A Sociological Theory Of Communication

A Sociological Theory Of Communication

by Loet Leydesdorff


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Networks of communication evolve in terms of reflexive exchanges. The codification of these reflections in

language, that is, at the social level, can be considered as the operating system of society. Under sociologically

specifiable conditions, the discursive reconstructions can be expected to make the systems under reflection increasingly


This sociological theory of communication is founded in a tradition that includes Giddens' (1979) structuration theory,

Habermas' (1981) theory of communicative action, and Luhmann's (1984) proposal to consider social systems as self-organizing.

The study also elaborates on Shannon's (1948) mathematical theory of communication for the formalization and

operationalization of the non-linear dynamics.

The development of scientific communications can be studied using citation analysis. The exchange media at the interfaces of

knowledge production provide us with the evolutionary model of a Triple Helix of university-industry-government relations.

The construction of the European Information Society can then be analyzed in terms of interacting networks of communication.

The issues of sustainable development and the expectation of social change are discussed in relation to the possibility of a

general theory of communication.

Author Biography: Loet Leydesdorff (Ph.D. sociology, M.A. philosophy, and M.Sc. biochemistry) is Senior Lecturer at the Department

of Communication Studies of the University of Amsterdam. He has published in the philosophy of science, social network

analysis, scientometrics, and the sociology of innovation. His studies of communication in science, technology, and

innovation enabled him to specify theory and methods for understanding the dynamics of knowledge-based development.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781581126952
Publisher: Universal-Publishers.com
Publication date: 01/20/2001
Pages: 372
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.83(d)

Table of Contents

1.2Self-organization remains a hypothesis11
1.3A hypothesis refers to a theory13
1.4The 'self-organization' paradigm in sociology17
1.5An example: 'interpenetration'21
1.6The re-entry of time into the representation26
1.7The progam of studies30
Part 1Sociological Reflections
2.Towards a sociological theory of communication35
2.1Uncertainty, information, and meaning38
2.2Giddens' structuration theory44
2.3Self-organization theory49
2.4Luhmann's restriction54
2.5The social system and biological autopoisesis55
2.6Habermas' objection58
2.9Communication of 'information' in messages71
2.10What is evolving?74
3The evolution of communication networks79
3.1The perspective of social systems theory80
3.1.1The methodological basis
3.1.2Human communication
3.1.3The status of the observables
3.2Communication and communication systems90
3.2.1Variation and selection
3.2.2Stabilization, self-organization, and globalization
3.2.3Complexity among systems
3.3The evolutionary perspective105
3.3.1Complexity in the time dimension
3.3.2Inter-system dependencies
3.5Excursion on the possibility of artificial evolution114
4.The non-linear dynamics of sociological reflections117
4.1The evolutionary need for reflections118
4.2The duality of social communication120
4.3The regime of modernity123
4.4The endogenous character of technological change126
4.5Differentiation among reflexive discourses128
4.6The 'duality' in sociological understanding130
4.7Implications for sociological theorizing134
Part 2Is Society a Self-Organizing System?139
5.New perspectives on empirical theories143
5.1Four models of 'structure'/'action' contingencies142
5.1.1The aggregation hypothesis
5.1.2The hypothesis of 'unintended consequences'
5.1.3Symbolic interactionism and the situational approach
5.1.4Systems theory in sociology
5.2The model of parallel and distributed processing155
5.2.1The operational independence of the social system
5.2.2The networks network, and the actors act
5.2.3The role of the network
5.2.4Interpenetration operationalized
5.3The local and the global network165
5.3.1Hierarchy and heterarchy in the network
5.3.2Heuristic functions of the model
5.3.3Algorithms of parallel and distributed processing
5.3.4'Meaning' at the level of the network
5.4Summary and conclusions175
6.A Triple Helix of university-industry-government relations
6.1Functional versus institutional differentiation178
6.2The 'scientific-technical revolution' (1870-1890)180
6.3Complexity within scientific communication182
6.3.1Annotations, references, and citations
6.3.2The modern 'citation' as a complex index
6.3.3The latency of the cognitive dimension
6.4Complexity at the level of society191
6.4.1Horizontal and vertical couplings
6.4.2Translation systems
6.5Emergence and drifts of trans-epistemes202
6.5.1The techno-sciences
6.5.2Economic consequences
6.5.3Policy implications
7.The European information society213
7.1The EU-Network Systems215
7.2Methods and data217
7.2.2Methods studies versus national differentiation
7.3.1The European monetary system
7.3.2The European publication system
7.3.3The case of 'biotechnology'
8.Regime changes and sustainable development235
8.1The paradigm shift236
8.1.1Ex post and ex ante
8.1.2Second-order dynamics
8.2Prediction in second-order systems theory245
8.3.1The carrying capacity of second-order systems
8.3.2Sustainability of technological solutions
8.3.3Trajectories and regimes
8.3.4Sub-optima, hill-climbing, and changes of regime
Part 3Philosophical Reflections261
9.Uncertainty and the communication of 'time'263
9.1The construction of the modern cosmology266
9.1.1'Uncertainty' in the new philosophy
9.1.2'Time' in the new philosophy
9.2'The time of the Lord is the best of all times'272
9.3The deconstruction of the modern cosmology275
9.3.1'Uncertainty' as the 'substance' of communication
9.3.2The probabilistic interpretation of communication
9.4The self-organization of uncertainty281
9.4.1Interaction among communication systems
9.4.2Extension in the time dimension
9.5The study of complex dynamics289
9.6Towards a general theory of communication?292
10.The expectation of social change297
10.1The post-institutional perspective299
10.1.1'All that is solid melts into air'
10.1.2The linguistic turn
10.2Exclusion and the new social movements314
10.3Knowledge-based development318
Author Index343
Subject Index347

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