“That note boxes may be recommended as a partner for communication is based first and foremost on the simple reason of the technical and economical problems of working scientifically. Without writing, you cannot think; at any rate you cannot think with any intellectual train of thought.”

“For communication is one of the more elementary prerequisites enabling partners to mutually surprise each other. Only in this way is it possible to generate information in the respective other person.”

“If a communication system is to be maintained over a period of time, a path must be chosen either of highly technologized specialization or incorporating chance and ad hoc generated information. If we apply this to collections of notes: You can take the path of thematic specialization or the path of open ground. We have opted for the latter alternative, and after 26 years of successful, only sporadically difficult, cooperation, we are able to confirm its success – or at least: the viability of this path. ”

“As the result of extensive work with this technique a kind of second memory has come about, an alter ego, by which it is constantly possible to communicate. Similar to our own memories, it is not organized through and through, and neither is there a hierarchy, and certainly there is no linear structure like a book would have. But precisely because of this, it gains a life independent of its author’s. The notes taken as a whole may only be described as disorder, but nevertheless it is a disorder without a random internal structure.”

“If you desire to educate a communication partner, it is good to equip him with independence.”

“Naturally, independence demands a minimum of intrinsic complexity. The note box needs several years in order to gain enough critical mass. Until that time it only functions as a container, from which you may retrieve what you put into it. With increasing size and complexity, the situation becomes different.”

“At any rate, the communication becomes more fruitful if you manage to get the internal network going as a result of the entries or by the questions you put to it. Also a memory does not function as the sum of point-to-point contacts, but rather uses internal relations, and only on this level does it become the reduction of its own complexity. In this manner – sometimes, and certainly at this moment, as the result of a search impulse – more information will come to light than one had hoped for at the time of launching the search; and what is more, it turns out to be more information than was ever stored in the form of notes. The note box yields combinatory possibilities under certain conditions that had not been planned, never thought up in this form in advance, never even conceptualized.”

“We may ask ourselves whether these results of such a communication are thus, not also chance products. This would be a too compromised assumption. Within scientific theory, chance holds a questioned position. If we follow theoretical models of evolution, chance virtually plays a leading role. Without it, nothing is possible, or at any rate, nothing moves forward. Without variation of the given amount of thought there is no possibility for examining and selecting the innovations. The actual problem thus shifts to the creation of coincidences with enough condensed chances to make a selection.”

Niklas Luhmann: Kommunikation mit Zettelkästen, in: Andreas Kieserling (Ed.), Universität als Milieu, Bielefeld 1992, p. 53-61

Translation by Elizabeth Volk|Website|Google|

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