11 Matching Annotations
  1. May 2023
    1. What's with the bees? by [[Jillian Hess]]

      A tipping out of Hess' zettelkasten on the theme of bees (apes) in note taking.

    2. As they flit like so many little bees between Greek and Latin authors of every species, here noting down something to imitate, here culling some notable saying to put into practice in their behavior, there getting by heart some witty anecdote to relate among their friends, you would swear you were watching the Muses at graceful play in the lovely pastures of Mount Helicon, gathering flowers and marjoram to make well-woven garlands. —The Adages of Erasmus
    3. The bee plunders the flowers here and there, but afterwards they make of them honey, which is all theirs; it is no longer thyme or marjoram. Even so with the pieces borrowed from others; he will transform and blend them to make a work that is all his own, to wit, his judgment — The Complete Essays of Michel de Montaigne

      Cross reference with Seneca's note taking metaphors with apes.

    4. Besides the metaphor of the honeybee, Seneca also compares this method to a stomach digesting food as well as a choir that produces one sound from many harmonized voices.

      In addition to the honeybee metaphor, Seneca compared note taking and collecting sententiae to a stomach digesting food and a choir producing a harmonized sound out of many voices.

      (Sources from these last two? Potentially Epistle LXXXIV?)

  2. Feb 2023
    1. Of course the metaphor of the bees and their honey is the biggest which we've all failed to mention! It's my favorite because of its age, its location within the tradition of rhetoric and sententiae/ars excerpendi, its prolific use through history, and the way it frames collecting and arranging for the use of creativity and writing.

      In the his classic on rhetoric, Seneca gave an account of his ideas about note-taking in the 84th letter to Luculius ("On Gathering Ideas"). It begins from ut aiunt: "men say", that we should imitate the bees in our reading practice. For as they produce honey from the flowers they visit and then "assort in their cells all that they have brought in", so we should, "sift (separate) whatever we have gathered from a varied course of reading" because things keep better in isolation from one another, an idea which dovetails with ars memoria, the 4th canon of rhetoric.

      "We should follow, men say, the example of the bees, who flit about and cull the flowers that are suitable for producing honey, and then arrange and assort in their cells all that they have brought in; these bees, as our Vergil says: 'pack close the flowering honey And swell their cells with nectar sweet.' "

      Generations later in ~430 CE, Macrobius in his Saturnalia repeated the same idea (he assuredly read Seneca, though he obviously didn't acknowledge him):

      "You should not count it a fault if I shall set out the borrowings from a miscellaneous reading in the authors' own words... sometimes set out plainly in my own words and sometimes faithfully recorded in the actual words of the old writers... We ought in some sort to imitate bees; and just as they, in their wandering to and fro, sip the flowers, then arrange their spoil and distribute it among the honeycombs, and transform the various juices to a single flavor by some mixing with them a property of their own being, so I too shall put into writing all that I have acquired in the varied course of my reading... For not only does arrangement help the memory, but the actual process of arrangement, accompanied by a kind of mental fermentation which serves to season the whole, blends the diverse extracts to make a single flavor; with the result that, even if the sources are evident, what we get in the end is still something clearly different from those known sources."

      Often in manuscripts writers in the middle ages to the Renaissance would draw bees or write 'apes' (Latin for bees) in the margins of their books almost as bookmarks for things they wished to remember or excerpt for their own notes.

      Of course, neither of these classical writers mentions the added benefit that the bees were simultaneously helping to pollenate the flowers, which also enhances the ecosystem.

      • Seneca (2006) Epistles 66-92. With an English translation by Richard G. Gummere. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (Loeb Classical Library), 277-285.
      • Havens, Earle. Commonplace Books: A History of Manuscripts and Printed Books from Antiquity to the Twentieth Century. New Haven, CT: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 2001.
    2. Pulling this back on topic by querying my own zettelkasten...

      I've got versions of most of @Will's excellent list in my notes as well, but here are a few other metaphors (and analogies) which I don't think have been mentioned:

    1. On Ahrens' shipping container analogy to the zettelkasten

      @ZettelDistraction said Perhaps the shipping hub is a better analogy for the Zettelkasten than the shipping container (Ahrens, 40).

      We should be careful to separate the ideas of analogy and metaphor. Analogies are usually more direct and well-defined in scope.

      While there's an apt and direct correlation between shipping containers and zettelkasten as boxes, Ahrens was making the analogy with respect to the shift that shipping containers made to the overall system:

      shipping containers : shipping industry and globalism :: zettelkasten : thinking and writing/content creation

      As with many analogies, stretching it the way one might stretch metaphors isn't usually fruitful or even possible.

      In hindsight, we know why they failed: The ship owners tried to integrate the container into their usual way of working without changing the infrastructure and their routines. They tried to benefit from the obvious simplicity of loading containers onto ships without letting go of what they were used to.

      He's saying one needs to consider how one's note taking method fits into their work in a more integrative way. Without properly integrating it into one's workflow seamlessly the system will fail. This is also one of the most difficult problems many zettelkasten aspirants have. In addition to creating a zettelkasten, they're often also simultaneously trying to integrate new (digital) tools into their process at the same time and they get distracted by them rather than focusing on the move to increasing writing/creating and creativity overall (globalism).

      To focus on Ahrens' analogy a bit, if Obsidian, for example, is your "ship", is it as custom built for your specific purpose the way a container ship would be for a cargo container? Might you be better off with something like The Archive, ZKN3, or simple index cards that help to limit you to only do the function you want rather than all the other possible functions (wiki, blog, to do list, calendar, journal, kanban, etc.)? Obsidian and many other applications can be a proverbial row boat, a yacht, a tugboat, a steamer, a cruise ship, and even a warship in addition to a container ship, so one has to be extra careful how they choose to use it.

  3. Aug 2022
    1. “I do all my own research,” she said, “though reviewers have speculatedthat I must have a band of hirelings. I like to be led by a footnote ontosomething I never thought of. I rarely photocopy research materials because, for me, note-taking is learning, distilling. That’s the whole essence ofthe business. In taking notes, you have to discard what you don’t need. If you[photocopy] it, you haven’t chewed it.”
    1. I like to imagine all the thoughts and ideas I’vecollected in my system of notes as a forest. I imagine itas three-dimensional, because the trains of thought I’vebeen working on for some time look like trees, withbranches of argument, point, and counterpoint andleaves of source-based evidence. Actually, the forest isfour-dimensional, because it changes over time, growingas I add more to it. A piece of output I make using thisforest of thoughts is like a path through the woods. It’sa one-dimensional narrative or interpretation that startsat one point, moves in a line or an arc (sometimes azig-zag) through the woods, touching some but not allof the trees and leaves. I like this imagery, because itsuggests there are many ways to move through the forest.
  4. Jul 2022
    1. But it's not a trivial problem. I have compiled, at latest reckoning, 35,669 posts - my version of a Zettelkasten. But how to use them when writing a paper? It's not straightforward - and I find myself typically looking outside my own notes to do searches on Google and elsewhere. So how is my own Zettel useful? For me, the magic happens in the creation, not in the subsequent use. They become grist for pattern recognition. I don't find value in classifying them or categorizing them (except for historical purposes, to create a chronology of some concept over time), but by linking them intuitively to form overarching themes or concepts not actually contained in the resources themselves. But this my brain does, not my software. Then I write a paper (or an outline) based on those themes (usually at the prompt of an interview, speaking or paper invitation) and then I flesh out the paper by doing a much wider search, and not just my limited collection of resources.

      Stephen Downes describes some of his note taking process for creation here. He doesn't actively reuse his notes (or in this case blog posts, bookmarks, etc.) which number a sizeable 35669, directly, at least in the sort of cut and paste method suggested by Sönke Ahrens. Rather he follows a sort of broad idea, outline creation, and search plan akin to that described by Cory Doctorow in 20 years a blogger

      Link to: - https://hyp.is/_XgTCm9GEeyn4Dv6eR9ypw/pluralistic.net/2021/01/13/two-decades/


      Downes suggests that the "magic happens in the creation" of his notes. He uses them as "grist for pattern recognition". He doesn't mention words like surprise or serendipity coming from his notes by linking them, though he does use them "intuitively to form overarching themes or concepts not actually contained in the resources themselves." This is closely akin to the broader ideas ensconced in inventio, Llullan Wheels, triangle thinking, ideas have sex, combinatorial creativity, serendipity (Luhmann), insight, etc. which have been described by others.


      Note that Downes indicates that his brain creates the links and he doesn't rely on his software to do this. The break is compounded by the fact that he doesn't find value in classifying or categorizing his notes.


      I appreciate that Downes uses the word "grist" to describe part of his note taking practice which evokes the idea of grinding up complex ideas (the grain) to sort out the portions of the whole to find simpler ideas (the flour) which one might use later to combine to make new ideas (bread, cake, etc.) Similar analogies might be had in the grain harvesting space including winnowing or threshing.

      One can compare this use of a grist mill analogy of thinking with the analogy of the crucible, which implies a chamber or space in which elements are brought together often with work or extreme conditions to create new products by their combination.

      Of course these also follow the older classical analogy of imitating the bees (apes).