Sunday, November 27, 2016

100% Protected against Plagiarism?

Anyone who has recently searched the net for something to do with note-taking has probably come across Web sites that offer students (and others) the service of papers written to order.

One Website claims: "We only provide unique papers written entirely by the writers from scratch. You are 100% protected against plagiarism." This is really galling, as they are offering a service that amounts to 100% plagiarism. What they actually offer their customers is 100% protection against getting caught.

I am glad I don't have to deal with this any longer? What would I do? I would make students write a short (one-page) summary of their paper in class after having handed it in. Not a 100% guarantee, but a beginning.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Cognitive Effort during Note-taking

I recently came across an interesting paper by Annie Piolat, Thierry Olive, and Ronald T. Kellogg, called ("Cognitive Effort during Note Taking". I found it highly interesting. Three points especially caught my attention: (i) "studies suggest that nearly all non-linear note-taking strategies (e.g. with an outline or a matrix framework) benefit learning outcomes more than does the linear recording of information, with graphs and concept maps especially fostering the selection and organization of information. As a consequence, the remembering of information is most effective with non-linear strategies" (295), and (ii) "Retrieving and organizing ideas during a text composition are still more effortful than selecting the information that will be recorded. Searching a new and ‘creative’ solution (i.e. the text written down) requires more resources than taking notes, even if the notes often present content characteristics different from what has been heard or read" (303). And (iii) " Using computer technology to manage information through the click of a mouse can actually increase cognitive effort, judging from these results. It may be that the use of these technologies is less practised than reading and handwriting. Similar results were obtained by Kellogg and Mueller (1993), however, who found that writing by longhand was less effortful than using a word processor even for skilled typists" (304).

On the other hand, I did not find the conclusion of the paper surprising;
The observations reviewed here indicate that, from a cognitive perspective, note taking cannot be conceived of as only a simple abbreviated transcription of information that is heard or read. Rather, on the contrary, it is an activity that strongly depends on the central executive functions of working memory to manage comprehension, selection, and production processes concurrently. Indeed, the severe time pressure of note taking requires that information is both quickly comprehended and recorded in written form. It is a unique kind of written activity that cumulates both the inherent difficulties of comprehending a message and of producing a new written product. Yet, it differs in many of its characteristics from the usual linear and conventionally presented written texts.
In my judgment, the paper is well worth reading carefully, even if your interests are more practical than theoretical.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hermann Burger, Lokalbericht

Hermann Burger (1942–1989) wrote a novel in 1970 called Lokalbericht (1970). It appeared in October 2016. I will buy it and read it. The protagonist of the novel Günter Frischknecht (a composite name made up of Günter Grass and Max Frisch) is writing somewhere in the county of Ticino at the same time a dissertation and a novel by means of two different Zettelkästen.[1] They get mixed up and the slips intermingle. What to do in this situation? Reality and irreality apparently can no longer be distinguished. The novels conceit reminds me of Sterne's Tristram Shandy (and apparently similar situations abound).

I must read it! Ordered it already!

1. "Knecht" in the name may refer to the magister ludi in Hesse's Glass Bead Game.

"Zettelkasten" in Grimm's Wörterbuch

Grimm's Wörterbuch is one of the most interesting early dictionaries of German. Its origins go back to the first half of the nineteenth century and gives a good indication of how German words were used in the eighteenth's century. Here is the entry for "Zettelkasten:"
Zettelkasten, m., kasten zur aufnahme von zetteln, z. b. von theaterzetteln: S. Hensel familie Mendelssohn 3, 22, zumeist aber von alphabetisch geordneten zetteln mit notierungen oder auszügen aus literar. oder wissenschaftl. werken od. ä.: leben des Quintus Fixlein, aus funfzehn -kästen gezogen Jean Paul w. 3, 3 H.; die hier angedeutete schaffensart wird vielfach getadelt, so von Immermann 20, 36 B., von Fr. Th. Vischer altes u. neues 3, 388; Hebbel III 7, 397 W.
box for keeping of slips, like playbills, see Hensel, The Mendelssohn Family 3, 22; but usually [it means] alphabetically ordered slips with notes or excerpts from literary, scientific, or similar works. The Life of Quintus Fixlein, Drawn from fifteen Zettelkästen. The way of working here indicated is often criticized, like in Immermann 29, 36, in Fischer's Old and New 3, 388, in Hebbel, iii, 7 397 W
So "Zettelkasten" already has negative connotations in the early nineteenth century.

What can we learn from Grimm about "Zettel"? They were originally called "Zeddel" which simply meant small pieces of paper (slips). The word derives from the Italian "cedola," which came from the Middle Latin "cedula" and ultimately from the older "schedula." The Latin "scheda" or "scida" means torn off strips of paper [must mean "papyrus, I think}. It all originally come from the Greek "σχίδη."

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Nottingham, Again

Nottingham 3 is an update of a clone of Notational Velocity. It's explicit about its debt: "In the spirit of Notational Velocity, Nottingham is an elegant notepad for macOS. Designed to be lightweight and easy to use, it's a breath of fresh air perfect for storing whatever is on your mind." But the claim is that "Version 3.0 is completely rewritten from the ground up in Swift 3 to take full advantage of macOS's newest features and to lay a solid foundation for future improvements." And it promises to be fast: "Lightning-fast search across even the largest library of notes." I wonder what the "largest library" is. 100,000 notes, 1,000,000? It would be nice to know.

It now also claims to be able to do "wikilinks." But this is at best a half-truth. It can link to existing notes, and it seem to be able to keep track of the name-changes of those notes, but it cannot create new notes from a typed link.[1] Notational Velocity and nvALT can't do that either (and in addition they cannot keep track of name-changes), but they are free.[2] Nottingham costs $14.95 (though you can try it out for free).

I dislike the name. Searching for "Nottingham" gets you a lot about a city in in the East Midlands of England, getting to the application is harder. It's a complaint about some applications I have for a long time. Try "Brainstorm," for instance!

1. It does not do so reliably, however. There seems to be a problem with the program. I have deleted it again from my machine!
2. Actually nVALT can create a new link from an expression enclosed in double square backets. Clicking on an expression enclosed in double brackets, puts it into the search window, pressing enter creates the topic. nvALT does not, however, keep track of name changes.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Thornton Wilder on His Journals

Thornton Wilder kept a journal for more than twenty years.[1] He started it to attain "better control of his interests, of 'harnessing [his] notions into written paragraphs'" (xvi) But it was not a diary in which he recorded his daily experiences, but rather a record of what he thought. In an early entry, dated February 21, 1940 which he wrote in New York, he says:
I began this Journal in order to discipline my thinking ... [but] I soon came to see that the practice of reflection alone ... would, for me, be fruitless.
He needed a more exacting method in writing to obtain
(1) for precision (2) to prevent mere word-mosaic and self-deception, (3) to collect notions into system, (4) to create a habit and a relation between thinking and writing, and (5) to collect from these records a reservoir of more codified ideas on which to base the judgements, I am so often called upon for in conversation" (xviii).
He hoped that this would lead to "the ability to reflect without writing and build up the power of 'unflurried thinking' in the thousand occasions in the daily life" (xviii).

I consider Wilder's fourth function of a journal, "to create a habit and a relation between [reading,] thinking and writing," as its most essential function. I don't think Wilder would have disagreed, for he wrote on May 21, 1940 that he has the "habit-formed impulse" to reach for a book to read and wishes that he also had such an habit-formed impulse to write. Wilder's Journal is, among other things, an attempt at such re-education or re-habituation, to make writing just as likely as reading.

He used the journal also to make his ideas more precise and develop what he calls "the accumulation of an interrelated grammar of 'reflections'". It's something I also aim for.

I came to Wilder's journals through Doderer's Commentarii, and I tried to read Wilder's journals in their entirety. But I found them rather disappointing. This must be my fault, as others have found that Wilder's journals contain "some of his most important creative work." And:
It is in the journals and letters that we can follow his most interesting thinking as he distills and reports his literary reactions and tastes. Here is the Wilder who reveres Molière and Cervantes, Gogol and Kafka, Nietzsche and Lady Murasaki. And Jane Austen: “How seldom readers seem to remark on all that contempt for the whole human scene that lies just under the surface”; her “only resource and consolation is the pleasure of the mind in observing absurdities” (Robert Gottlieb).

1. Wilder, Thornton (1985) The Journals of Thornton Wilder. 1939-1961. Selected and edited by Donald Gallup. Foreword Isabel Wilder. New Haven and London: Yale University Press

Sunday, October 30, 2016

On the Basic Marble Notebook

Why Is the Basic Marble Notebook Made by So Many Brands Still So Popular? does not really answer the question it poses. It still is an interesting article because of the historical details it provides.

No further comment!