Alright Tools for thought, note taking, and zettelkasten nerds. Anyone want to take a guess at who this philosopher is and what that is up on the shelf behind him? Hint: it’s not Roam Research or Obsidian.
black and white photo from the 1960s with a man smoking a cigarette in his office

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Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, IndieWeb, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

24 thoughts on “”

    1. Chris Aldrich says:

      I only wish my hair was as dark as that at 47!

      Syndicated copies:

  1. Chris Aldrich says:

    We have a winner in @CJEller3.

    It’s Roland Barthes in a well-known image taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1963, around the time of the publication of Sur Racine.

    Behind him are some hanging files along with several index card files (French: fichier boîte, German: Zettelkasten) containing his collection of notes that would eventually number over 12,250 by the time of his death in 1980.

    Much as Niklas Luhmann did of his own zettelkasten (see: Communicating with Slip Boxes), Barthes considered his note collection a co-author or collaborator in his work.

    More details and references in Wilken, Rowan. “The Card Index as Creativity Machine.” Culture Machine 11 (2010): 7–30.

    Want to discuss it further? Meet me in the margins of @endotician‘s paper:—Wilken-Rowan-upq8g.pdf/ where you’ll find a searchable portion of my own “index card file” notes courtesy of

    Incidentally for those who would like it, and since I didn’t provide alt-text for the photo (on Twitter, accept my apologies), Wilken has a detailed description and lots of additional context for the photo.

  2. @chrisaldrich I love photos like this, thanks. The part I try to ignore is that if all this was happening today, he’d almost certainly would be using Obsidian or whatever and Bresson would have taken his portrait using a mirrorless digital camera with a zoom lens. Or his iPhone :). Blech!

  3. Chris Aldrich says:

    There’s also a nice video (in French) with a reasonable overview of some of Barthes’ Grand Fichier which is held at the BnF: Dans le fichier de Roland Barthes


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