A folgezettel is a ’next note’. It is part of the Zettelkasten Method notetaking system. The name of this technique wasn’t coined by Niklas Luhmann but the technique derives from his method.
One way to think of it is as capturing information/associations/relations that are not contained within a ‘hypertext’ model of notes. It is something else than ’links’. So, what is it?
It is a way of ‘signing’ notes so that their context becomes apparent.
‘Context’, here, has to be understood in a specific sense - it is not the ‘context’ which is represented through hypertext methods (thematic links, etc.), rather, it is the context of thought.
The first note in a series is given a signature/key, for example, the number ‘1’. The ’next note’ (Folgezettel) is given the next number in that sequence (‘2’). At some point, an associative ’leap’ may occur in relation to note ‘2’, which then results in a new chain ‘2a’, which can continue to ‘2b’, ‘2c’, etc. Again, this may lead to another thought, which becomes ‘2c1’ and ‘2c2’, etc.
1 - A note on cryptography 1a - cryptographic methods in computer science 1a1 - symmetric-key cryptography 1b - cryptocurrency 1b1 - [[Cryptonomicon]] 1c - Secrets 1c1 - Strategic deception 1d - spycraft 1d1 - John LeCarre 1d1a - The Spy Who Came in From the Cold 1e - cryptonomy 1e1 - Maria Torok 1e2 - Freud's account of wolfman 1e3 - Encoded lnaguage in psychoanlysis 1e3a - metonyms 1e3a1 - Lacan on metonyms 1e3a1a - The Purloined Letter
The above example orders the notes according to their ‘Folgezettel’ signature. This is not a chronological ordering. Note
1e3a1a may have been written 3 months before note
1b1. Nor could this structure be represented as a flat network of ’nural’ relations (links). Links, however, would also be incorporated into this list, for example, there may be a link between notes
1e3a1a which are all ‘books’.
Instead, what this view/technique reveals is simply the ’train-of-thought’ of the note-taker as they are creating the notes.
For a better account of how a zettelkasten system can/should include both hyperlinks and folgezettel see this slideshow.
The technique allows for a train of thought to be picked up again at any point in time. I may begin some reflections on ‘cryptography’ at some point, develop some associations, and then return to this collection a decade later and continue on the same line of thinking.
The main risk of this technique is that it is treated as a ‘branching tree’. Yes, it may have ‘branches’, but I see these as more akin to branches in a tunnel or forks in a winding path, as opposed to branches in a ’tree’ where there is a clearly defined root (‘category’) which all subsequent branches relate to thematically.