highlighting as I read, then exporting those highlights to Markdown and making a page in Logseq. Then I tag every individual highlightThis usually isn't too bad if a book/research article has 20-30 highlights, but, for example, I recently had a book with over 150 highlights, and I spent about half an hour tagging each oneI started wondering if it's overkill to tag each highlight since it can be so time consuming. The advantage is that if I'm looking for passages about a certain idea/topic, I can find it specifically rather than having to go through the whole bookI was also thinking I could just have a set of tags for each book/article that capture what contexts I'd want to find the information in. This would save time, but I'd spend a little more time digging through each document looking for specificsCurious to hear your thoughts, appreciate any suggestions

      reply to m_t_rv_s__n/ at https://www.reddit.com/r/Zettelkasten/comments/164n6qg/is_this_overkill/

      First, your system is historically far more traditional than Luhmann's more specific practice. See: https://boffosocko.com/2022/10/22/the-two-definitions-of-zettelkasten/

      If you're taking all the notes/highlights from a particular book and keeping them in a single file, then it may be far quicker and more productive to do some high level tagging on the entire book/file itself and then relying on and using basic text search to find particular passages you might use at a later date.

      Spending time reviewing over all of your notes and tagging/indexing them individually may be beneficial for some basic review work. But this should be balanced out with your long term needs. If your area is "sociology", for example, and you tag every single idea related to the topic of sociology with #sociology, then it will cease to have any value you to you when you search for it and find thousands of disconnected notes you will need to sift through. Compare this with Luhmann's ZK which only had a few index entries under "sociology". A better long term productive practice, and one which Luhmann used, is indexing one or two key words when he started in a new area and then "tagging" each new idea in that branch or train of though with links to other neighboring ideas. If you forget a particular note, you can search your index for a keyword and know you'll find that idea you need somewhere nearby. Scanning through the neighborhood of notes you find will provide a useful reminder of what you'd been working on and allow you to continue your work in that space or link new things as appropriate.

      If it helps to reframe the long term scaling problem of over-tagging, think of a link from one idea to another as the most specific tag you can put on an idea. To put this important idea into context, if you do a Google search for "tagging" you'll find 240,000,000 results! If you do a search for the entirety of the first sentence in this paragraph, you'll likely only find one very good and very specific result, and the things which are linked to it are going to have tremendous specific value to you by comparison.

      Perhaps the better portions of your time while reviewing notes would be taking the 150 highlights and finding the three to five most important, useful, and (importantly) reusable ones to write out in your own words and begin expanding upon and linking? These are the excerpts you'll want to spend more time on and tag/index for future use rather than the other hundreds. Over time, you may eventually realize that the hundreds are far less useful than the handful (in management spaces this philosophy is known as the Pareto principle), so spending a lot of make work time on them is less beneficial for whatever end goals you may have. (The make work portions are often the number one reason I see people abandoning these practices because they feel overwhelmed working on raw administrivia instead of building something useful and interesting to themselves.) Naturally though, you'll still have those hundreds sitting around in a file if you need to search, review, or use them. You won't have lost them by not working on them, but more importantly you'll have gained loads of extra time to work on the more important pieces. You should notice that the time you save and the value you create will compound over time.

      And as ever, play around with these to see if they work for you and your specific needs. Some may be good and others bad—it will depend on your needs and your goals. Practice, experiment, have fun.

      Meme image from Office Space featuring a crowd of office employees standing in front of a banner on the wall that reads: Is this Good for the Zettelkasten?

  10. Jul 2023
    1. All source material is handled more or less the same way when working with a Luhmann-style zettelkasten.

      I like the fact that Bob Doto is explicitly carving out the space of a Luhmann-style zettelkasten versus all the other flavors.

  11. May 2023
    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU7efgGEOgk

      I wish he'd gotten into more of the detail of the research and index card making here as that's where most of the work lies. He does show some of his process of laying out and organizing the cards into some sort of sections using 1/3 cut tabbed cards. This is where his system diverges wildly from Luhmann's. He's now got to go through all the cards and do some additional re-reading and organizational work to put them into some sort of order. Luhmann did this as he went linking ideas and organizing them up front. This upfront work makes the back side of laying things out and writing/editing so much easier. It likely also makes one more creative as one is regularly revisiting ideas, juxtaposing them, and potentially generating new ones along the way rather than waiting until the organization stage to have some of this new material "fall out".

  12. Apr 2023
    1. Luhmann, Niklas. “Improved Translation of ‘Communications with Zettelkastens.’” Translated by Sascha Fast. Zettelkasten Method, April 5, 2023. https://zettelkasten.de/communications-with-zettelkastens/.

    2. Similarly, you must give up the assumption that there are privileged places, notes of special and knowledge-ensuring quality. Each note is just an element that gets its value from being a part of a network of references and cross-references in the system. A note that is not connected to this network will get lost in the Zettelkasten, and will be forgotten by the Zettelkasten.

      This section is almost exactly the same as Umberto Eco's description of a slip box practice:

      No piece of information is superior to any other. Power lies in having them all on file and then finding the connections. There are always connections; you have only to want to find them. -- Umberto Eco. Foucault's Pendulum

      See: https://hypothes.is/a/jqug2tNlEeyg2JfEczmepw


      Interestingly, these structures map reasonably well onto Paul Baran's work from 1964: Paul Baran's graphs for Centralized, Decentralized, and Distributed systems

      The subject heading based filing system looks and functions a lot like a centralized system where the center (on a per topic basis) is the subject heading or topical category and the notes related to that section are filed within it. Luhmann's zettelkasten has the feel of a mixture of the decentralized and distributed graphs, but each sub-portion has its own topology. The index is decentralized in nature, while the bibliographical section/notes are all somewhat centralized in form.

      Cross reference:<br /> Baran, Paul. “On Distributed Communications: I. Introduction to Distributed Communications Networks.” Research Memoranda. Santa Monica, California: RAND Corporation, August 1964. https://doi.org/10.7249/RM3420.

    3. A content-based system (like a book’s table of contents) would mean that you would have to adhere to a single structure forever (decades in advance!).

      Starting a zettelkasten practice with a table of contents as the primary organization is difficult due to planning in advance.

    4. There are two ways for a communication system to maintain its integrity over long periods of time: you need to decide for either highly technical specialisation, or for a setup that incorporates coincidence and ad hoc generated information. Translated to note collections: you can choose a setup categorized by topics, or an open one. We chose the latter and, after 26 successful years with only occasionally difficult teamwork, we can report that this way is successful – or at least possible.

      Luhmann indicates that there are different methods for keeping note collections and specifically mentions categorizing things by topics first. It's only after this that he mentions his own "open" system as being a possible or successful one.

  13. Mar 2023
    1. The Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache slip box collection is almost 17 times the size of Niklas Luhmann's by number of slips (1,500,000/90,000 = 16.67) and 58.81 times the size in number of boxes (1588/27).Though keep in mind that due to the multiple storage here each card was copied ~40 times, so if only only counts individual cards then the collection would have been (1.5M/40) 375,000 slips, which is still more than 4 times the size of Luhmann's collection of slips.

      See: https://hypothes.is/a/QMYAQMztEe2disvmvCAEAA for source of Wb number source.

    1. 9/8b2 "Multiple storage" als Notwendigkeit derSpeicherung von komplexen (komplex auszu-wertenden) Informationen.

      Seems like from a historical perspective hierarchical databases were more prevalent in the 1960s and relational databases didn't exist until the 1970s. (check references for this historically)

      Of course one must consider that within a card index or zettelkasten the ideas of both could have co-existed in essence even if they weren't named as such. Some of the business use cases as early as 1903 (earlier?) would have shown the idea of multiple storage and relational database usage. Beatrice Webb's usage of her notes in a database-like way may have indicated this as well.

    2. 9/8b2 "Multiple storage" als Notwendigkeit derSpeicherung von komplexen (komplex auszu-wertenden) Informationen.

      9/8b2 "Multiple storage" as a necessity of<br /> storage of complex (complex<br /> evaluating) information.

      Fascinating to see the English phrase "multiple storage" pop up in Luhmann's ZKII section on Zettelkasten.

      This note is undated, though being in ZKII likely occurred more than a decade after he'd started his practice. One must wonder where he pulled the source for the English phrase rather than using a German one? Does the idea appear in Heyde? It certainly would have been an emerging question within systems theory and potentially computer science ideas which Luhmann would have had access to.

    1. Die vermutlich zwischen 1952 und Anfang 1997 entstandenen Aufzeichnungen, mithilfe derer Luhmann die Ergebnisse seiner exzessiven und interdisziplinär breit angelegten Lektüre systematisch organisiert hat, dokumentieren die Theorieentwicklung auf eine einzigartige Weise, so dass man die Sammlung auch als eine intellektuelle Autobiographie verstehen kann.

      The researchers at the Niklas Luhmann-Archive studying Niklas Luhmann's Zettelkasten consider that "the collection can be understood as an intellectual autobiography" (translation mine) even though his slips were generally undated.

    2. Hierbei handelt es sich um eine Sammlung von Notizen, die Luhmann vermutlich zwischen 1952 und 1961 angelegt hat (mit einzelnen späteren Nachträgen; Notizen insbesondere zum Themenkomplex Weltgesellschaft wurden allerdings noch bis ca. 1973 durchweg in diese Sammlung eingestellt). Die insgesamt ca. 23.000 Zettel verteilen sich auf die ersten sieben physischen Auszüge des Kastens sowie auf kleinere Registerabteilungen, die im 17. Auszug der zweiten Sammlung (physischer Auszug 24) stehen. Die Notizen sind im Wesentlichen in der Zeit entstanden, als Luhmann als Rechtsreferendar in Lüneburg bzw. als Regierungsrat im Kultusministerium in Niedersachen gearbeitet hat und dokumentieren seine Lektüre verwaltungs- bzw. staatswissenschaftlicher, philosophischer und zunehmend auch organisationstheoretischer sowie soziologischer Literatur.

      According to the Niklas Luhmann-Archiv, Luhmann began his first zettelkasten in 1952 likely when he was working as a legal trainee in Lüneburg or as a government councilor in the Ministry of Education in Lower Saxony.

      This timeframe would have been just after Johannes Erich Heyde had published the 8th edition of Technik des wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens in 1951.

      Link to: - https://hypothes.is/a/Jn9elsk5Ee2hsLP5WWBEBw on dates of NL ZK - https://hypothes.is/a/CqGhGvchEey6heekrEJ9WA aktenzeichen - https://hypothes.is/a/4wxHdDqeEe2OKGMHXDKezA Clemens Luhmann link

    1. Übersicht über die Auszüge des Zettelkastens Der Zettelkasten Niklas Luhmanns besteht aus insgesamt 27 Auszügen mit jeweils 2500 bis 3500 Zetteln. Diese verteilen sich auf zwei getrennte Zettelsammlungen: Zettelkasten I: 7 Auszüge mit Notizen aus dem Zeitraum von ca. 1952 bis 1961, insgesamt ca. 23.000 Zettel Zettelkasten II: 20 Auszüge mit Notizen aus dem Zeitraum von 1961 bis Anfang 1997, insgesamt ca. 67.000 Zettel. In den Auszügen 15-17 des ZK II, die Teil des hölzernen Zettelkastens sind, sowie den Auszügen 18-20, die außerhalb dieses Kastens in einzelnen Schubern gelagert waren, befinden sich die bibliographischen Abteilungen des ZK II. Teil des Auszugs 17 sind zudem mehrere Schlagwortregister und ein Personenregister des ZK II sowie einige weitere Spezialabteilungen, außerdem das Schlagwortregister sowie die bibliographische Abteilung und eine Themenübersicht des ZK I.

      Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten consists of a total of 27 sections/drawers each containing from 2,500 to 3,500 slips.

      • ZK1 comprises 7 sections with about 23,000 notes written from about 1952 to 1961
      • ZKII comprises 20 sections with approximately 67,000 slips written between 1961 to early 1997.

      Sections 15, 16, 17 were part of the beechwood zettelkasten and along with sections 18, 19, and 20 which were stored outside of the main boxes in individual slipcases contain the bibliographic portions of ZKII

      Part of section 17 contains some of the index as well as an index of people for ZKII in addition to some other special portions along with the index of keywords, bibliographical slips, and an overview of topics from ZKI.

      The primary wooden boxes frequently pictured as "Luhmann's zettelkasten" is comprised of six wooden four-drawer card index filing cabinets which were supplemented by three individual slipcases.


      One would suspect the individual slipcases were like the one pictured on his desk here: Luhmann zuhause am Zettelkasten (vermutlich Ende der 1970er/Anfang 1980er Jahre)<br /> Copyright Michael Wiegert-Wegener<br /> via Niklas Luhmann Online: die Erschließung seines Nachlasses - Geistes- & Sozialwissenschaften

      The Luhmann archive has a photo of the beechwood portion with 24 drawers and one of the additional slipboxes on top of it:

      (via https://niklas-luhmann-archiv.de/nachlass/zettelkasten)

      Most of the photos from the museum exhibition and elsewhere only focus on or include the main wooden portion of six cabinets with the 24 drawers.


      See also: https://niklas-luhmann-archiv.de/nachlass/zettelkasten

      Over the 45 years from 1952 to 1997 this production of approximately 90,000 slips averages out to

      45 years * 365 days/year = 16,425 days 90,000 slips / 16,425 days = 5.47 slips per day.

      260 working days a year (on average, not accounting for leap years or potential governmental holidays) 45 years x 260 work days/year = 11,700 90,000 slips / 11,700 days = 7.69 slips per day

      In a video, Ahrens indicates that Luhmann didn't make notes on weekends, and if true this would revise the count to 7.69 slips per day.

      Compare these closer numbers to Ahrens' stated 6 notes per day in How to Take Smart Notes. <br /> See: https://hypothes.is/a/iwrV8hkwEe2vMSdjnwKHXw

      I've counted from the start of '52 through all of '97 to get 45 years, but the true amount of time was a bit shorter than this in reality, so the number of days should be slightly smaller.

    1. Since Luhmann’s system of the slip box is well-known, Ahrens’ valuable contribution lies less in providing an innovative technique of note-taking and the organization of academic writing, but more in reflecting critically on the very nature of writing as a medium of knowledge generation.

      I think that by saying "Luhmann's system of the slip box is well-known", Stephanie Schiller is not talking about his specific box or his specific method, but the broader rhetorical method of the ars excerpendi and note taking in general. There isn't a whole lot of evidence to indicate that, except for a small segment of sociologists who may have know his work, that Luhmann's slip box was specifically well known at all up to the point of Ahrens' book.

    1. the very point of a Zettelkasten is to ditch the categories.

      If we believe as previously indicated by Luhmann's son that Luhmann learned the basics of his evolved method from Johannes Erich Heyde, then the point of the original was all about categories and subject headings. It ultimately became something which Luhmann minimized, perhaps in part for the relationship of work and the cost of hiring assistants to do this additional manual labor.

    2. The Zettelkasten Method seems to get more and more popular. With popularity of methods there always comes a problem: Overzealous Orthodoxy. Some people, for various reasons, try to state what a Zettelkasten is and what not.

      The hilarious part of this is that within a much broader tradition of Western intellectual history, Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten is one of the most heterodox approaches on the map.

    1. Einblicke in das System der Zettel - Geheimnis um Niklas Luhmanns Zettelkasten, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4veq2i3teVk.

      Watched 2023-03-13

      Mentioned elsewhere, but there's a segment here that he used whatever paper he happened to have around including the receipts from a brewery, tax papers, and even his children's art papers.

    2. In der aktuellen Folge „research_tv“ der Universität Bielefeld erklären Professor Dr. André Kieserling, Johannes Schmidt und Martin Löning, wie sie sich der so genannten „intellektuellen Autobiographie“ Luhmanns annähern.

      Translation:

      In the current episode "research_tv" of Bielefeld University, Professor Dr. André Kieserling, Johannes Schmidt and Martin Löning how they approach Luhmann's so-called “intellectual autobiography”.

      !!

    1. Luhmanns intent was to create an organic growing system – not to implement Folgezettel.

      I have a separate theory here...

    2. A Zettelkasten is a system of notes that fit the criteria of being a system. Being alive vs. being a machine is a good metaphor to understand the difference. A Zettelkasten is alive, a conventional note taking system is a machine.

      I'm not the only one to think of zettelkasten as "living"...

    3. My translation of Niklas Luhmann (1997): Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft, Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp. S.11: “Bei meiner Aufnahme in die 1969 gegründete Fakultät für Soziologie der Universität Bielefeld fand ich mich konfrontiert mit der Aufforderung, Forschungsprojekte zu benennen, an denen ich arbeite. Mein Projekt lautete: Theorie der Gesellschaft; Laufzeit: 30 Jahre; Kosten: keine.”

      As I began to work at the 1969 founded faculty of sociology of the University of Bielefeld, I was confronted with the request to name research projects I work on. My project was: a theory of society; Duration: 30 years; Costs: none.(1)

    4. That entails that Luhmann had to close the system–environment border of the Zettelkasten in order to make it a system. The Zettelkasten had to be autopoietic, it reproduces only with its own elements. It can only connect to its own operations.

      I don't think I buy any of this argument even on the surface level...

  14. Feb 2023
      • ~ 90,000 notes
      • 1,250 index entries
      • 600 notes as manuscript outlines
      • ~15,000 Literature notes

      (10:35)

    1. I have you two sheet boxes I gave up on that I'm using a to buy from a colleague of mine he's written a small program 00:46:58 based on lumen set accustomed but it's a one-man show I mean he's it's not an open-source project but it's the only one that really tries to emulate that system so 00:47:11 I'm using that at the moment

      Ahrens had started out using his method in an analog process using shoe boxes, but in 2018 was using a small program based on Luhmann's process, but it was a one man show and wasn't an open source project.

      (I'm pretty sure this is Daniel Lüdecke's ZKN3, but should double check.)

    2. 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. Fasel, Andreas. “Niklas Luhmann: Ein Zettelkasten als zweites Gehirn.” Die Welt, June 28, 2015, web edition, sec. North Rhine-Westphalia. (https://www.welt.de/regionales/nrw/article143147819/Ein-Zettelkasten-war-Luhmanns-zweites-Gehirn.html.

    2. Der Zettelkasten wird in der Ausstellung „Serendipity – Vom Glück des Findens“ in der Kunsthalle Bielefeld gezeigt, 11. Juli bis 11. Oktober

      google translate:

      The Zettelkasten will be shown in the exhibition “ Serendipity – From the Luck of Finding ” at the Kunsthalle Bielefeld, July 11 to October 11

      In addition to having appeared in the Marbach zettelkasten exhibition in 2013, Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten also appeared in the exhibition "Serendipity: From the Luck of Finding" at Kunsthalle Bielefeld from July 11 - October 11, 2015.

      link to: https://hypothes.is/a/lNF9RKvTEe28Rqcr9qzi8w

    3. „Und?“, fragt Schmidt und macht eine Kunstpause, „enttäuscht?“

      Coincidence that Schmidt shows a journalist Luhmann's zettelkasten in 2015 and asks if they're disappointed?

      It's reasonably likely that he'd already read ZKII 9/8,3.

      see: https://hypothes.is/a/GFj15IcbEe21OIMwT2TOJA

      in the article which follows below, there's an explicit mention of this specific zettel, so the question on priority here is closed.

    4. Schade eigentlich, dass sich Schmidt für solche Privatheiten gar nicht interessieren soll. Denn das Ziel seines Forschungsprojekts, das von der NRW-Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Künste finanziert wird, ist es, den wissenschaftlichen Nachlass des Niklas Luhmann für dessen wissenschaftliche Nachfahren aufzubereiten. Wenn alles gescannt ist, muss Zettel für Zettel von der Handschrift in Maschinenschrift übertragen werden. Dann sollen sämtliche Querverweise, mit denen Luhmann seine Zettel untereinander vernetzt hat, auch digital verlinkt werden. „Und am Ende könnten vielleicht einzelne Abteilungen des Kastens auch in Buchform veröffentlicht werden“, erklärt Schmidt. Laufzeit des Projekts: 16 Jahre.

      google translate:

      It's a pity that Schmidt shouldn't be interested in such private matters. Because the aim of his research project, which is funded by the NRW Academy of Sciences and Arts, is to prepare Niklas Luhmann's scientific estate for his scientific descendants.

      When everything is scanned, note by note must be transferred from handwriting to typescript. Then all cross-references with which Luhmann has networked his slips of paper should also be linked digitally. "And in the end, individual sections of the box could perhaps also be published in book form," explains Schmidt. Duration of the project: 16 years.

      Schmidt's work on Niklas Luhmann's scientific estate is funded by the NRW Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the project is expected to last 16 years. The careful observer will notice that this duration is over half of Luhmann's own expected project length of 30 years. The cost of which is also significantly more than the "cost: none" that Luhmann projected at the time.

      link to https://hypothes.is/a/zUjEIvfWEeykOiO1E8YAYw


      Researchers ought to account for the non-insignificant archival cost of their work once it's done.

    5. Die Lebenswelt des Niklas Luhmann – die findet Schmidt jetzt manchmal auf den Rückseiten der Zettel. Denn Luhmann recycelte für seinen Kasten offenbar jeden Fetzen Papier, den er finden konnte. So kann es vorkommen, dass auf der Zettel-Vorderseite komprimierte Überlegungen zum Autopoiesis-Begriff stehen oder Zusammenfassungen unbekannter Traktate aus früheren Jahrhunderten, während auf der Rückseite erste Rechenübungen von Luhmanns Kindern zu finden sind. Oder Scheckabrechnungen. Oder Anweisungen an die Haushaltshilfe: „Kellertreppe gründlich fegen und wischen“, steht da zum Beispiel.

      google translate:

      The world of Niklas Luhmann – Schmidt now sometimes finds it on the back of the slip. Because Luhmann apparently recycled every scrap of paper he could find for his box. So it can happen that on the front of the note there are condensed reflections on the concept of autopoiesis or summaries of unknown treatises from earlier centuries, while on the back you can find the first arithmetic exercises by Luhmann's children. Or check statements. Or instructions to the household help: “Sweep and wipe the basement stairs thoroughly”, for example.

      Luhmann adhered to the standard advice to write only on one side of his cards, though perhaps not just for the usual reasons, but in part because he recycled the papers he had at hand to make his slips. On the backs of his notes one can find instructions he'd made to his household help, his children's homework papers, bank statements, and other papers he happened to have at hand.

    6. Man kann zwar 50 Zettel auf einmal in den Scanner legen, doch für jeden einzelnen muss eine eigene Datei angelegt werden. Schmidt rechnet, dass es ein Jahr dauern wird, bis der ganze Kasten digital erfasst ist.

      Schmidt estimated in 2015 that it would take at least a year to scan in the entire corpus of Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten, imaging 50 cards at a time.

    7. Doch als er richtig zu zählen begann, wurde ihm klar, dass es wohl weit mehr sind. Luhmann hatte für die Niederschrift seiner Gedanken keine festen Karteikarten benutzt, sondern normales Papier, das er in Din-A6-Stücke schnitt und dicht an dicht in die Kästen quetschte.

      Instead of using pre-made stiff index cards, Luhmann used standard paper which he cut up into DIN A6 sized slips which he packed into his drawers. Schmidt had trouble removing slips from some of the boxes because they were packed so tightly.

    8. Exactly how much space would be saved writing on standard paper versus index cards in a collection as large as Luhmann's?

    9. Entsprechend groß war die Neugier seiner Schüler und Kollegen, die den Kasten analysieren wollten. Doch jahrelang stritten Luhmanns Kinder vor Gericht um den wissenschaftlichen Nachlass, an eine Aufarbeitung war lange nicht zu denken. Erst 2011 konnte die Universität Bielefeld Luhmanns geistige Hinterlassenschaften kaufen. Und nun, seit Anfang des Jahres, wird tatsächlich erforscht, was es auf sich hat mit diesem Kasten, der in Soziologenkreisen schon mal als Heiliger Gral bezeichnet wird.

      google translate:

      The curiosity of his students and colleagues, who wanted to analyze the box, was correspondingly high. For years, however, Luhmann's children fought in court about the scientific legacy, and for a long time there was no question of a reappraisal. It was not until 2011 that the University of Bielefeld was able to buy Luhmann's intellectual legacies. And now, since the beginning of the year, research has actually been going on into what this box, which sociologists have sometimes referred to as the Holy Grail, is all about.

      Bielefeld University sued Luhmann's estate (his children) over his intellectual legacy. In 2011 they were finally able to purchase his papers, but research on his papers and zettelkasten didn't begin until early 2015.

    10. Als der so liebenswerte wie kauzige Universalgelehrte 1998 starb, hinterließ er nicht nur ein Werk von Weltrang, sondern eben auch jenen Zettelkasten, um den schon zu seinen Lebzeiten Legenden rankten.

      google translate:

      When the universal scholar, who was as lovable as he was odd, died in 1998, he not only left behind a work of world renown, but also that box of papers that was already the subject of legends during his lifetime.

      This article indicates that Luhmann's zettelkasten was legendary during his lifetime, but was this really the case? Luhmann indicated people's disappointment in his own writing (ZKII 9/8,3), but is there other anecdotal evidence that this wasn't the case?

      What does the lawsuit between the family and the Bielefeld over his papers indicate?

    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)

    2. Neben den Methoden herkömmlicher Recherche werden daher normalerweise Zettelkästen angelegt, in denen auf Karteikarten notiert ist, was ständig zitiert werden muss. Studenten erproben dies oft zum ersten mal intensiv für ihre Diplomarbeit. Nach Schlagworten und Autoren werden Notizen alphabetisch geordnet und was in den Kasten einsortiert wurde, kann man auch wieder herausholen.

      Google translate:

      In addition to the methods of conventional research, card boxes are usually created in which index cards are used to record what needs to be constantly quoted. Students often try this out intensively for their diploma thesis for the first time. Notes are sorted alphabetically according to keywords and authors, and what has been sorted into the box can also be taken out again.

      An indication from 2001 of the state of the art of zettelkasten written in German. Note that the description is focused more on the index card or slip-based version of a commonplace book sorted alphabetically by keywords and authors primarily for quoting. Most students trying the method for the first time are those working on graduate level theses.

    1. Lüdecke, Daniel. “Introduction to Luhmann’s Zettelkasten - Thinking and Its Technical Implementation.” Presented at the Trier Digital Humanities Autumn School 2015, Trier University, October 1, 2015. https://strengejacke.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/introduction-into-luhmanns-zettelkasten-thinking.pdf..

    2. “The Zettelkastenis much more effortand time consumingthan writing books.”Niklas Luhmann, Shortcuts, p.26
    3. Branching and note sequences allow “story telling”
    4. Categories mean determination of internal structure less flexibility, especially “in the long run“ of knowledgemanagement and storage

      The fact that Luhmann changed the structure of his zettelkasten with respect to the longer history of note taking and note accumulation allowed him several useful affordances.

      In older commonplacing and slip box methods, one would often store their notes by topic category or perhaps by project. This mean that after collection one had to do additional work of laying them out into some sort of outline to create arguments and then write them out for publication. This also meant that one was faced with the problem of multiple storage or copying out notes multiple times to file under various different subject headings.

      Luhmann overcame both of these problems by eliminating categories and placing ideas closest to their most relevant neighbor and numbering them in a branching fashion. Doing this front loads some of the thinking and outlining work which would often be done later, though it's likely easier to do when one has the fullest context of a note after they've made it when it is still freshest in their mind. It also means that each note is linked to at least one other note in the system. This helps notes from being lost and allows a simpler indexing structure whereby one only needs to use a few index entries to get close to the neighborhood of an idea as most other related ideas are likely to be nearby within a handful or more of index cards.

      Going from index to branches on the tree is relatively easy and also serves the function of reminding one of interesting prior reading and ideas as one either searches for specific notes or searches for placing future notes.

      When it comes to ultimately producing papers, one's notes already have a pre-arranged sort of outline which can then be more easily copied over for publication, though one can certainly still use other cross-links and further rearranging if one wishes.

      Older methods focused on broad accretion of materials into subject ordered piles while Luhmann's practice not only aggregated them, but slowly and assuredly grew them into more orderly trains of thought as he collected.

      Link to: The description in Technik des wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens (section 1.2 Die Kartei) at https://hypothes.is/a/-qiwyiNbEe2yPmPOIojH1g which heavily highlights all the downsides, though it doesn't frame them that way.

    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

  15. 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. Ut_opinor December 2020 Flag With respect, I think y'all have it backwards. The important word is not "Zettel", but "Kasten." That is the key to the system and the brilliant insight Luhmann was able to exploit in devising his system. First, as an American (and, more particularly, a Californian), I must object to the casual use of "slip" in talking about the Zettel. "Slip" and "slip-box" are British English; as you know, George Bernard Shaw remarked that America and England were separated by a common language. So, here. In American English, it is a piece of paper. We understand "slip of paper," of course, but it would not likely occur to an American to say it. At the most, we might say "a little (or small) piece of paper." That is not really the point. Looking at actual pictures of Luhmann's Zettelkasten shows that it is simply what used to be called a card catalogue; more broadly, a card file index. They used to be a prominent feature of libraries. They included what we now call metadata about publications. They also had call numbers (in America; shelf numbers elsewhere) that were used to get the book. Sometimes, the book was fetched by a library employee. Now, some call it the UID. Same idea, same purpose, same occasionally-odd result. And, if you got to go into the stacks where the books were shelved, the same serendipity could lead to interesting discoveries. Simply, Luhmann's flash of brilliance was to see that his own reading and thoughts constituted his academic library, and his work involved gleaning what he could from those sources. Since he created the sources, which were always his own thoughts based on his reading and thinking, he could use the results directly in drafting his writings, which is why he was so productive. The Zettelkasten is just his own, personal card catalogue, where he gathered his research material. The key to success was the reference system he devised, just like the Dewey decimal system used by American libraries, and whatever similar reference system is used by libraries elsewhere. The main thing is that each research item has a unique identifier that allows it to be located as desired. I say that Kasten is the important word, rather than Zettel, because it was the fact that the material--notes, files, cards, little pieces of paper, matchbook covers, whatever--was all together in one place and available for research and thinking that made the difference. Luhmann was not the first to write notes down compulsively, nor to keep them; he did figure out a system for finding them when he needed or could use them. Luhmann's success was that he saw clearly what was right in front of him, and he understood how to take advantage of it. (The essence of genius is to not look surprised when the lightning strikes.) In his system, there are three important steps: capture, corral, and ride. And if the horse wants to run away with you, let it. You never know when it might stumble across a gold mine in the desert. Yippie-ki-yay, Cowboys!

      https://forum.zettelkasten.de/discussion/comment/9357/#Comment_9357

      I just love this perspective! They've gotten so many parts "correct"!

      slip box vs zettelkasten vs card file index (or card catalog)

    1. After browsing through a variety of the cards in Gertrud Bauer's Zettelkasten Online it becomes obvious that the collection was created specifically as a paper-based database for search, retrieval, and research. The examples and data within it are much more narrowly circumscribed for a specific use than those of other researchers like Niklas Luhmann whose collection spanned a much broader variety of topics and areas of knowledge.

      This particular use case makes the database nature of zettelkasten more apparent than some others, particularly in modern (post-2013 zettelkasten of a more personal nature).

      I'm reminded here of the use case(s) described by Beatrice Webb in My Apprenticeship for scientific note taking, by which she more broadly meant database creation and use.

  16. Dec 2022
    1. 9/8,3 Geist im Kasten? Zuschauer kommen. Sie bekommen alles zusehen, und nichts als das – wie beimPornofilm. Und entsprechend ist dieEnttäuschung.

      https://niklas-luhmann-archiv.de/bestand/zettelkasten/zettel/ZK_2_NB_9-8-3_V

      I've read and referenced this several times, but never bothered to log it into my notes.

      Sasha Fast's translation:

      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.

    1. Even thoughsuch apps are thought of as a Zettelkasten, the magic that Luhmann builtinto his system is lost.

      I'm not a fan of the magic framing here and I'm not really sure that Luhmann consciously designed or built his system to do this. Prior systems had these "magical" features before Luhmann's.

    2. “I first make a plan of what I am going to write,and then take from the note cabinet what I can use.”60

      source:

      60 Hans-Georg Moeller, The Radical Luhmann (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 11.

      I rather like the phrase "note cabinet" which isn't used often enough in the zettelkasten space. Something more interesting than filing cabinet which feels like where things are stored to never be seen again versus a note cabinet which is temporary and directed location storage specifically meant for things to actively be reused.

    3. “I started my Zettelkasten,because I realized that I had to plan for a life and not for a book.”5

      from Niklas Luhmann, Niklas Luhmann Short Cuts (English Translation), 2002, 22.

    1. “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.

    1. Thank you - I'm impressed, once again.I still find it baffling that the evolutionary tree of zettelkasten practices doesn't seem to show some sort of Cambrian explosion starting directly with Luhmann. There are people around him, eyewitnessing a productivity of barbaracartlandian proportions, and no one seems to make relevant attempts at imitating and adapting his specific methods? - I would like to understand the reasons for this.PS: Do you know the interview (five short parts, in German) the Suhrkamp publishing house has conducted with Andre Kieserling, Luhmann's successor at Bielefeld University, and Johannes Schmidt, the zettelkasten curator? https://youtu.be/q0LdmKMbJCw - I haven't found it in your hypothes.is annotations.Btw, I'm living in Stuttgart near Marbach, and after visiting the 2013 exhibition with its perenially inspiring title "Zettelkästen. Maschinen der Phantasie" and reading its catalogue, I've sent my copy to Professor Kuehn. I miss his Taking Note blog.

      reply to https://www.reddit.com/user/thomasteepe/

      Luhmann's method is certainly an evolution on prior methods, but only has a few differences. Sadly there aren't a broader array of other options that are open in the solution space to create an actual Cambrian explosion here. At the end of the day, one still has to do actual reading, note taking, thinking, and work to make the system go. It this hurdle of work that most often dampens people's spirits and despite it's ability to be more easily sustainable, it's really not very sexy, so people move on to the next shiny, new thing.

      I'm aware of that series of videos and a few others, though my German is almost non-existent which makes them a slow slog. I suppose I should use Google's auto-transcription/translation, but that often muddies things further. I've had a few people translate pieces of things like that for me, but it becomes cost prohibitive after a while.

      I wish Manfred Kuehn had left his site up, but I understand why he did it. I still delve back into Archive.org every now and then to find new things. If I had some extra time, I'd contact him to see if he'd be willing to publish archived versions of his blog as a book and do the collation/editing to get it out, but it's a lot of work, even with large portions automated.

      One of these days I'll find a copy of the Marbach catalog to read...

    1. This is the absolute hardest part of the writing process, in my mind. The most exciting, too, because you’re never quite sure where it’s going to end up.

      Anecdotal evidence that categorizing and arranging index cards/ideas for a writing project for subsequent writing is one of the most difficult portions of the process.

      Niklas Luhmann subverted portions of this by pre-linking his ideas together either in threads or an outline form as he went.

  17. Nov 2022
    1. https://zettelkasten.de/posts/luhmanns-zettel-translated/

      Sascha's German to English translation of Luhmann's zettelkasten section ZK II / 9/8.

      https://niklas-luhmann-archiv.de/bestand/zettelkasten/zettel/ZK_2_NB_9-8_V

    2. On the general organisation of memory see Ashby 1967, p103. It is therefore important that one is not dependent on a myriad of point-by-point accesses, but to be able to rely on relations between notes, i.e. on references that make more available at once than one has in mind when following a search impulse or fixating on a thought

      Fascinating to see Ashby pop up in Luhmann's section on zettelkasten in part because Ashby had a similar note taking practice, though part notebook/part index card based, and was highly interested in systems theory.

  18. Oct 2022
    1. The question often asked: "What happens when you want to add a new note between notes 1/1 and 1/1a?"

      Thoughts on Zettelkasten numbering systems

      I've seen variations of the beginner Zettelkasten question:

      "What happens when you want to add a new note between notes 1/1 and 1/1a?"

      asked at least a dozen times in the Reddit fora related to note taking and zettelkasten, on zettelkasten.de, or in other places across the web.

      Dense Sets

      From a mathematical perspective, these numbering or alpha-numeric systems are, by both intent and design, underpinned by the mathematical idea of dense sets. In the areas of topology and real analysis, one considers a set dense when one can choose a point as close as one likes to any other point. For both library cataloging systems and numbering schemes for ideas in Zettelkasten this means that you can always juxtapose one topic or idea in between any other two.

      Part of the beauty of Melvil Dewey's original Dewey Decimal System is that regardless of how many new topics and subtopics one wants to add to their system, one can always fit another new topic between existing ones ad infinitum.

      Going back to the motivating question above, the equivalent question mathematically is "what number is between 0.11 and 0.111?" (Here we've converted the artificial "number" "a" to a 1 and removed the punctuation, which doesn't create any issues and may help clarify the orderings a bit.) The answer is that there is an infinite number of numbers between these!

      This is much more explicit by writing these numbers as:<br /> 0.110<br /> 0.111

      Naturally 0.1101 is between them (along with an infinity of others), so one could start here as a means of inserting ideas this way if they liked. One either needs to count up sequentially (0, 1, 2, 3, ...) or add additional place values.

      Decimal numbering systems in practice

      The problem most people face is that they're not thinking of these numbers as decimals, but as natural numbers or integers (or broadly numbers without any decimal portions). Though of course in the realm of real numbers, numbers above 0 are dense as well, but require the use of their decimal portions to remain so.

      The tough question is: what sorts of semantic meanings one might attach to their adding of additional place values or their alphabetical characters? This meaning can vary from person to person and system to system, so I won't delve into it here.

      One may find it useful to logically chunk these numbers into groups of three as is often done using commas, periods, slashes, dashes, spaces, or other punctuation. This doesn't need to mean anything in particular, but may help to make one's numbers more easily readable as well as usable for filing new ideas. Sometimes these indicators can be confusing in discussion, so if ever in doubt, simply remove them and the general principles mentioned here should still hold.

      Depending on one's note taking system, however, when putting cards into some semblance of a logical sort-able order (perhaps within a folder for example), the system may choke on additional characters beyond the standard period to designate a decimal number. For example: within Obsidian, if you have a "zettelkasten" folder with lots of numbered and named files within it, you'll want to give each number the maximum number of decimal places so that when doing an alphabetic sort within the folder, all of the numbered ideas are properly sorted. As an example if you give one file the name "0.510 Mathematics", another "0.514 Topology" and a third "0.5141 Dense Sets" they may not sort properly unless you give the first two decimal expansions to the ten-thousands place at a minimum. If you changed them to "0.5100 Mathematics" and "0.5140 Topology, then you're in good shape and the folder will alphabetically sort as you'd expect. Similarly some systems may or may not do well with including alphabetic characters mixed in with numbers.

      If using chunked groups of three numbers, one might consider using the number 0.110.001 as the next level of idea between them and then continuing from there. This may help to spread some of the ideas out as surely one may have yet another idea to wedge in between 0.110.000 and 0.110.001?

      One can naturally choose almost any any (decimal) number, so long as it it somewhat "near" the original behind which one places it. By going out further in the decimal expansion, one can always place any idea between two others and know that there will be a number that it can be given that will "work".

      Generally within numbers as we use them for mathematics, 0.100000001 is technically "closer" by distance measurement to 0.1 than 0.11, (and by quite a bit!) but somehow when using numbers for zettelkasten purposes, we tend to want to not consider them as decimals, as the Dewey Decimal System does. We also have the tendency to want to keep our numbers as short as possible when writing, so it seems more "natural" to follow 0.11 with 0.111, as it seems like we're "counting up" rather than "counting down".

      Another subtlety that one sees in numbering systems is the proper or improper use of the whole numbers in front of the decimal portions. For example, in Niklas Luhmann's system, he has a section of cards that start with 3.XXXX which are close to a section numbered 35.YYYY. This may seem a bit confusing, but he's doing a bit of mental gymnastics to artificially keep his numbers smaller. What he really means is 3000.XXX and 3500.YYY respectively, he's just truncating the extra zeros. Alternately in a fully "decimal system" one would write these as 0.3000.XXXX and 0.3500.YYYY, where we've added additional periods to the numbers to make them easier to read. Using our original example in an analog system, the user may have been using foreshortened indicators for their system and by writing 1/1a, they may have really meant something of the form 001.001/00a, but were making the number shorter in a logical manner (at least to them).

      The close observer may have seen Scott Scheper adopt the slightly longer numbers in the thousands (like 3500.YYYY) as a means of remedying some of the numbering confusion many have when looking at Luhmann's system.

      Those who build their systems on top of existing ones like the Dewey Decimal Classification, or the Universal Decimal Classification may wish to keep those broad categories with three to four decimal places at the start and then add their own idea number underneath those levels.

      As an example, we can use the numbering for Finsler geometry from the Dewey Decimal Classification wikipedia page shown as:

      ``` 500 Natural sciences and mathematics

      510 Mathematics
      
          516 Geometry
      
              516.3 Analytic geometries
      
                  516.37 Metric differential geometries
      
                      516.375 Finsler geometry
      

      ```

      So in our zettelkasten, we might add our first card on the topic of Finsler geometry as "516.375.001 Definition of Finsler geometry" and continue from there with some interesting theorems and proofs on those topics.

      Of course, while this is something one can do doesn't mean that one should do it. Going too far down the rabbit holes of "official" forms of classification this way can be a massive time wasting exercise as in most private systems, you're never going to be comparing your individual ideas with the private zettelkasten of others and in practice the sort of standardizing work for classification this way is utterly useless. Beyond this, most personal zettelkasten are unique and idiosyncratic to the user, so for example, my math section labeled 510 may have a lot more overlap with history, anthropology, and sociology hiding within it compared with others who may have all of their mathematics hiding amidst their social sciences section starting with the number 300. One of the benefits of Luhmann's numbering scheme, at least for him, is that it allowed his system to be much more interdisciplinary than using a more complicated Dewey Decimal oriented system which may have dictated moving some of his systems theory work out of his politics area where it may have made more sense to him in addition to being more productive on a personal level.

      Of course if you're using the older sort of commonplacing zettelkasten system that was widely in use before Luhmann's variation, then perhaps using a Dewey-based system may be helpful to you?

      A Touch of History

      As both a mathematician working in the early days of real analysis and a librarian, some of these loose ideas may have occurred tangentially to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646 - 1716), though I'm currently unaware of any specific instances within his work. One must note, however, that some of the earliest work within library card catalogs as we know and use them today stemmed from 1770s Austria where governmental conscription needs overlapped with card cataloging systems (Krajewski, 2011). It's here that the beginnings of these sorts of numbering systems begin to come into use well before Melvil Dewey's later work which became much more broadly adopted.

      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. We know 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. As a result it's reasonably likely that a simplified version of these were at least part of the inspiration for his own numbering system.

      Your own practice

      At the end of the day, the numbering system you choose needs to work for you within the system you're using (analog, digital, other). I would generally recommend against using someone else's numbering system unless it completely makes sense to you and you're able to quickly and simply add cards to your system with out the extra work and cognitive dissonance about what number you should give it. The more you simplify these small things, the easier and happier you'll be with your set up in the end.

      References

      Krajewski, Markus. Paper Machines: About Cards & Catalogs, 1548-1929. Translated by Peter Krapp. History and Foundations of Information Science. MIT Press, 2011. https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/paper-machines.

      Munkres, James R. Topology. 2nd ed. 1975. Reprint, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1999.

    1. If a passage is interesting from several different points of view, then it should be copied out several times on different slips.

      I don't recall Langlois and Seignobos suggesting copying things several times over. Double check this point, particularly with respect to the transference to Luhmann.

    1. “Spectators come. They get to seeeverything, and nothing but that—as in an adult movie. And are accord-ingly disappointed.”16

      She quotes this from a second party rather than directly from Luhmann's zettelkasten: Niklas Luhmann, Zettelkasten II, index card no. 9/8,3 see: https://hypothes.is/a/LRCMnln_EeyW_OMPTJ3JiA

      16 “Zuschauer kommen. Sie bekommen alles zu sehen, und nichts als das—wie beim Pornofilm. Und entsprechend ist die Entta ̈ uschung,” as quoted in Ju ̈ rgen Kaube, “Alles und noch viel mehr: Die gelehrte Registratur,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, March 6, 2013, http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/geisteswissenschaften/zettelkaesten-alles-und -noch-viel-mehr-die-gelehrte-registratur-12103104.html.

    1. Underlining Keyterms and Index Bloat .t3_y1akec._2FCtq-QzlfuN-SwVMUZMM3 { --postTitle-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; --postTitleLink-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; --postBodyLink-VisitedLinkColor: #989898; }

      Hello u/sscheper,

      Let me start by thanking you for introducing me to Zettelkasten. I have been writing notes for a week now and it's great that I'm able to retain more info and relate pieces of knowledge better through this method.

      I recently came to notice that there is redundancy in my index entries.

      I have two entries for Number Line. I have two branches in my Math category that deals with arithmetic, and so far I have "Addition" and "Subtraction". In those two branches I talk about visualizing ways of doing that, and both of those make use of and underline the term Number Line. So now the two entries in my index are "Number Line (Under Addition)" and "Number Line (Under Subtraction)". In those notes I elaborate how exactly each operation is done on a number line and the insights that can be derived from it. If this continues, I will have Number Line entries for "Multiplication" and "Division". I will also have to point to these entries if I want to link a main note for "Number Line".

      Is this alright? Am I underlining appropriately? When do I not underline keyterms? I know that I do these to increase my chances of relating to those notes when I get to reach the concept of Number Lines as I go through the index but I feel like I'm overdoing it, and it's probably bloating it.

      I get "Communication (under Info. Theory): '4212/1'" in the beginning because that is one aspect of Communication itself. But for something like the number line, it's very closely associated with arithmetic operations, and maybe I need to rethink how I populate my index.

      Presuming, since you're here, that you're creating a more Luhmann-esque inspired zettelkasten as opposed to the commonplace book (and usually more heavily indexed) inspired version, here are some things to think about:<br /> - Aren't your various versions of number line card behind each other or at least very near each other within your system to begin with? (And if not, why not?) If they are, then you can get away with indexing only one and know that the others will automatically be nearby in the tree. <br /> - Rather than indexing each, why not cross-index the cards themselves (if they happen to be far away from each other) so that the link to Number Line (Subtraction) appears on Number Line (Addition) and vice-versa? As long as you can find one, you'll be able to find them all, if necessary.

      If you look at Luhmann's online example index, you'll see that each index term only has one or two cross references, in part because future/new ideas close to the first one will naturally be installed close to the first instance. You won't find thousands of index entries in his system for things like "sociology" or "systems theory" because there would be so many that the index term would be useless. Instead, over time, he built huge blocks of cards on these topics and was thus able to focus more on the narrow/niche topics, which is usually where you're going to be doing most of your direct (and interesting) work.

      Your case sounds, and I see it with many, is that your thinking process is going from the bottom up, but that you're attempting to wedge it into a top down process and create an artificial hierarchy based on it. Resist this urge. Approaching things after-the-fact, we might place information theory as a sub-category of mathematics with overlaps in physics, engineering, computer science, and even the humanities in areas like sociology, psychology, and anthropology, but where you put your work on it may depend on your approach. If you're a physicist, you'll center it within your physics work and then branch out from there. You'd then have some of the psychology related parts of information theory and communications branching off of your physics work, but who cares if it's there and not in a dramatically separate section with the top level labeled humanities? It's all interdisciplinary anyway, so don't worry and place things closest in your system to where you think they fit for you and your work. If you had five different people studying information theory who were respectively a physicist, a mathematician, a computer scientist, an engineer, and an anthropologist, they could ostensibly have all the same material on their cards, but the branching structures and locations of them all would be dramatically different and unique, if nothing else based on the time ordered way in which they came across all the distinct pieces. This is fine. You're building this for yourself, not for a mass public that will be using the Dewey Decimal System to track it all down—researchers and librarians can do that on behalf of your estate. (Of course, if you're a musician, it bears noting that you'd be totally fine building your information theory section within the area of "bands" as a subsection on "The Bandwagon". 😁)

      If you overthink things and attempt to keep them too separate in their own prefigured categorical bins, you might, for example, have "chocolate" filed historically under the Olmec and might have "peanut butter" filed with Marcellus Gilmore Edson under chemistry or pharmacy. If you're a professional pastry chef this could be devastating as it will be much harder for the true "foodie" in your zettelkasten to creatively and more serendipitously link the two together to make peanut butter cups, something which may have otherwise fallen out much more quickly and easily if you'd taken a multi-disciplinary (bottom up) and certainly more natural approach to begin with. (Apologies for the length and potential overreach on your context here, but my two line response expanded because of other lines of thought I've been working on, and it was just easier for me to continue on writing while I had the "muse". Rather than edit it back down, I'll leave it as it may be of potential use to others coming with no context at all. In other words, consider most of this response a selfish one for me and my own slip box than as responsive to the OP.)

    1. https://youtu.be/ILuSxUYYjMs

      Luhmann zettelkasten origin myth at 165 second mark

      A short outline of several numbering schemes (essentially all decimal in nature) for zettelkasten including: - Luhmann's numbering - Bob Doto - Scott Scheper - Dan Allosso - Forrest Perry

      A little light on the "why", though it does get location as a primary focus. Misses the idea of density and branching. Touches on but broadly misses the arbitrariness of using the comma, period, or slash which functions primarily for readability.

    1. nd the way in which these cate-gories changed, some being dropped out and others beingadded, was an index of my own intellectual progress andbreadth. Eventually, the file came to be arranged accord-ing to several larger projects, having many subprojects,which changed from year to year.

      In his section on "Arrangement of File", C. Wright Mills describes some of the evolution of his "file". Knowing that the form and function of one's notes may change over time (Luhmann's certainly changed over time too, a fact which is underlined by his having created a separate ZK II) one should take some comfort and solace that theirs certainly will as well.

      The system designer might also consider the variety of shapes and forms to potentially create a better long term design of their (or others') system(s) for their ultimate needs and use cases. How can one avoid constant change, constant rearrangement, which takes work? How can one minimize the amount of work that goes into creating their system?

      The individual knowledge worker or researcher should have some idea about the various user interfaces and potential arrangements that are available to them before choosing a tool or system for maintaining their work. What are the affordances they might be looking for? What will minimize their overall work, particularly on a lifetime project?

  19. Sep 2022
    1. But even if onewere to create one’s own classification system for one’s special purposes, or for a particularfield of sciences (which of course would contradict Dewey’s claim about general applicabilityof his system), the fact remains that it is problematic to press the main areas of knowledgedevelopment into 10 main areas. In any case it seems undesirable having to rely on astranger’s

      imposed system or on one’s own non-generalizable system, at least when it comes to the subdivisions.

      Heyde makes the suggestion of using one's own classification system yet again and even advises against "having to rely on a stranger's imposed system". Does Luhmann see this advice and follow its general form, but adopting a numbering system ostensibly similar, but potentially more familiar to him from public administration?

    2. It is obvious that due to this strict logic foundation, related thoughts will not be scattered allover the box but grouped together in proximity. As a consequence, completely withoutcarbon-copying all note sheets only need to be created once.

      In a break from the more traditional subject heading filing system of many commonplacing and zettelkasten methods, in addition to this sort of scheme Heyde also suggests potentially using the Dewey Decimal System for organizing one's knowledge.

      While Luhmann doesn't use Dewey's system, he does follow the broader advice which allows creating a dense numbering system though he does use a different numbering scheme.

    3. re all filed at the same locatin (under “Rehmke”) sequentially based onhow the thought process developed in the book. Ideally one uses numbers for that.

      While Heyde spends a significant amount of time on encouraging one to index and file their ideas under one or more subject headings, he address the objection:

      “Doesn’t this neglect the importance of sequentiality, context and development, i.e. doesn’t this completely make away with the well-thought out unity of thoughts that the original author created, when ideas are put on individual sheets, particularly when creating excerpts of longer scientific works?"

      He suggests that one file such ideas under the same heading and then numbers them sequentially to keep the original author's intention. This might be useful advice for a classroom setting, but perhaps isn't as useful in other contexts.

      But for Luhmann's use case for writing and academic research, this advice may actually be counter productive. While one might occasionally care about another author's train of thought, one is generally focusing on generating their own train of thought. So why not take this advice to advance their own work instead of simply repeating the ideas of another? Take the ideas of others along with your own and chain them together using sequential numbers for your own purposes (publishing)!!

      So while taking Heyde's advice and expand upon it for his own uses and purposes, Luhmann is encouraged to chain ideas together and number them. Again he does this numbering in a way such that new ideas can be interspersed as necessary.

    4. For instance, particular insights related to the sun or the moon may be filed under the(foreign) keyword “Astronomie” [Astronomy] or under the (German) keyword “Sternkunde”[Science of the Stars]. This can happen even more easily when using just one language, e.g.when notes related to the sociological term “Bund” [Association] are not just filed under“Bund” but also under “Gemeinschaft” [Community] or “Gesellschaft” [Society]. Againstthis one can protect by using dictionaries of synonyms and then create enough referencesheets (e.g. Astronomy: cf. Science of the Stars)

      related, but not drawn from as I've been thinking about the continuum of taxonomies and subject headings for a while...

      On the Spectrum of Topic Headings in note making

      Any reasonable note one may take will likely have a hierarchical chain of tags/subject headings/keywords going from the broad to the very specific. One might start out with something broad like "humanities" (as opposed to science), and proceed into "history", "anthropology", "biological anthropology", "evolution", and even more specific. At the bottom of the chain is the specific atomic idea on the card itself. Each of the subject headings helps to situate the idea and provide the context in which it sits, but how useful within a note taking system is having one or more of these tags on it? What about overlaps with other broader subjects (one will note that "evolution" might also sit under "science" / "biology" as well), but that note may have a different tone and perspective than the prior one.

      This becomes an interesting problem or issue as one explores ideas in a pre-designed note taking system. As a student just beginning to explore anthropology, one may tag hundreds of notes with anthropology to the point that the meaning of the tag is so diluted that a search of the index becomes useless as there's too much to sort through underneath it. But as one continues their studies in the topic further branches and sub headings will appear to better differentiate the ideas. This process will continue as the space further differentiates. Of course one may continue their research into areas that don't have a specific subject heading until they accumulate enough ideas within that space. (Take for example Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky's work which is now known under the heading of Behavioral Economics, a subject which broadly didn't exist before their work.) The note taker might also leverage this idea as they tag their own work as specifically as they might so as not to pollute their system as it grows without bound (or at least to the end of their lifetime).

      The design of one's note taking system should take these eventualities into account and more easily allow the user to start out broad, but slowly hone in on direct specificity.

      Some of this principle of atomicity of ideas and the growth from broad to specific can be seen in Luhmann's zettelkasten (especially ZK II) which starts out fairly broad and branches into the more specific. The index reflects this as well and each index heading ideally points to the most specific sub-card which begins the discussion of that particular topic.

      Perhaps it was this narrowing of specificity which encouraged Luhmann to start ZKII after years of building ZKII which had a broader variety of topics?

    5. If a more extensive note has been put on several A6 sheets subsequently,

      Heydes Overbearing System

      Heyde's method spends almost a full page talking about what to do if one extends a note or writes longer notes. He talks about using larger sheets of paper, carbon copies, folding, dating, clipping, and even stapling.

      His method seems to skip the idea of extending a particular card of potentially 2 or more "twins"/"triplets"/"quadruplets" which might then also need to be extended too. Luhmann probably had a logical problem with this as tracking down all the originals and extending them would be incredibly problematic. As a result, he instead opted to put each card behind it's closest similar idea (and number it thus).

      If anything, Heyde's described method is one of the most complete of it's day (compare with Bernheim, Langlois/Seignobos, Webb, Sertillanges, et al.) He discusses a variety of pros and cons, hints and tips, but he also goes deeper into some of the potential flaws and pitfalls for the practicing academic. As a result, many of the flaws he discusses and their potential work arounds (making multiple carbon copies, extending notes, etc.) add to the bulk of the description of the system and make it seem almost painful and overbearing for the affordances it allows. As a result, those reading it with a small amount of knowledge of similar traditions may have felt that there might be a better or easier system. I suspect that Niklas Luhmann was probably one of these.

      It's also likely that due to these potentially increasing complexities in such note taking systems that they became to large and unwieldly for people to see the benefit in using. Combined with the emergence of the computer from this same time forward, it's likely that this time period was the beginning of the end for such analog systems and experimenting with them.

    6. Who can say whether I will actually be searchingfor e.g. the note on the relation between freedom of will and responsibility by looking at itunder the keyword “Verantwortlichkeit” [Responsibility]? What if, as is only natural, I willbe unable to remember the keyword and instead search for “Willensfreiheit” [Freedom ofWill] or “Freiheit” [Freedom], hoping to find the entry? This seems to be the biggestcomplaint about the entire system of the sheet box and its merit.

      Heyde specifically highlights that planning for one's future search efforts by choosing the right keyword or even multiple keywords "seems to be the biggest complaint about the entire system of the slip box and its merit."

      Niklas Luhmann apparently spent some time thinking about this, or perhaps even practicing it, before changing his system so that the issue was no longer a problem. As a result, Luhmann's system is much simpler to use and maintain.

      Given his primary use of his slip box for academic research and writing, perhaps his solution was in part motivated by putting the notes and ideas exactly where he would both be able to easily find them, but also exactly where he would need them for creating final products in journal articles and books.

    7. For the sheets that are filled with content on one side however, the most most importantaspect is its actual “address”, which at the same time gives it its title by which it can alwaysbe found among its comrades: the keyword belongs to the upper row of the sheet, as thegraphic shows.

      With respect to Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten, it seems he eschewed the Heyde's advice to use subject headings as the Anschrift (address). Instead, much like a physical street address or card card catalog system, he substituted a card address instead. This freed him up from needing to copy cards multiple times to insert them in different places as well as needing to create multiple cards to properly index the ideas and their locations.

      Without this subtle change Luhmann's 90,000 card collection could have easily been 4-5 times its size.

    8. Many know from their own experience how uncontrollable and irretrievable the oftenvaluable notes and chains of thought are in note books and in the cabinets they are stored in

      Heyde indicates how "valuable notes and chains of thought are" but also points out "how uncontrollable and irretrievable" they are.

      This statement is strong evidence along with others in this chapter which may have inspired Niklas Luhmann to invent his iteration of the zettelkasten method of excerpting and making notes.

      (link to: Clemens /Heyde and Luhmann timeline: https://hypothes.is/a/4wxHdDqeEe2OKGMHXDKezA)

      Presumably he may have either heard or seen others talking about or using these general methods either during his undergraduate or law school experiences. Even with some scant experience, this line may have struck him significantly as an organization barrier of earlier methods.

      Why have notes strewn about in a box or notebook as Heyde says? Why spend the time indexing everything and then needing to search for it later? Why not take the time to actively place new ideas into one's box as close as possibly to ideas they directly relate to?

      But how do we manage this in a findable way? Since we can't index ideas based on tabs in a notebook or even notebook page numbers, we need to have some sort of handle on where ideas are in slips within our box. The development of European card catalog systems had started in the late 1700s, and further refinements of Melvil Dewey as well as standardization had come about by the early to mid 1900s. One could have used the Dewey Decimal System to index their notes using smaller decimals to infinitely intersperse cards on a growing basis.

      But Niklas Luhmann had gone to law school and spent time in civil administration. He would have been aware of aktenzeichen file numbers used in German law/court settings and public administration. He seems to have used a simplified version of this sort of filing system as the base of his numbering system. And why not? He would have likely been intimately familiar with its use and application, so why not adopt it or a simplified version of it for his use? Because it's extensible in a a branching tree fashion, one can add an infinite number of cards or files into the midst of a preexisting collection. And isn't this just the function aktenzeichen file numbers served within the German court system? Incidentally these file numbers began use around 1932, but were likely heavily influenced by the Austrian conscription numbers and house numbers of the late 1770s which also influenced library card cataloging numbers, so the whole system comes right back around. (Ref Krajewski here).

      (Cross reference/ see: https://hypothes.is/a/CqGhGvchEey6heekrEJ9WA

      Other pieces he may have been attempting to get around include the excessive work of additional copying involved in this piece as well as a lot of the additional work of indexing.

      One will note that Luhmann's index was much more sparse than without his methods. Often in books, a reader will find a reference or two in an index and then go right to the spot they need and read around it. Luhmann did exactly this in his sequence of cards. An index entry or two would send him to the general local and sifting through a handful of cards would place him in the correct vicinity. This results in a slight increase in time for some searches, but it pays off in massive savings of time of not needing to cross index everything onto cards as one goes, and it also dramatically increases the probability that one will serendipitously review over related cards and potentially generate new insights and links for new ideas going into one's slip box.

    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. Students' annotations canprompt first draft thinking, avoiding a blank page when writing andreassuring students that they have captured the critical informationabout the main argument from the reading.

      While annotations may prove "first draft thinking", why couldn't they provide the actual thinking and direct writing which moves toward the final product? This is the sort of approach seen in historical commonplace book methods, zettelkasten methods, and certainly in Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten incarnation as delineated by Johannes Schmidt or variations described by Sönke Ahrens (2017) or Dan Allosso (2022)? Other similar variations can be seen in the work of Umberto Eco (MIT, 2015) and Gerald Weinberg (Dorset House, 2005).

      Also potentially useful background here: 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

    1. level 1mambocab · 2 days agoWhat a refreshing question! So many people (understandably, but annoyingly) think that a ZK is only for those kinds of notes.I manage my slip-box as markdown files in Obsidian. I organize my notes into folders named durable, and commonplace. My durable folder contains my ZK-like repository. commonplace is whatever else it'd be helpful to write. If helpful/interesting/atomic observations come out of writing in commonplace, then I extract them into durable.It's not a super-firm division; it's just a rough guide.

      https://www.reddit.com/r/Zettelkasten/comments/xaky94/so_what_do_you_do_for_topics_that_dont_fit_in_a/

      Other than my own practice, this may be the first place I've seen someone mentioning that they maintain dual practices of both commonplacing and zettelkasten simultaneously.


      I do want to look more closely at Niklas Luhmann's ZKI and ZKII practices. I suspect that ZKI was a hybrid practice of the two and the second was more refined.

    1. Each slip ought to be furnished with precise refer-ences to the source from which its contents havebeen derived ; consequently, if a document has beenanalysed upon fifty different slips, the same refer-ences must be repeated fifty times. Hence a slightincrease in the amount of writing to be done. Itis certainly on account of this trivial complicationthat some obstinately cling to the inferior notebooksystem.

      A zettelkasten may require more duplication of effort than a notebook based system in terms of copying.


      It's likely that the attempt to be lazy about copying was what encouraged Luhmann to use his particular system the way he did.

  20. Aug 2022
    1. https://writing.bobdoto.computer/folgezettel-is-not-an-outline-luhmanns-playful-appreciation-of-disfunction/

    2. At first glance, Luhmann's alphanumeric system—sometimes referred to as "folgezettel"1—appears to be a way of structuring an outline of specific arguments within one's stack of notes.

      Luhmann's folgezettel (sequence of notes) may not quite be an outline, but I'm begining to suspect that Luhmann used the idea of an outline or a table of contents to structure his note making practice.

      While he may have gotten it elsewhere, we know he read Heyde's instructions as (at least one of his) source(s). Heyde's table of contents (the 1970's version at least, we'll need to double check the 1930's versions) is highly suggestive, both in form, structure, and even numbering of the same set up in Luhmann's zettelkasten.

      It's likely that Luhmann was attempting to get around all the additional copying and filing work suggested in Heyde.

    1. While the admin-istrative scientist Luhmann ignores the librarian’s dictum in his consideration of theproper paper for the project out of spatial concerns, DIN 1504, which, apart from theInternational Library Format, only allows DIN A 6 and DIN A 7 for “literature cards,”18regrettably goes unused.

      Despite his career as an administrative scientist, Luhmann eschewed the International Library Format which allows for DIN A6 and DIN A7 for "literature cards."

      Cross reference:

      1. See Deutsches Institut für Normung e.V. (DIN), Publikation und Dokumentation 2. Erschließung von Dokumenten, Informationsverarbeitung, Reprographie, Bibliotheksverwaltung, Normen, vol. 154 of DIN-Taschenbuch , 2nd ed. (Berlin, Kö ln: Beuth, 1984), 64f.

      link to https://hypothes.is/a/hKgd_t1jEeyxoxOujPZNkg

    1. taurusnoises · 11 hr. ago · edited 11 hr. agoObsidianMy guess is that, like every one else, Luhmann had an array of both conscious and subconscious influences. That said, the great bulk of Luhmann's system can be found in the book I mentioned above. Right down to the diagrams and illustrations of the cards."If the Zettelkasten, used in many ways, gradually becomes a constantly growing reservoir of foreign and personal ideas, then its careful user will, often enough, and with deep focus into certain special areas from this occupation, have independent scientific achievement. At least he will be sufficiently familiar with individual questions in one of his subjects and will be able to look forward to the moment when he is about to complete a specifically formulated written examination paper within a given period of time without the oppressive feeling of insecurity." (1931, Heyde, pardon the rough trans.)Sound familiar?Also, who are the intellectual historians you're referring to here?

      I'm the first intellectual historian in line on this one, but there are certainly others. :) I haven't seen anything from Schmidt on this niche sub-topic, but I would suspect those in his group are highly curious about these specifics.

      I've been reading portions of Heyde, but I'm not seeing anything new, innovative, or exciting in his suggestions that hadn't broadly existed in the prior literature for a century or more, though he does go into more depth on various areas than others before him. In fact, Heyde suggests making multiple copies of one's notes to file under a variety of commonplace subject headings, a practice which we specifically don't see Luhmann doing. The vast majority of the Zettelkasten space up until this time and even since is simply the commonplace book tradition using index cards instead of notebooks. Luhmann was doing several things subtly different than this prior tradition. Whether they are really important or not at scale really remains to be seen. It's reasonably obvious based on what I've seen thus far that he was following Heyde (and other precursors) in spirit, but definitely not in the "letter of the 'law'". There are very subtle pieces of Heyde which are uniquely and intriguingly suggestive of why Luhmann's practice was different than others, but the average reader is not likely to see them.

      My German is dreadful at best, so I'll refrain from commenting further on specifics until I've seen a better/full translation in English. I'm definitely curious to hear the thoughts of others who've translated/read it.

    2. ManuelRodriguez331 · 8 hr. agotaurusnoises wrote on Aug 20, 2022: Technik des Wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens by Johannes Erich HeydeThe idea of grouping similar notes together with the help of index cards was mainstream knowledge in the 1920'er. Melvil Dewey has invented the decimal classification in 1876 and it was applied to libraries and personal note taking as well.quote: “because for every note there is a systematically related one in the immediate vicinity. [...] A good, scholarly book can grow out of the mere collection of notes — not an ingenious one, indeed" [1]The single cause why it wasn't applied more frequently was because of the limitation of the printing press. In the year 1900 only 100 scholarly journals were available in the world. There was no need to write more manuscripts and teach the art of Scientific Writing to a larger audience.[1] Kuntze, Friedrich: Die Technik der geistigen Arbeit, 1922

      reply to: https://www.reddit.com/r/Zettelkasten/comments/wrytqj/comment/ilax9tc/?utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

      Index card systems were insanely popular in the early 1900's for note taking and uses of all other sorts (business administration, libraries, etc.). The note taking tradition of the slip box goes back even further in intellectual history with precedents including miscellanies, commonplace books, and florilegia. Konrad Gessner may have been one of the first to have created a method using slips of rearrangeable paper in the 1500s, but this general pattern of excerpting, note taking and writing goes back to antiquity with the concept of locus communis (Latin) and tópos koinós (Greek).

      What some intellectual historians are hoping for evidence of in this particular source is a possible origin of the idea of the increased complexity of direct links from one card to another as well as the juxtaposition of ideas which build on each other. Did Luhmann innovate this himself or was this something he read or was in general practice which he picked up? Most examples of zettelkasten outside of Luhmann's until those in the present, could be described reasonably accurately as commonplace books on index cards usually arranged by topic/subject heading/head word (with or without internal indices).

      Perhaps it was Luhmann's familiarity with Aktenzeichen (German administrative "file numbers") prior to his academic work which inspired the dramatically different form his index card-based commonplace took? See: https://hyp.is/CqGhGvchEey6heekrEJ9WA/www.wikiwand.com/de/Aktenzeichen_(Deutschland)

      Is it possible that he was influenced by Beatrice Webb's ideas on note taking from Appendix C of My Apprenticeship (1924) which was widely influential in the humanities and particularly sociology and anthropology? Would he have been aware of the work of historians Ernst Bernheim followed by Charles Victor Langlois and Charles Seignobos? (see: https://hypothes.is/a/DLP52hqFEe2nrIMdrd4U7g) Did Luhmann's law studies expose him to the work of jurist Johann Jacob Moser (1701-1785) who wrote about his practice in his autobiography and subsequently influenced generations of practitioners including Jean Paul and potentially Hegel?

      There are obviously lots of unanswered questions...

    3. Technik des Wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens by Johannes Erich Heyde

      Technik des Wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens by Johannes Erich Heyde is potentially the book in which Niklas Luhmann learned/modeled his zettelkasten after.