Nicholas Mohnacky
August 18, 2022

PKM has a Long History

Personal knowledge management (PKM) is the process of gathering, organizing, and using information. People have been doing this for thousands of years to find answers to nagging questions. PKM has a long history, dating back to the commonplace book. A commonplace book is an account of observations, quotations, and passages from influential works used as a memory aid or reference.

Commonplace books have been kept since antiquity and were particularly popular during the Renaissance and the nineteenth century. They typically contain quotes, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas, and recipes, organized under subject headings. Commonplace books were initially private collections of information, but some were later published for the general public. They served as a way for people to remember valuable concepts or facts and became significant in Early Modern Europe.

The invention of the printing press exponentially changed the way we distribute information. Then came information technology and electronic communications.

How to Recall Information in the Age of Electronic Communication

Electronic communication and computation shifted the world's axis again, changing the costs and capabilities of encoding, storing, and retrieving information. This technology has transformed how groups remember everything from personal experiences to customer interactions and medical histories. In many cases, these technologies make the process of encoding much simpler.

Regarding how, there are many different ways of taking in information, and each one is suited for a different task. Proofreading, formulating and outlining all require different levels of attention and focus. For example, consider your thought process when you are reading content carefully vs. skimming it. Finding the best fit for your notes and being flexible with how you order them requires being associative and creative.

The best way to remember is to connect a piece of information to as many meaningful contexts as possible. This allows for a self-supporting network of interconnected ideas and facts that work reciprocally as cues for each other. By doing this, you are creating a "memory palace," which will help you to remember the information more easily.

It's possible that there are no natural cues for retrieving memories and that instead, we rely on cues that we associate with the information. These can be associations like the scent of a sweet or the environment in which we learned something. Moreover, it can be difficult to remember something if we are not in the same environment where we learned it. One of the most famous associative systems is the Zettelkasten, created by German sociologist Niklas Luhmann.

Read, AI-powered Zettelkasten: A note-taking system for the modern knowledge worker.

Nicholas Mohnacky
Tech Entrepreneur & Surfer