One of my favorite online tools is Hypothes.is. It allows you to annotate web pages as you would a book. When you’re using Hypothes.is you can highlight text on a webpage or add notes. The tool can be used to take private notes, but it becomes all the more powerful when you use it for collaborat...
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“Combinatory play,” said Einstein, “seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.” Ruminating on the necessity of both reading and writing, so as not to confine ourselves to either, Seneca in one of his Epistles, advised that we engage in Combinatorial Creativity — that is, gath...
“Combinatory play,” said Einstein, “seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.” ❧
Annotated on May 20, 2020 at 12:17AM
cull the flowers ❧
definitely reminiscent of the idea of floriligeum (or anthology)
Annotated on May 20, 2020 at 12:19AM
The Loeb Classic Library collection of Seneca’s Epistles in three volumes (1-65, 66-92, and 92-124), should be read by all in its entirety. Of course, if you don’t have time to read them all, you can read a heavily curated version of them. ❧
Annotated on May 20, 2020 at 12:21AM
Commonplace books are personal knowledge libraries; notebooks full of collected ideas and bits of wisdom all mixed up together. Here, we take a look at their history and benefits.
There is an old saying that the truest form of poverty is “when you have occasion for anything, you can’t use it...
Early compilations involved various combinations of four crucial operations: storing, sorting, selecting, and summarizing, which I think of as the four S’s of text management. We too store, sort, select, and summarize information, but now we rely not only on human memory, manuscript, and print, as in earlier centuries, but also on computer chips, search functions, data mining, and Wikipedia, along with other electronic techniques. ❧
Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 10:38PM
“In his influential De Copia (1512),” writes Professor Richard Yeo, “Erasmus advised that an abundant stock of quotations and maxims from classical texts be entered under various loci (places) to assist free-flowing oratory.”
Arranged under ‘Heads’ and recorded as ‘common-places’ (loci communes), these commonplace books could be consulted for speeches and written compositions designed for various situations — in the law court, at ceremonial occasions, or in the dedication of a book to a patron. Typical headings included the classical topics of honour, virtue, beauty, friendship, and Christian ones such as God, Creation, faith, hope, or the names of the virtues and vices. ❧
Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 10:51PM
Commonplace books, during the Renaissance, were used to enhance the memory. Yeo writes,
This reflected the ancient Greek and Roman heritage. In his Topica, Aristotle formulated a doctrine of ‘places’ (topoi or loci) that incorporated his ten categories. A link was soon drawn between this doctrine of ‘places’ (which were, for Aristotle, ‘seats of arguments’, not quotations from authors) and the art of memory. Cicero built on this in De Oratore, explaining that ‘it is chiefly order that gives distinctness to memory’; and Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria became an influential formulation. This stress on order and sequence was the crux of what came to be known as ‘topical memory’, cultivated by mnemonic techniques (‘memoria technica’) involving the association of ideas with visual images. These ideas, forms of argument, or literary tropes were ‘placed’ in the memory, conceived in spatial terms as a building, a beehive, or a set of pigeon holes. This imagined space was then searched for the images and ideas it contained…. In the ancient world, the practical application of this art was training in oratory; yet Cicero stressed that the good orator needed knowledge, not just rhetorical skill, so that memory had to be trained to store and retrieve illustrations and arguments of various kinds. Although Erasmus distrusted the mnemonic arts, like all the leading Renaissance humanists, he advocated the keeping of commonplace books as an aid to memory. ❧
I particularly love the way this highlights the phrase “‘placed’ in the memory” because the idea of loci as a place has been around so long that we tacitly use it as a verb so naturally in conjunction with memory!
Note here how the author Richard Yeo manages not to use the phrase memory palace or method of loci.Was this on purpose?
Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 10:56PM
While calling memory “the store-house of our ideas,” John Locke recognized its limitations.
On the one hand, it was an incredible source of knowledge.
On the other hand, it was weak and fragile. He knew that over time, memory faded and became harder to retrieve, which made it less valuable. ❧
As most humanists of the time may have had incredibly well-trained memories (particularly in comparison with the general loss of the art now), this is particularly interesting to me. Having had a great memory, the real value of these writings and materials is to help their memories dramatically outlive their own lifetimes. This is particularly useful as their systems of passing down ideas via memory was dramatically different than those of indigenous peoples who had a much more institutionalized version of memory methods and passing along their knowledge.
Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 11:00PM
“Extraordinary Commonplaces,” Robert Darnton ❧
Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 11:03PM
Neither ought anything to be collected whilst you are busied in reading; if by taking the pen in hand the thread of your reading be broken off, for that will make the reading both tedious and unpleasant. ❧
This is incredibly important for me, though in a more technology friendly age, I’ve got tools like Hypothes.is for quickly highlighting and annotating pages and can then later collect them into my commonplace book as notes to work with and manage after-the-fact.
Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 11:07PM
The aim of these books wasn’t regurgitation but rather combinatorial creativity. People were encouraged to improvise on themes and topics. Gathering raw material alone — in this case, information — is not enough. We must transform it into something new. It is in this light that Seneca advised copying the bee and Einstein advised combinatorial play. ❧
I was really hoping for so much more in this essay on the combinatorial creativity, espcially since the author threw the idea into the title. The real meat must be in the two linked articles about Seneca and Einstein.
There is a slight mention of combinatorics in the justaposition of pieces within one’s commonplace book, and a mention that these books may date back to the 12th century where they were probably more influenced by the combinatoric creativity of Raymond Lull. It’s still an open question for me just how far back the idea of commonplaces goes as well as how far back Lull’s combinatoric pieces go…
Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 11:13PM
“You know that I voluntarily communicated this method to you, as I have done to many others, to whom I believed it would not be unacceptable.” In 1685 English physician and philosopher John Locke published “Méthode nouvelle de dresser des recueils,” which explains his unique method of ind...
People in the Renaissance broke texts into fragments and used these to assemble and connect. It was, perhaps, the original remix culture and ultimate foundation of creativity. ❧
I’m wondering if I’m going to see signs of Raymond Lull’s ideas here?
Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 10:05PM
It’s all rather similar to TiddlyWiki with TiddlyBlink and TiddlyMaps added as well. While most of these are private note taking tools, I can’t help but wonder if making the data public may actually be the linchpin for adding tremendous value?
I ran across an example yesterday of someone using a private local TiddlyWiki as a static site web generator, which is quite different from people hosting them directly on web servers.
I’m interested in off-label use cases for wikis (particularly in the vein of commonplace books), so do let us know when your article comes out.
While most of its ecosystem revolves around methods for running the program locally (and often privately) or in Google or Dropbox storage, I’ve come across a growing number of people hosting their instances on their own servers and using them publicly as a melange of personal websites, blogs, and wikis.
Has anyone tried hosting one (particularly the newer TW5) through Reclaim before? Of the many methods, I’m curious which may be the easiest/simplest from a set up perspective?
I’ve been having some issues in self-hosting a TiddlyWiki the way I’d like to. If anyone has any clear cut documentation on how to host a TiddlyWiki on one’s own domain name, I’d appreciate it. The documentation doesn’t seem as clear as I would expect (or perhaps more likely my server is having issues propagating/connecting?). If anything it’s muddled by the fact that they can seemingly be hosted in dozens of places one might not otherwise expect. My primary reservation is that it looks to me like they’re designed as single user instances, so I’m not exactly sure how Kicks et al. are effectuating their hyperconversations. Part of my issue is my mental model of some of the wikis involved in addition to the busy-ness of the sites’ themes, not to mention some of the non-standard conversational style on some. (I’ll get there eventually.)
I’ve also been using the IndieWeb’s MediaWiki for several years, so I’ve become much better at how it works as well as the ins-and-outs of the markup and how to do some slightly more advanced things using it. I’d set one up nearly a year ago this month and used it sporadically at best.
One of the bigger problems with my MediaWiki install was that somehow I wasn’t able to log into the primary account to do some of the necessary administrative functions. Today I got fed up with being hampered a bit and went spelunking into my install to see where things went wrong, suspecting that it was a one button install issue.
After digging through some documentation, I dug into the mySQL database and found a daunting looking [Blob] in the user_email field. Why couldn’t it be an easy-to-edit field? I not knowing anything better to do, I downloaded it, opened it up in my text editor, and discovered that I’d managed to leave a letter out of my own name in the email address! No wonder it wouldn’t work and the system wouldn’t let me reset my email address or password. A quick text edit later, the email was fixed, I uploaded the (now less intimidating) [Blob], and did a reset of the password in the admin interface, and we’re back in business! I’m always glad not to have borked the entire database and site.
If nothing else, it’ll help me in my explorations. Onward.
Have you ever had the feeling that your head is not quite big enough to hold everything you need to remember?
Please feel free to click around here and explore. Don't expect too much in the way coherence or permanence… it is a lot of half-baked ideas, badly organised. The very purpose is for snippets to percolate and morph and evolve over time, and it's possible (quite likely) that pages will move around.
That said, I make it public in the interest of info-sharing, and occassionally it is quite useful to have a public place to refer someone to an idea-in-progress of mine.
Some more info on the whats and the whys.
I’ll have to take a look at this sort of set up while I’m looking at wikis. I’m sort of partial to TiddlyWiki myself so far.
This week, I’ve been delighted to be able to catch up with Adam Procter, academic, games designer, open advocate, and long-time supporter of Thought Shrapnel.
We discussed everything from the IndieWeb to his PhD project, with relevant links below!
From Flow to Stock was a session at IndieWebCamp Austin 2020.
I see a lot of overlap with the ideas of commonplace books with what is going on here. Looking at the list of participants I’m not seeing any that I think might actually have both “stock” and “flow” on their personal websites yet. I feel like I’m getting ever closer to having them on mine.
I try to unload all information that has any meaning to me from my brain to external storage because I don’t like to rely on my memory nor do I trust it. In this blog post, I’m going to describe my current approach of working with a personal knowledge base.