133 Matching Annotations
  1. Last 7 days
    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".

  2. 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.

  3. 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.


      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...

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


    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!


      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

  5. 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


      9/8j In the slip box is a slip containing the argument that refutes the claims on all the other slips. But this slip disappears as soon as you open the slip box. That is, he assumes a different number, disguises himself and then cannot be found. A joker.

      Many have asked about the meaning of this jokerzettel over the past several years. Here's my slightly extended interpretation, based on my own practice with thousands of cards, about what Luhmann meant:

      Imagine you've spent your life making and collecting notes and ideas and placing them lovingly on index cards. You've made tens of thousands and they're a major part of your daily workflow and support your life's work. They define you and how you think. You agree with Friedrich Nietzsche's concession to Heinrich Köselitz that “You are right — our writing tools take part in the forming of our thoughts.” Your time is alive with McLuhan's idea that "The medium is the message." or in which his friend John Culkin said, "We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us."

      Eventually you're going to worry about accidentally throwing your cards away, people stealing or copying them, fires (oh! the fires), floods, or other natural disasters. You don't have the ability to do digital back ups yet. You ask yourself, can I truly trust my spouse not to destroy them?,What about accidents like dropping them all over the floor and needing to reorganize them or worse, the ghost in the machine should rear its head?

      You'll fear the worst, but the worst only grows logarithmically in proportion to your collection.

      Eventually you pass on opportunities elsewhere because you're worried about moving your ever-growing collection. What if the war should obliterate your work? Maybe you should take them into the war with you, because you can't bear to be apart?

      If you grow up at a time when Schrodinger's cat is in the zeitgeist, you're definitely going to have nightmares that what's written on your cards could horrifyingly change every time you look at them. Worse, knowing about the Heisenberg Uncertainly Principle, you're deathly afraid that there might be cards, like electrons, which are always changing position in ways you'll never be able to know or predict.

      As a systems theorist, you view your own note taking system as a input/output machine. Then you see Claude Shannon's "useless machine" (based on an idea of Marvin Minsky) whose only function is to switch itself off. You become horrified with the idea that the knowledge machine you've painstakingly built and have documented the ways it acts as an independent thought partner may somehow become self-aware and shut itself off!?!


      And worst of all, on top of all this, all your hard work, effort, and untold hours of sweat creating thousands of cards will be wiped away by a potential unknowable single bit of information on a lone, malicious card and your only recourse is suicide, the unfortunate victim of dataism.

      Of course, if you somehow manage to overcome the hurdle of suicidal thoughts, and your collection keeps growing without bound, then you're sure to die in a torrential whirlwind avalanche of information and cards, literally done in by information overload.

      But, not wishing to admit any of this, much less all of this, you imagine a simple trickster, a joker, something silly. You write it down on yet another card and you file it away into the box, linked only to the card in front of it, the end of a short line of cards with nothing following it, because what could follow it? Put it out of your mind and hope your fears disappear away with it, lost in your box like the jokerzettel you imagined. You do this with a self-assured confidence that this way of making sense of the world works well for you, and you settle back into the methodical work of reading and writing, intent on making your next thousands of cards.

    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!


      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.

  6. 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.


      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


      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.

  7. 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.


    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.

  8. 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.


      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?

  9. 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.


      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.

  10. 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.

    1. What edition of this book did Luhmann have/use?

      His edition will establish a potential lower threshold for the point in his life at which he used it (ie college, law school, other).

      What differences are there between the edition I've read portions of and this 10th edition exist? Did Luhmann's edition have this same outline/contents page in this form? Does my analysis still stand if this changes?

    2. While Heyde outlines using keywords/subject headings and dates on the bottom of cards with multiple copies using carbon paper, we're left with the question of where Luhmann pulled his particular non-topical ordering as well as his numbering scheme.

      While it's highly likely that Luhmann would have been familiar with the German practice of Aktenzeichen ("file numbers") and may have gotten some interesting ideas about organization from the closing sections of the "Die Kartei" section 1.2 of the book, which discusses library organization and the Dewey Decimal system, we're still left with the bigger question of organization.

      It's obvious that Luhmann didn't follow the heavy use of subject headings nor the advice about multiple copies of cards in various portions of an alphabetical index.

      While the Dewey Decimal System set up described is indicative of some of the numbering practices, it doesn't get us the entirety of his numbering system and practice.

      One need only take a look at the Inhalt (table of contents) of Heyde's book! The outline portion of the contents displays a very traditional branching tree structure of ideas. Further, the outline is very specifically and similarly numbered to that of Luhmann's zettelkasten. This structure and numbering system is highly suggestive of branching ideas where each branch builds on the ideas immediately above it or on the ideas at the next section above that level.

      Just as one can add an infinite number of books into the Dewey Decimal system in a way that similar ideas are relatively close together to provide serendipity for both search and idea development, one can continue adding ideas to this branching structure so they're near their colleagues.

      Thus it's highly possible that the confluence of descriptions with the book and the outline of the table of contents itself suggested a better method of note keeping to Luhmann. Doing this solves the issue of needing to create multiple copies of note cards as well as trying to find cards in various places throughout the overall collection, not to mention slimming down the collection immensely. Searching for and finding a place to put new cards ensures not only that one places one's ideas into a growing logical structure, but it also ensures that one doesn't duplicate information that may already exist within one's over-arching outline. From an indexing perspective, it also solves the problem of cross referencing information along the axes of the source author, source title, and a large variety of potential subject headings.

      And of course if we add even a soupcon of domain expertise in systems theory to the mix...

      While thinking about Aktenzeichen, keep in mind that it was used in German public administration since at least 1934, only a few years following Heyde's first edition, but would have been more heavily used by the late 1940's when Luhmann would have begun his law studies.


      When thinking about taking notes for creating output, one can follow one thought with another logically both within one's card index not only to write an actual paper, but the collection and development happens the same way one is filling in an invisible outline which builds itself over time.

      Linking different ideas to other ideas separate from one chain of thought also provides the ability to create multiple of these invisible, but organically growing outlines.

    3. Heyde, Johannes Erich, and Heinz Siegel. Technik des wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens (Inhalt). 10th ed. Berlin: Kiepert, 1970. oclc/1075391218

      The table of contents of the 1970 10th Edition

      A later edition of the text from which Niklas Luhmann ostensibly learned the methods behind his zettelkasten.

    1. However, he can also store all Lessing-relatednewspaper essays under “Z 1, 1”, or “Z 1, 2”, “Z 1, 3”, “Z 1, 4” and so forth.

      This alternating patter also has the appearance of Luhmann's numbering system and may have made him think, why use the other system(s)? Why not just file everything based on this method from the start?

    2. By my own experiences when I used the alphabetical system, I came to the conclusion thatfor the researcher’s sheet box an alphabetical system is more advantageous.

      We find here juxtaposed the suggestion to use an alphabetic indexing system and that of the Dewey Decimal System with the specific mention that one is grouping cards with similar related ideas.

      Did Luhmann evolve his system out of these two ideas and instead of using Dewey, as was apparently not common in Germany, he used a version of the Aktenzeichen ("file numbers") stemming from the 1770s conscription numbers from Vienna?

    3. This note sheetwould now be placed into the box in the area responding to an intial 6, e.g. after 620, andbefore the notes beginning with 700 (which usually is just written as 7 to preventmisunderstanding).

      Portions of Dewey's system as described here can definitely be seen in Luhmann's system in which he left some of the preceding numbers unwritten/unstated.

    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.

    1. According to https://www.reddit.com/r/Zettelkasten/comments/wrytqj/the_secret_book_luhmann_read_that_taught_him/

      The book referenced here is Technik des Wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens by Johannes Erich Heyde

    2. https://scottscheper.com/letter/36/

      Clemens Luhmann, Niklas' son, has a copy of a book written in German in 1932 and given to his father by Friedrich Rudolf Hohl which ostensibly is where Luhmann learned his zettelkasten technique. It contains a 34 page chapter titled Die Kartei (the Card Index) which has the details.

    1. Luhmann’s slip-box contains about 90,000 notes, which sounds like an incrediblylarge number. But it only means that he wrote six notes a day fromthe day he started to work with his slip-box until he died.

      Should check the dates of start and finish and do the direct math myself, but ostensibly Luhmann averaged six notes a day for the duration of keeping his zettelkasten.

  11. Jul 2022
    1. ~55:40 mark

      It will require better sourcing/counting, but for scale, Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten had:<br /> - 15,000 were bibliographic cards (fleeting notes from reading) each of which had ~30 short notes or observations on them which were distilled down to 3-4 main notes each. - 60,000 main notes

      Scott mentions this applied to his ZKII, but since I recall the total number was 90,000 cards, this should be doublechecked.

    2. https://vimeo.com/729407073

      <iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/729407073?h=054ecbcc7b" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; fullscreen; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

      MakingKnowledge: Scott Scheper from Dan Allosso on Vimeo.

      Various names Luhmann gives to the effects seen in his slip box: - ghost in the box - second mind - alter ego - communication partner

      These are tangential ideas and words which lead up to the serendipity of combinatorial creativity, but aren't quite there.

    1. My new friend Scott Scheper is pretty direct with his argument that "Ahrensian" note-taking is NOT what Luhmann did.

      Compare and contrast these two practices.

      Do we have enough data about the early portions of Luhmann's process to indicate this? Similarly for the final portion of creation (outlining and plugging in ideas).

    1. The numbers themselves have also been a source ofdebate. Some digital users identify a new notechronologically. One I made right now, for example,might be numbered “202207201003”, which would beunique in my system, provided I don’t make another thisminute. The advantage of this system is that I could keeptrack of when I had particular ideas, which might comein handy sometime in the future. The disadvantage is thatthe number doesn’t convey any additional information,and it doesn’t allow me to choose where to insert a newnote “behind” the existing note it is most closely relatedto.

      Allosso points out some useful critiques of numbering systems, but doesn't seem to get to the two core ideas that underpin them (and let's be honest, most other sources don't either). As a result most of the controversies are based on a variety of opinions from users, many of whom don't have long enough term practices to see the potential value.

      The important things about numbers (or even titles) within zettelkasten or even commonplace book systems is that they be unique to immediately and irrevocably identify ideas within a system.

      The other important piece is that ideas be linked to at least one other idea, so they're less likely to get lost.

      Once these are dealt with there's little other controversy to be had.

      The issue with date/time-stamped numbering systems in digital contexts is that users make notes using them, but wholly fail to link them to anything much less one other idea within their system, thus creating orphaned ideas. (This is fine in the early days, but ultimately one should strive to have nothing orphaned).

      The benefit of Luhmann's analog method was that by putting one idea behind its most closely related idea was that it immediately created that minimum of one link (to the thing it sits behind). It's only at this point once it's situated that it can be given it's unique number (and not before).

      Luhmann's numbering system, similar to those seen in Viennese contexts for conscription numbers/house numbers and early library call numbers, allows one to infinitely add new ideas to a pre-existing set no matter how packed the collection may become. This idea is very similar to the idea of dense sets in mathematics settings in which one can get arbitrarily close to any member of a set.

      link to: - https://hypothes.is/a/YMZ-hofbEeyvXyf1gjXZCg (Vienna library catalogue system) - https://hypothes.is/a/Jlnn3IfSEey_-3uboxHsOA (Vienna conscription numbers)

    1. https://niklas-luhmann-archiv.de/bestand/zettelkasten/zettel/ZK_2_SW1_001_V

      One may notice that Niklas Luhmann's index within his zettelkasten is fantastically sparce. By this we might look at the index entry for "system" which links to only one card. For someone who spent a large portion of his life researching systems theory, this may seem fantastically bizarre.

      However, it's not as as odd as one may think given the structure of his particular zettelkasten. The single reference gives an initial foothold into his slip box where shuffling through cards beyond that idea will reveal a number of cards closely related to the topic which subsequently follow it. Regular use and work with the system would have allowed Luhmann better memory with respect to its contents and the searching through threads of thought would have potentially sparked new ideas and threads. Thus he didn't need to spend the time and effort to highly index each individual card, he just needed a starting place and could follow the links from there. This tends to minimize the indexing work he needed to do regularly, but simultaneously makes it harder for the modern person who may wish to read or consult those notes.

      Some of the difference here is the idea of top-down versus bottom-up construction. While thousands of his cards may have been tagged as "systems" or "systems theory", over time and with increased scale they would have become nearly useless as a construct. Instead, one may consider increasing levels of sub-topics, but these too may be generally useless with respect to (manual) search, so the better option is to only look at the smallest level of link (and/or their titles) which is only likely to link to 3-4 other locations outside of the card just before it. This greater specificity scales better over time on the part of the individual user who is broadly familiar with the system.

      Alternatively, for those in shared digital spaces who may maintain public facing (potentially shared) notes (zettelkasten), such sparse indices may not be as functional for the readers of such notes. New readers entering such material generally without context, will feel lost or befuddled that they may need to read hundreds of cards to find and explore the sorts of ideas they're actively looking for. In these cases, more extensive indices, digital search, and improved user interfaces may be required to help new readers find their way into the corpus of another's notes.

      Another related idea to that of digital, public, shared notes, is shared taxonomies. What sorts of word or words would one want to search for broadly to find the appropriate places? Certainly widely used systems like the Dewey Decimal System or the Universal Decimal Classification may be helpful for broadly crosslinking across systems, but this will take an additional level of work on the individual publishers.

      Is or isn't it worthwhile to do this in practice? Is this make-work? Perhaps not in analog spaces, but what about the affordances in digital spaces which are generally more easily searched as a corpus.

      As an experiment, attempt to explore Luhmann's Zettelkasten via an entryway into the index. Compare and contrast this with Andy Matuschak's notes which have some clever cross linking UI at the bottoms of the notes, but which are missing simple search functionality and have no tagging/indexing at all. Similarly look at W. Ross Ashby's system (both analog and digitized) and explore the different affordances of these two which are separately designed structures---the analog by Ashby himself, but the digital one by an institution after his death.

    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 death.

      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. https://www.reddit.com/r/antinet/comments/vy4abk/interesting_thread_on_twitter_about_the_need_and/

      Thread: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1547208663768748032.html

      That thread by u/taurusnoises (Bob Doto aka @thehighpony) seems to explicitly buy into the rumor that Luhmann invented the zettelkasten. He assuredly did not and was most likely taught it or some version of it by one or more teachers or colleagues in his lifetime. We're unlikely to know if he tweaked or modified it extensively from the version he was taught, but studying the methods of others may be illustrative. How did Wittgenstein use it? Newton? Georg Christoph Lichtenberg? John Locke? Barthes? Marcel Mauss? Claude Lévi-Strauss? Heck, even comedian George Carlin, dancer/choreographer Twyla Tharp, and battle rapper/musician Eminem have slip box systems that they explicitly used for their creativity and work.

      People have been using zettelkasten, commonplace books, florilegium, and other similar methods for centuries, and no one version is the "correct" one. What is useful is finding a system that works for you (and not finding a system that you work for). Everyone here is assuredly doing exactly as Luhmann did, you're taking a tool with a broad set of ideas, principles, and practices and putting it to use in a way that works for you. This is part of the reason why there are so many people with so many questions about the what and why in this and other fora.

      We approach these methods from such a top down manner, in part, because our culture has broadly lost the thread of how these note taking practices were done historically. Instead of working with something that has always existed and been taught in our culture, and then using it to suit our needs, we're looking at it like a new shiny toy or app and then trying to modify it to make it suit our needs.

      Of course to be sure, Luhmann's version of the tool as he used it is one of the most powerful forms of commonplacing we've seen, but this doesn't mean that someone doesn't change or innovate on the methods to make something even more powerful or emergent. (I'd caution against low level attempts as this ground has been heavily tread by millions of people over time.)

      To add onto Nicolas-Gatien and dynodiaper's list, how about? 4. Idea generation/creation and innovation

      And for those who want the bumper sticker version: https://www.zazzle.com/niklas_luhmann_bumper_sticker-128462770354241554 Or maybe, for Scott, the coffee mug version? 😁☕https://www.zazzle.com/niklas_luhmann_mug-168394795838388324

    1. Over the course of his intellectual life, from about 1943 until hissudden death in 1980, Barthes built a card index consisting of morethan 12,250 note cards – the full extent of this collection was notknown until access to it was granted to the manuscript researchers ofthe Institut Mémoires de l’édition contemporaine (IMEC) inFrance (Krapp, 2006: 363).3

      Roland Barthes accumulated a card index of more than 12,250 note cards beginning in 1943 which were held after his death in 1980 at the Institut Mémoires de l’édition contemporaine (IMEC) in France.

      Barthes' dates 12 November 1915 – 26 March 1980 age 64

      He started his card index at roughly age 28 and at around the same time which he began producing written work. (Did he have any significant writing work or publications prior to this?)

      His card collection spanned about 37 years and at 12,250 cards means that was producing on average 0.907 cards per day. If we don't include weekends, then he produced 1.27 cards per day on average. Compare this with Ahrens' estimate of 6 cards a day for Niklas Luhmann.

      With this note I'm starting the use of a subject heading (in English) of "card index" as a generic collection of notes which are often kept in one or more boxes. This is to distinguish it from the more modern idea of zettelkasten in the Luhmann framing which also connotes a dense set of links between the cards themselves, though this may not have been the case historically. Card index is also specifically separate from 'index card' which is an individual instance of an item that might be found in a card index. At present, I'm unaware of a specific word in English which defines the broader note taking context or portions thereof relating to index cards in the same way that a zettelkasten implies. This may be the result of the broad use of index cards for so many varying uses in the early 20th century. For these other varying uses I'll try to differentiate them henceforth with the generic 'index card files' which might also be used to describe the containers in which cards might be found.

    1. Famously, Luswig Wittgenstein organized his thoughts this way. Also famously, he never completed his 'big book' - almost all of his books (On Certainty, Philosophical Investigations, Zettel, etc.) were compiled by his students in the years after his death.

      I've not looked directly at Wittgenstein's note collection before, but it could be an interesting historical example.

      Might be worth collecting examples of what has happened to note collections after author's lives. Some obviously have been influential in scholarship, but generally they're subsumed by the broader category of a person's "papers" which are often archived at libraries, museums, and other institutions.

      Examples: - Vincentius Placcius' collection used by his students - Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten which is being heavily studied by Johannes F.K. Schmidt - Mortimer J. Adler - was his kept? where is it stored?

      Posthumously published note card collections - Ludwig Wittgenstein - Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project - Ronald Reagan's collection at his presidential library, though it is more of an commonplace book collection of quotes which was later published - Roland Barthes' Mourning Diary - Vladimir Nabokov's The Original of Laura - others...

      Just as note collections serve an autobiographical function, perhaps they may also serve as an intellectual autobiographical function? Wittgenstein never managed to complete his 'big book', but in some sense, doesn't his collection of note cards serve this function for those willing to explore it all?

      I'd previously suggested that Scott P. Scheper publish not only his book on note taking, but to actually publish his note cards as a stand-alone zettelkasten example to go with them. What if this sort of publishing practice were more commonplace? The modern day equivalent is more likely a person's blog or their wiki. Not enough people are publicly publishing their notes to see what this practice might look like for future generations.

  12. Jun 2022
    1. Luhmann’s zettelkasten use case .t3_vlape5._2FCtq-QzlfuN-SwVMUZMM3 { --postTitle-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; --postTitleLink-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; } I was just thinking… I wonder what Luhmann’s use case for his zettelkasten was. By this I mean, was his original use for it for knowledge development, then his papers/books came as a successful bi-product? Or was his original intention to use it to actually write books/papers in the first place… Does anyone have any insight on this?

      When asked by Bielefeld University to report on his research projects, Luhmann famously replied:

      “Theory of society; duration: 30 years; costs: none”.

      In this there is a tremendously large nod to his zettelkasten to permit this work to be done.

      Though technically at the current price of $11.78 for 1,000 index cards on Amazon right now and a total of 92,000 cards, Luhmann should have better budgeted 1083.76 for the paper not to mention the cost of pens and pencils.

      Luhmann, N. (1997). Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft (2 vols). Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Suhrkamp. Published in translation as Theory of society (2 vols.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press 2012–2013.

    1. Luhmann remarked that, when the Faculty of Sociology at Bielefeld University, newly established in 1969, asked its professors to report on the research projects they were working on, his reply was “Theory of society; duration: 30 years; costs: none” (Luhmann, 1997, p. 11).

      “Theory of society; duration: 30 years; costs: none”

      Quote from

      Luhmann, N. (1997). Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft (2 vols). Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Suhrkamp. Published in translation as Theory of society (2 vols.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press 2012–2013.

    1. Das gerichtliche Aktenzeichen dient der Kennzeichnung eines Dokuments und geht auf die Aktenordnung (AktO) vom 28. November 1934 und ihre Vorgänger zurück.[4]

      The court file number is used to identify a document and goes back to the file regulations (AktO) of November 28, 1934 and its predecessors.

      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.

      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.

      We know these numbering methods in public administration date back to as early as Vienna, Austria in the 1770s.

      The missing piece now is who/where did Luhmann learn his note taking and excerpting practice from? Alberto Cevolini argues that Niklas Luhmann was unaware of the prior tradition of excerpting, though note taking on index cards or slips had been commonplace in academic circles for quite some time and would have been reasonably commonplace during his student years.

      Are there handbooks, guides, or manuals in the early 1900's that detail these sorts of note taking practices?

      Perhaps something along the lines of Antonin Sertillanges’ book The Intellectual Life (1921) or Paul Chavigny's Organisation du travail intellectuel: recettes pratiques à l’usage des étudiants de toutes les facultés et de tous les travailleurs (in French) (Delagrave, 1918)?

      Further recall that Bruno Winck has linked some of the note taking using index cards to legal studies to Roland Claude's 1961 text:

      I checked Chavigny’s book on the BNF site. He insists on the use of index cards (‘fiches’), how to index them, one idea per card but not how to connect between the cards and allow navigation between them.

      Mind that it’s written in 1919, in Strasbourg (my hometown) just one year after it returned to France. So between students who used this book and Luhmann in Freiburg it’s not far away. My mother taught me how to use cards for my studies back in 1977, I still have the book where she learn the method, as Law student in Strasbourg “Comment se documenter”, by Roland Claude, 1961. Page 25 describes a way to build secondary index to receive all cards relatives to a topic by their number. Still Luhmann system seems easier to maintain but very near.

      <small><cite class='h-cite via'> <span class='p-author h-card'> Scott P. Scheper </span> in Scott P. Scheper on Twitter: "The origins of the Zettelkasten's numeric-alpha card addresses seem to derive from Niklas Luhmann's early work as a legal clerk. The filing scheme used is called "Aktenzeichen" - See https://t.co/4mQklgSG5u. cc @ChrisAldrich" / Twitter (<time class='dt-published'>06/28/2022 11:29:18</time>)</cite></small>

      Link to: - https://hypothes.is/a/Jlnn3IfSEey_-3uboxHsOA - https://hypothes.is/a/4jtT0FqsEeyXFzP-AuDIAA

    1. It would lack a unique personality or an “alter ego,” which is what Luhmann’s system aimed to create. (9)

      Is there evidence that Luhmann's system aimed to create anything from the start in a sort of autopoietic sense? Or is it (more likely) the case that Luhmann saw this sort of "alter ego" emerging over time and described it after-the-fact?

      Based on his experiences and note takers and zettelkasten users might expect this outcome now.

      Are there examples of prior commonplace book users or note takers seeing or describing this sort of experience in the historical record?

      Related to this is the idea that a reader might have a conversation with another author by reading and writing their own notes from a particular text.

      The only real difference here is that one's notes and the ability to link them to other ideas or topical headings in a commonplace book or zettelkasten means that the reader/writer has an infinitely growable perfect memory.

    2. Before we begin, please note that this piece assumes intermediate familiarity with Zettelkasten and its original creator, the social scientist Niklas Luhmann (1927–1998).

      Even the long running (2013) zettelkasten.de website credits Niklas Luhmann as being the "original creator" of the zettelkasten.


      We really need to track down the origin of linking one idea to another. Obviously writers, and especially novelists, would have had some sort of at least linear order in their writing due to narrative needs in using such a system. What does this tradition look like on the non-fiction side?

      Certainly some of the puzzle stems from the commonplace book tradition, but this is more likely to have relied on natural memory as well as searching and finding via index methods.

      Perhaps looking more closely at Hans Blumenberg's instantiation would be more helpful. Similarly looking at the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss and his predecessors like Marcel Mauss may provide at least an attack on this problem.

      My working hypothesis is that given the history of the Viennese numbering system, it may have stemmed from the late 1700s and this certainly wasn't an innovation by Luhmann.

      link to: https://hyp.is/hLy7NNtqEeuWQIP1UDkM6g/web.archive.org/web/20130916081433/https://christiantietze.de/posts/2013/06/zettelkasten-improves-thinking-writing/ for evidence of start of zettelkasten.de

    1. ZK II: Note 9/8 9/8 Zettelkasten 1 as a cybernetic system Combination of disorder and order, of lump formation and unpredictable combination realized in ad hoc access. Precondition: waiver of fixed order. The upstream differentiation: search aids vs. content; Registers, questions, ideas vs. Existing forms and partly makes superfluous what must be assumed in terms of inner order .

      Niklas Luhmann thought of the zettelkasten as a cybernetic system.

      He considers a precondition of its creation is that it ought to waive any "fixed order", allow for search, and the asking of questions.

      There are only the outlines of brief and scant thoughts here however, which would have required significant amounts of additional context not contained on the card. As a result one would require additional underpinning to understand what Luhmann means here as the card definitively couldn't have been directly or easily reused for future writing beyond the basic sketch outline he provides. What proportion of cards have brief thought sketches like this versus more fully thought out and directly reusable ideas within his system? Does Schmidt provide any guidance here without reading portions of the larger corpus? How does this differ from the guidance of Ahrens?

      (Translation from German to English via Google)

    1. The addressing system that many digital note taking systems offer is reminiscent of Luhmann's paper system where it served a particular use. Many might ask themselves if they really need this functionality in digital contexts where text search and other affordances can be more directly useful.

      Frequently missed by many, perhaps because they're befuddled by the complex branching numbering system which gets more publicity, Luhmann's paper-based system had a highly useful and simple subject heading index (see: https://niklas-luhmann-archiv.de/bestand/zettelkasten/zettel/ZK_2_SW1_001_V, for example) which can be replicated using either #tags or [[wikilinks]] within tools like Obsidian. Of course having an index doesn't preclude the incredible usefulness of directly linking one idea to potentially multiple others in some branching tree-like or network structure.

      Note that one highly valuable feature of Luhmann's paper version was that the totality of cards were linked to a minimum of at least one other card by the default that they were placed into the file itself. Those putting notes into Obsidian often place them into their system as singlet, un-linked notes as a default, and this can lead to problems down the road. However this can be mitigated by utilizing topical or subject headings on individual cards which allows for searching on a heading and then cross-linking individual ideas as appropriate.

      As an example, because two cards may be tagged with "archaeology" doesn't necessarily mean they're closely related as ideas. This tends to decrease in likelihood if one is an archaeologist and a large proportion of cards might contain that tag, but will simultaneously create more value over time as generic tags increase in number but the specific ideas cross link in small numbers. Similarly as one delves more deeply into archaeology, one will also come up with more granular and useful sub-tags (like Zooarcheology, Paleobotany, Archeopedology, Forensic Archeology, Archeoastronomy, Geoarcheology, etc.) as their knowledge in sub areas increases.

      Concretely, one might expect that the subject heading "sociology" would be nearly useless to Luhmann as that was the overarching topic of both of his zettelkästen (I & II), whereas "Autonomie" was much more specific and useful for cross linking a smaller handful of potentially related ideas in the future.

      Looking beyond Luhmann can be highly helpful in designing and using one's own system. I'd recommend taking a look at John Locke's work on indexing (1685) (https://publicdomainreview.org/collection/john-lockes-method-for-common-place-books-1685 is an interesting source, though you're obviously applying it to (digital) cards and not a notebook) or Ross Ashby's hybrid notebook/index card system which is also available online (http://www.rossashby.info/journal/index.html) as an example.

      Another helpful tip some are sure to appreciate in systems that have an auto-complete function is simply starting to write a wikilink with various related subject heading words that may appear within your system. You'll then be presented with potential options of things to link to serendipitously that you may not have otherwise considered. Within a digital zettelkasten, the popularly used DYAC (Damn You Auto Complete) may turn into Bless You Auto Complete.

  13. May 2022
    1. Bielefeld 1951ff.

      Interesting that Markus Krajewski continually refers to Luhmann's zettelkasten as Bielefeld 1951ff.

    2. “This technique alsoexplains why I don’t think at all linearly and have trouble finding the right sequence ofchapters when writing a book, because indeed every chapter must reappear in everyother.”22
      1. Luhmann, Archimedes und wir , 145.

      Luhmann indicated that his note taking system made it difficult for him to be a linear thinker. Instead he felt that each chapter he wrote "must reappear in every other."

      This seems quite similar to Carl Linnaeus' work which he regularly recycled into future works.

    3. Despite the librarian card-theoreticalrecommendation of only using cardboard or strong paper as a bearer of information,17Luhmann relies on plain typewriter paper for spatial economy, which can quickly lead,however, to the deterioration of the medium with frequent browsing.

      For Luhmann's time, the librarian recommendation for substrate was either cardboard or strong paper as the carrier for information, but he eschewed this recommendation in favor of plain typewriter paper because it took up less space. This came at the cost of deterioration of many of his cards through regular use however.

    4. According to this, the arrangement consists of “wooden boxes with drawers that pullout in the front, and cards in octavo format ” (= DIN A5).

      Luhmann's zettelkasten collection of cards was in octavo format, aka DIN A5 (148mm x 210mm or 5.8" x 8.3").

    5. commenting in an interview: “By the way, many people havecome here to see that.”13 The writing tool became an object of desire, especially foryoung academics seeking to add a carefully planned card index to their carefully plannedcareers: “After all, Fred wants to be a professor.” 1

      Luhmann indicates that aspiring academics came to visit to see his card collection in potentially planning their own.

      1. Ralf Klassen, “Bezaubernde Jeannie oder Liebe ist nur ein Zeitvertreib,” in Wir Fernsehkinder. Eine Generation ohne Programm, ed. Walter Wüllenweber (Berlin: Rowohlt Berlin Verlag, 1994), 81 – 97, at 84.
    6. WhenNiklas Luhmann decided in 1951, toward the end of his legal studies, to no longergather loose sheets into portfolios, as Goethe once did,9 but rather to take up work ona slip box, just like his implicit benchmark Hegel, the position of the Other becameoccupied by a paper machine.

      Niklas Luhmann created his slip box in 1951 after the model of Hegel rather than using the method of loose sheets into portfolios as Goethe had done.

      1. See Ernst Robert Curtius, “ Goethes Aktenf ü hrung,” in Kritische Essays zur europäischen Literatur (Bern: Francke, 1954), 57 – 69.

      Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832)

    7. “What does one do with what has been written?” Niklas Luhmann asks: “To be sure,one will initially produce mostly waste. But we have been raised such that we expectsomething useful from our activities or otherwise quickly lose heart. Thus, one shouldconsider whether and how to process the notes so that they are available for later access,or at least provide such a comforting illusion.”

      "To be sure, one will initially produce mostly waste." -Niklas Luhmann

      How true!!! I see many people with this initial problem and not an insignificant few give up entirely because of this.

    8. Paper as Passion: Niklas Luhmann and His CardIndexMarkus Krajewskitranslated by Charles Marcrum II

      Starting here...

    1. autoph uh german how is it in english i think it's i i yeah i've looked it up i think it's autopiosis or auto autopilosis yes in germany it's

      Niklas Luhmann used his zettelkasten to develop an organic theory to understand an organic subject in an autopoetic way.

    2. you saw the inevitable blog posts in the blogosphere and the youtubers picked it up and if you actually did it like cold adaption it was very easy to see who actually did 00:04:34 it themselves and then had some practical experience and some people like just researched it and like i think you you know it like when people say like the 12 best tips for x and y 00:04:47 yeah and um you have this kind of blog post that's obvious like easy grabs for content

      There are likely far more people talking about zettelkasten and writing short, simple blogposts and articles about it than those who are actually practicing it and seeing benefit from it.

      Finding public examples of people practicing and showing their work in the zettelkasten space are few and far between.

      This effect likely increases the availability bias of Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten which is frequently spoken of, but it also has the benefit of being online, even if it's primarily written in German.

    1. ZK II: Zettel 9/8j 9/8j Im Zettelkasten ist ein Zettel, der dasArgument enthält, das die Behauptungenauf allen anderen Zetteln widerlegt. Aber dieser Zettel verschwindet, sobald manden Zettelkasten aufzieht. D.h. er nimmt eine andere Nummer an,verstellt sich und ist dann nicht zu finden. Ein Joker.

      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.

      Ie he assumes a different number, disguises himself and then cannot be found.

      A joker.

      An example of a jokerzettel.

      Link this to the Claude Shannon's useless machine (based on an idea of Marvin Minsky) of a useless machine whose only function is to switch itself off. see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Useless_machine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNa9v8Z7Rac

    1. Direct access to the list box: table of contents , directly to ZK I: List 1 or ZK 2: List 1 – or to the "Jokerzettel" ?

      Niklas Luhmann kept a portion of his note taking system (ZK II Note 9/8j) specifically for joke related slips. It has been referred to as his jokerzettel.

      This would seem to be in keeping with other examples kept in America by Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers, George Carlin, and a wide variety of comics like Adam Sandler et al. who have moved to using notebooks.

      This is the first time I've seen the word/phrase jokerzettel in print.

    1. For Eco on using something like a ZK, see his short book How to Write an Essay. Basically, he writes about making something that we could say is like a ZK, but one card system for each writing assignment.

      Umberto Eco's book How to Write a Thesis (MIT Press, 2015, #) can broadly be thought of as a zettelkasten system, but it advises a separate system for each project or writing assignment. This is generally good advice, and potentially excellent for students on a one-time basis, but it prevents one from benefitting from the work over multiple projects or even a lifetime.

      In some sense, a more traditional approach, and one seen used in Niklas Luhmann's example is to keep different sections separated by broad topics.

      Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten #1 had 108 broad topics (along with a bibliography and a subject index), and zettelkasten #2 had 11 broad topics. (Cross reference: https://niklas-luhmann-archiv.de/bestand/zettelkasten/inhaltsuebersicht)

      The zettelkasten structure allowed a familiar "folder" like top level structure, but the bibliographic and subject indices allowed them to interlink ideas from one space to the next for longer term work on multiple projects simultaneously.