Type Essay
Date 1992
Tags nonfiction, note-taking, zettelkasten

Communicating with Slip Boxes: An Empirical Account (Link)

  • Kommunikation mit Zettelk√§sten. Ein Erfahrungsbericht

Luhmann's description of his zettelkasten system. As he describes it, it is essentially just a collection of numbered cards, which refer to one another by number and have no top-down organization.

I read Manfred Kuehn's translation, from which quotation are taken.

The bootstrapping problem

Luhmann notes the bootstrapping problem for this system:

The slip box needs a number of years in order to reach critical mass. Until then, it functions as a mere container from which we can retrieve what we put in.

What is it good for?

Ahrens suggests that the value of the slip-box is that you can paste together a series of notes, do some light editing, and have a draft of a publication (Ahrens, 2017). Luhmann does not seem to agree:

Theoretical publications do therefore not result from simply copying what can already be found in the slip box.

Name Role
Manfred Kuehn Translator
Niklas Luhmann Author