n Communicare : Journal for Communication Sciences in Southern Africa - Sociocybernetics and autopoiesis - new laws of organisational form?

Volume 30, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0259-0069



Contemporary debates in social disciplines are making increasing reference to theoretical concepts such as and (Bailey, 1983, 1997, 2001; Bopry, 2007, Brier, 2005; Geyer, 1994, 1995, 2003; Glanville, 2004; Goldspink, 2001; Hernes & Bakken, 2003; Krippendorff, 1996; Letiche, 2007; Luhmann, 1996; Mingers, 2002b; Morgan, 1998; Scott, 1996, 2001b, 2003; Smith & Higgins, 2003; Umpleby, 2005; Van der Zouwen, 1997; Von Foerster, 2003; Von Glasersfeld, 1996). It becomes apparent from these debates that certain paradigm shifts are imminent not so much as a result of new knowledge, but rather as a result of new metaphors that present alternative perspectives for interdisciplinary corroboration.

Thus far, debates on revisiting cybernetic concepts have largely been conducted in other social sciences disciplines such as sociology, politics and semiology, this despite the challenges a cocreational perspective poses for communication in general and for organisational communication specifically. This paper aims to raise the debate amongst communication scholars, especially since communication scholars are conspicuously absent in the social-scientific debates within other disciplines, and we are in danger of failing to challenge our own intellectual assumptions. As such, this paper discusses and explores the appropriateness and applicability of cybernetics and autopoiesis as contemporary theoretical approaches to the study of organisations as communicatively enacted entities. It attempts to identify some of the intellectual challenges posed by extending the boundaries of our conversations beyond our recognised metaphors and concepts.
The purpose of this paper is to initiate dialogue among communication scholars that may resonate with the constructivist epistemology, and which constitutes both cybernetics and postmodernism. We argue that cybernetics in its entirety poses a challenge for the study of organisations from a communication perspective. We argue, as Geyer (1995) has done, that it may be an intellectually challenging exercise to reposition the current modern and postmodern organisational metaphors within a single new emerging metaphor: the schismatic metaphor.

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