Learning Change

Learning Change Project: 8 Blogs, +7300 Readings

Auto-organizzazioni: Il mistero dell’emergenza nei sistemi fisici, biologici e sociali

Molti fenomeni complessi non possono essere compresi a partire dalla conoscenza dei costituenti elementari, poiché, interagendo tra loro danno luogo a una dinamica globale profondamente diversa. Ed ecco apparire piante, animali, popolazioni, organizzazioni, mercati, spontaneamente emergenti dal basso. Nessun capo, ma vere e proprie auto-organizzazioni: è il mistero più affascinante della scienza. Auto-organizzazioni, abbiamo delineato le caratteristiche di queste architetture più semplici, proponendo un nuovo schema organizzativo fondato sulle caratteristiche dell’auto-organizzazione, identificato da quattro principi generali tratti da altrettanti modelli rinvenibili nella letteratura più recente (l’organizzazione circolare, l’olografica, la cellulare e l’olonica).

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Leggi anche: Semplicità e complessità nelle auto-organizzazioni

Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 28, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media

Understanding social media requires us to engage with the individual and collective meanings that diverse stakeholders and participants give to platforms. It also requires us to analyse how social media companies try to make profits, how and which labour creates this profit, who creates social media ideologies, and the conditions under which such ideologies emerge. In short, understanding social media means coming to grips with the relationship between culture and the economy. In this thorough study, Christian Fuchs, one of the leading analysts of the Internet and social media, delves deeply into the subject by applying the approach of cultural materialism to social media, offering readers theoretical concepts, contemporary examples, and proposed opportunities for political intervention. Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media is the ultimate resource for anyone who wants to understand culture and the economy in an era populated by social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google in the West and Weibo, Renren, and Baidu in the East. Updating the analysis of thinkers such as Raymond Williams, Karl Marx, Ferruccio Rossi-Landi, and Dallas W. Smythe for the 21st century, Fuchs presents a version of Marxist cultural theory and cultural materialism that allows us to critically understand social media’s influence on culture and the economy.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 27, 2015 at 11:19 am

Autopoiesis and Critical Social Systems Theory

Maturana and Varela provided the following definition of autopoiesis:

An autopoietic machine is a machine organized (defined as a unity) as a network of processes of production (transformation and destruction) of components that produces the components which: (i) through their interactions and transformations continuously regenerate and realize the network of processes (relations) that produced them and (ii) constitute it (the machine) as a concrete unity in the space in which they (the components) exist by specifying the topological domain of its realization as such a network.”

This definition shows that for Maturana and Varela, autopoietic systems are systems that define, maintain, and reproduce themselves. The notion of machine that they employ in the definition might seem a bit misleading because we tend to think of machines as mechanistic and nonliving, but Maturana and Varela in later publications have preferred to speak of autopoietic organizations. Social systems are systems that are based on the interactions of living systems. Maturana considers them as higher-order systems. The question therefore arises if these systems are also autopoietic systems. The paper at hand will discuss this question and try to give an answer that is critical of the one given by the main representative of the theory of social autopoiesis — Niklas Luhmann.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 26, 2015 at 10:00 pm

Structuration Theory and Self-Organization

Social systems theory is dominated by a reductionistic individualism and a dualistic  functionalism. Especially the  latter doesn’t adequately  integrate the human being. In order to avoid dualism, mechanistic determinism and reductionism,  a dialectical concept  of  social  systems that is based on the notion  of  self-organization  seems necessary. In order to establish a dialectical theory of social self-organization it is appropriate to integrate aspects of  Anthony  Giddens’  structuration  theory.  Gidden’  acknowledges  the  importance  of  knowledgeable  human actors  in  society  and  argues  that  structures  are  medium  and outcome  of  actions.  Structures both enable and constrain social actions. This  idea corresponds  to  saying  that  social systems  are  re-creative,  i.e.  self-organising  social  systems.  Re-creativity  is  based on the creative activities of human beings. Social structures exist in and through the productive practices and relationships of human actors. The  term  evolution can be employed in a non-functionalist way that acknowledges the importance  of knowledgeable  human actors in social systems by conceiving the  historical development of society based on a dialectic of  chance and necessity and the principle of order through fluctuation in situations of instability and bifurcation.  All  self-organising  systems  are  information-generating  systems. Giddens’ concept of  storage mechanisms that allow time-space distanciation of  social relationships helps to describe the relationship of information and self-organization in social systems.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 26, 2015 at 9:00 pm

The Self-Organisation of Politics, Power and the Nation State

Society is self-organising or re-creative in the sense that new emergent structures result from interactions of actors, these structures enable and constrain actions and stimulate further practices. Political self-organisation is a reflexive process where political agents co-ordinate their actions in such a way that political power structures emerge and are differentiated, these structures enable and constrain political activities and stimulate further political practices. Power and the establishment of collective decisions are central aspects of the self-organisation of politics. In the modern State system laws are the most important power structures that stimulate political practices. The modern State consists of two subsystems (the system of rule and the system of civil society), it is organised around the competitive accumulation of power. Central features of the modern state include the regulation of economic autopoiesis, it organises and defends the autopoiesis of society within a bounded territory by making use of the monopoly of the means of coercion, it organises the self-observation, self-containment and self-description of modern society and is a meta-storage mechanism of social information. The Postfordist mode of development of society that is based on economic globalisation and transnationalisation has changed the role of the state. Actors such as transnational corporations, non-government organisations and non-profit organisations are gaining increased importance, the structural coupling between the economy and the State is becoming more rigid in the direction where the economy influences the state system, parts of the welfare system are either shifted to the mode of economic autopoiesis or to the system of civil society. Postfordism is shaped by an increase dominance of economic autopoiesis over political, cultural and life-world autopoiesis. This doesn’t imply a “weak state” or the end of the nation state, the latter transforms its functions and answers with measures of re-organisation to the increased globalisation and complexity of the world. Self-observation, self-containment and self-description are altered by the nation state in such a way that the closure of society increases although the openness of the world economy grows.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 26, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Modern Society – A Complex, Evolutionary, Self-Organising, Antagonistic System

The aim of this paper is to outline some foundational aspects of a theory of self-organising social change. Synchronous social self-organisation is based on a contradiction between structures and actors that produces emergent results. The cycle of expanded reproduction of capital outlined by Marx can be interpreted as economic type of autopoiesis or self-reproduction. Aspects of Marxist crisis theory can be incorporated consistently into the framework of a theory of social self-organisation. Capitalism is a complex, evolutionary, antagonistic system that is shaped by a dialectic of chance and necessity: In diachronic social self-organisation of capitalism, the evolving economic, political and cultural antagonisms as objective conditions of existence again and again result in phases of crisis and instability where the future development of the system is highly undetermined. The objective structures condition a field of possibilities, it is not pre-determined which alternative will be taken. In such phases of crisis and bifurcation, agency and human intervention play an important role in order to increase the possibility that a certain desirable alternative will be taken. Certainty can’t be achieved, but agency also is not made impossible by the principles of self-organising social change. The whole movement of social self-organisation is based on a dialectic relationship of chance and necessity. Regulation theory sees the development of system shaped by a dialectic of chance and necessity as well as by a dialectic of generality and specificity in the same manner as self-Organisation Theory. Mechanistic, reductionistic, economistic and deterministic arguments that have been characteristic for traditional crisis theories are avoided, a crisis of society is not reduced to economic factors and to a single economic antagonism. Regulation theory rather considers besides economical also political and ideological factors as relatively autonomous ones that influence crises of society. An unity of a regime of accumulation and a mode of regulation that is characteristic for a specific mode of development that is shaped by a specific structure of antagonisms is assumed. There are distinct parallels between the regulation approach and self-organisation theory, but the relationship between general and specific categories as well as between chance and necessity is still largely unsettled in the regulation approach (as well as in systems theory). It seems that the regulation school assumes a development of capitalism that is largely shaped by random evolution of antagonistic structures that is not dialectically related to general categories and antagonisms. Nonetheless regulation theory gives us a detailed analysis of Fordism, its crisis and Postfordism as well as a very useful model of the development of society. Hence my own approach is partly based on this theory.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 26, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Globalization and Self-Organization in the Knowledge-Based Society

In this paper I suggest that a theory of self-organization can be used as a consistent background theory for explaining  the dynamics and logics of globalization. Globalization is not confined to the human realm, it  is  an attribute of all complex, self-organizing  systems. Globalization in a synchronous sense means a micro-macro-link where bottom-up-emergence of new qualities in  the  self-reproduction of complex systems takes place, it is accompanied by a macro-micro-link of  top-down-localization. A dynamic interaction between a global and a local level (glocalization)  results  in  the permanent overall self-reproduction of the system. Globalization in a diachronic  sense means  the emergence of a new, higher level of self-organization during a phase of instability and heavy fluctuations by order  through  fluctuation. Globalization is shaped by a dialectic of change and continuity: in the hierarchy that  stems  from emergent evolution there are both general aspects of globalization and aspects that are specific for each organizational level. Applying this general notion of globalization to society means  that human globalization is both a general process that can be found in all societies  and  a specific process with emergent qualities in concrete phases of societal development. Globalization processes  in  modern society  are  based  on structural antagonisms that result in uneven developments in the technosphere, the ecosphere, the economy, polity, and culture. The transition to  Postfordist, informational capitalism  has been a consequence of the development of the structural antagonisms of Fordism and has been accompanied by a new phase of  globalization  that  has transformed the subsystems of society and has resulted in new antagonism that are an expression of general antagonisms that shape modern societies. Hence we find antagonistic tendencies of  contemporary globalization  in all subsystems of society that result  in  both  risks and opportunities. Human beings have the ability to actively shape society in such a way that an alternative sustainable form of globalization can be achieved.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 26, 2015 at 5:00 pm

The Self-Organization of Cyberprotest

The specific task of this paper is to describe cyberprotest as a self-organizing system. Cyberprotest is a global structural coupling and mutual production of self-organization processes of the Internet and self-organization processes of the protest system of society. In cyberprotest the self-organization of the Internet system and the self-organization of  the protest system produce each other mutually in a self-organization process, hence cyberprotest is a self-organization of self-organization processes, a form of second-order self-organization.

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Read also: Deleuze and the Internet

Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 26, 2015 at 4:00 pm

The Internet as a Self-Organizing Socio-Technological System

The Internet is a global socio-technological system that is based on a technological structure consisting of networked computer networks that works with the help of the TCP/IP protocol and stores objectified human knowledge, human actors permanently re-create this global knowledge storage mechanism by producing new informational content, communicating in the system, and consuming existing informational content in the system; the technological infrastructure enables and constrains human communication. The Internet consists of both a technological infrastructure and communicating human actors. Together these two parts form a socio-technological system, the technological structure functions as a structural mass medium that produces and reproduces networked communicative actions and is itself produced and reproduced by communicative actions. The technical structure is medium and outcome of human agency, it enables and constrains human activity and thinking and is the result of productive social communication processes. Important qualities that are connected with the Internet as a socio-technological system are Open Source, Virtual Reality, globalization, and many-to-many dialogue. Traditional mass media have been based on one-to-many-communication, whereas the Internet is based on many-to-many-communication. Hence the Internet has a large intrinsic democratic potential. In the terminology of Vilém Flusser it can be said that it could support a shift from discursive media society to dialogic media society.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 26, 2015 at 3:00 pm

The Self-Organisation of Society

The aim of this paper is to outline some aspects of the self-organisation of society based on a dialectical methodology. On a very general level, society can be characterised as a re-creative system: By mutual productive relationships of social structures and actors, society can based on human activity and creativity reproduce itself. Social structures are medium and outcome of social actions. This is a synchronous description. Describing society in a diachronic way, one can say that new order emerges in phases of instability and crisis. Society can also be described as the unity of different qualitative moments such as production, consumption, distribution, politics and culture because human activity results in more permanent qualitative moments. A dialectical analysis of society means to consider societal existence as a development process. Dialectics means concretisation and speculation. Hence by ascending from the abstract to the concrete (from the logic of essence to the logic of notion), we discuss the economic self-organisation cycle of capitalism. This process of capital accumulation results in the estrangement and exploitation of the human being by the human being. Capitalist society is not a naturally given pattern, but a historical system. The human being has the ability to consciously behave towards the world, hence it’s possible to change the societal conditions in such a way that true, well-rounded individuality can fully unfold.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 26, 2015 at 2:30 pm

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