The Catjects Project
Resuming a blog I closed in June 2011 I will use this to give some account of the proceedings of the catjects project.
The catjects project is an attempt to update sociological theory with respect to an understanding of next society. Next society, as it was christened by Peter Drucker in 2001, is the society brought forward by the introduction of electricity (almost instant connectivity of information and communication) and its exploitation via broadcasting, television, the computer, the Internet, and social media.
Next society is Society 4.0 if we call tribal society brought forward by the introduction of language Society 1.0, ancient society brought forward by the introduction of writing Society 2.0, and modern society brought forward by the introduction of the printing press Society 3.0. This rather crude distinction of just four media epochs of human society nevertheless proved helpful in social and cultural studies ever since Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, Eric A. Havelock, Walter J. Ong, Jack Goody, Ian Watt, and others ventured into it.
Next society is reconfiguring itself out of modern society via complex systems and networks which I attempt to describe by modeling their eigen-values or attractor states as so-called catjects.
Catjects are neither subjects nor objects but categories underlying the differentiation and reproduction of specific types of communication. They are modeled as ‘forms’ as understood by George Spencer-Brown, that is as concatenated distinctions used by observers observing each other to produce and reproduce their world.
Catjects do not follow a classical logic such as given by Aristotle’s three principles of:
identity: A = A,
contradiction: ¬(A ∧ ¬A),
and excluded third: A ∨ ¬A,
but a cybernEthic logic such as given by the three principles of:
paradox: a ≠ a,
ambivalence: a ∧ ¬a,
and control: a ∨ a.
By calling it a ‘cybernEthic logic’ we pay tribute to Heinz von Foerster’s cybernEthic framing of second-order cybernetics.
The catjects project aims at answering Niklas Luhmann’s question of what the ‘culture form’ of next society may consist in. Luhmann in Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft (1997, chap. 2, XIV) proposed to call telos the culture form of ancient society, and restless self-reference (or equilibrium) the culture form of modern society. We may add ‘boundary’ as the culture form of tribal society and perhaps ‘play’ as the culture form of next society. Culture forms deal with the overflow of meaning produced by all media of the distribution and success of communication taken together (such as language, writing, the printing press, electronic media, power, money, love, truth, belief, art, and mass media) by enabling social forms to both reject and accept communication received via those media.
The catjects project thereby follows Luhmann’s idea to start with the axiom of the improbability of communication (Soziale Systeme, 1984; Social Systems, 1995). It combines this idea with Heinz von Foerster’s observing systems (Observing Systems, 1981), Harrison C. White’s uncertainty calculus of networks (Identity and Control, 1992/2008), and George Spencer-Brown’s calculus of indications (Laws of Form, 1969). The project aims at a culture theory of society by taking not only human, but also social, organic, and artificial observers into account. Catjects define how degrees of freedom among those observers are introduced and reduced to get and frame communication, which means both action and experience.