One of Luhmann's most complete statements about his Zettelkasten system was an article in 1981, titled "Kommunication mit Zettelkästen". In it, Luhmann said the slipbox was a "communication partner" which had many of the attributes of a separate person. The foundation for this idea seems to be that it's useful (at least for some researchers and authors) to discuss a project with a knowledgeable peer who may have slightly different interests and may ask questions that open lines of inquiry that may not have been on the researcher's mind or completely in focus. The slipbox is NOT a complete replacement for a thoughtful interlocutor who can inject information you don't know or into the conversation, of course. But it CAN connect the researcher with her or his "past selves", the information those selves were interacting with, the trains of thought they were pursuing, etc. And by doing this, the slipbox can surprise us -- or at least Luhmann has testified to that effect.
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