- Jun 2022
Simply stated, Luhmann’s Zettelkasten structure was not dynamic or fluid in nature. Yet, it was not rigid, either. Examples of a rigid structure are classification systems like the Dewey Decimal Classification System or Paul Otlet’s massive notecard world museum known as, The Mundaneum. These types of systems are helpful for interpersonal knowledge systems; however, they’re not illustrative of what Niklas Luhmann’s system was: an intrapersonal communication system. Luhmann’s notebox system was not logically and neatly organized to allow for the convenience of the public to access. Nor was it meant to be. It seemed chaotic to those who perused its contents other than its creator, Niklas Luhmann. One researcher who studied Luhmann’s system in person says, “at first glance, Luhmann’s organization of his collection appears to lack any clear order; it even seems chaotic. However, this was a deliberate choice.” (11)11 Luhmann’s Zettelkasten was not a structure that could be characterized as one of order. Indeed, it seems closer to that of chaos than order.
This seems illustrative of the idea that some of the most interesting things in life or living systems exist at the chaotic borders.
There seem to be differences between more rigid structures like the Dewey Decimal Classification system or Paul Otlet's Mundaneum and less rigid branching systems like Luhmann's version of his zettelkasten. Is this really a difference or only a seeming difference given the standardization some of the systems. There should be a way to do both. Maybe it's by the emergence of public standards, or perhaps it's simply through the use of subject headings and the cross linking of emerging folksonomies.
What does the use of platforms like the Federated Wiki or the early blogosphere and linking and discovery methods enabled by Technorati indicate?
Luhmann's system may seem intrapersonal, perhaps as a result of the numbering system, but it becomes highly penetrable by the subject index and the links from one idea (card) to the next. Use over time makes it even easier.