Zettelkasten Forum


To what extent is surprise important in a Zettelkasten?

From Luhmann's article:

One of the most basic presuppositions of communication is that the partners can mutually surprise each other. Only in the way can information be produced in the respective other.

If...we seek communication with the second mind, we must seek internal possibilities for linkings which result in the unexpected (i.e. information).

In digging through the forums, it seems that some believe that Luhmann (and/or the community) overstates the importance of surprise in a Zettelkasten. If you are of this belief, can you enlighten me as to why you make this claim?

Comments

  • As I understand it, "surprise" in this context usually means rediscovering knowledge/thoughts that you added but have since forgotten. And in this case, surprising would be a very important, if not the most important, element of the Zettelkasten.

  • I love the element of surprise that comes with the zettelkasten. Probably what drew me to it most. It's also why I'm pro-not seeking perfection or "best" methods. The wabi-sabi of it all is far more interesting to me.

  • I think this question is very difficult to answer since there has to be an estimate of all the causal pathways how a Zettelkasten supports value creation.

    And then there is an individual ratio of those pathways. Imagine an visual artist who uses a Zettelkasten in way that would be extremely sloppy to a analytical philosopher but his purpose is similar to the Tharp Box. To him, the element of suprise might be the single most important thing. For another person suprise might be unimportant.

    (And it is possible to have sub-systems in your Zettelkasten that behave differently)

    Another very difficult factor to include would be human inaccuracy. People might have the impression of surprise being a very important thing when it is actually not or vice versa.

    Or: What if people would be much more productive (in whatever way you want to measure it) if they'd overcome resistance to change?


    My way of solving this is collecting the different pathways of value creation and then come up with an estimate. But I am still in an early phase of research.

    I am a Zettler

  • I have experienced what is @runit describes and it is sometime very helpful. I have also been surprised when looking for connections to a particular zettel and serendipitously discovering other connections.

  • Unlike @sfast, I'm very forgetful, so I'm sometimes surprised when I find anything at all :) Even better if it has links to go to even more unexpected connections.

    -- But most of my interactions are related to thinking and understanding, less so related to publishing and writing texts, so I'm surprised when exploring, not so much when writing. I organize what I know so I can make better apps when I think about similar problems later.

    Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

  • @ctietze said:
    most of my interactions are related to thinking and understanding, less so related to publishing and writing texts, so I'm surprised when exploring, not so much when writing.

    This is intriguing to me, and part of me wonders if the nature of the type of surprise we seek changes how we should conceptualize architecting our archives. To dig in a little more, how are you surprised when you are exploring, as someone who is more focused on thinking and understanding, as you say?

  • @ctietze said:
    -- But most of my interactions are related to thinking and understanding, less so related to publishing and writing texts, so I'm surprised when exploring, not so much when writing.

    The difference between writing and exploring, as two distinct activities, is a topic worth exploring.

    Explore exploring!

    Writing is an attention-absorbing activity. But exploring allows you to dance on the disco floor of your ZK with lights flashing. Sometimes the music is loud, and the rhythm chaotic sometimes. Exploration is like high school slow dancing with all the tangled emotions of awkward anticipation.

    We can take advantage of finding surprises when exploring by making a habit of regular exploration sessions. Here is where a trigger that finds a random note is handy.

    Will Simpson
    “Read Poetry, Listen to Good Music, and Get Exercise”
    kestrelcreek.com

  • edited March 5

    If you write freely, it becomes exploratory itself. Not even editing is free of surprise.

    EDIT: (MAJOR typo removed)

    Post edited by sfast on

    I am a Zettler

  • edited March 5

    @sfast said:
    suprise.

    …or is it surprise? …as this typo shows :-)

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