This is a paper being written.
(click to zoom)
I've been admiring Jerry Michalski's brain for a while now. By note-taking in a free-form, web-linked network, brain-users claim that they find themselves retaining more facts while making stronger and more imaginative connections.
Here's what it ends up looking like, in practice, for the essay-writer. one ends up organizing the notecards as one takes them down: continuously grouping ideas into an expanding cloud of relationships and themes. At a far earlier stage than in standard-essay writing, I can see the structure of the new chapter here already emerging: two poles, one about centralized governance and one about its opposite. Below them, a cloud of subpoints: the history of precedents for centralized government in Britain; the history of precedents in transport government per se; the particular actors at work behind the rail; their arguments pro and con centralization on a variety of particular points.
Essentially I'm cutting out several phases in standard note-taking format: the phase of consolidating notecards. As I read and take notes, the points and themes form. No need to trace and retrace through an abstracted outline of points from each author; no need to write and reshuffle notecards. I can see the backbone of the essay right now, and I'm only beginning.