Coding Social Form
Ever since Auguste Comte looked for ways to code and assess social data with respect to a crossing of a dynamical and a static, or diachronic and synchronic axis of social order sociological theory is interested in two and only two dimensions of the emergence and reproduction of social phenomena: temporal reproduction and material differentiation to both produce and exploit social tension. Niklas Luhmann confirmed that orientation with respect to Talcott Parsons’ and his own theory program. And Harrison C. White adds the issues of biophysical ecology and bodily engagement.
Culture theory ever since Giambattista Vico and Jean-Jacques Rousseau excels in dealing with negation to pursue positive and thus desired states of the social. Hegel, Freud, Lacan, and Zizek add an understanding of ontologies which include a “less-than-nothing” logic within symbolic orders that thereby gain switches within values from insufficiencies in any one value.
With respect to ideas about semantic webs and about object-oriented programming it is tempting to look for ways to combine sociological theory and culture theory within algorithms that allow people to navigate within ecologies of social order and disorder. Those algorithms would prove the impossibility to solve any one problem of the emergence and reproduction of a social phenomenon without the intervention of some human or otherwise intelligent will which in no way it to be predetermined.
This amounts to sociological theory, culture theory, and computer sciences looking for ways to implement the self-production of indeterminacy within a calculus of social form which calls necessarily for both intervening and perfunctory supplements.
A calculus of this kind has been proposed by George Spencer-Brown in his book Laws of Form (London 1969). An attempt to code social forms would try to embed theorems of sociological theory and culture theory within possibly object-oriented languages to provide people both with an introduction to those theories and with a tool to prove to themselves that there willful action and experience is not to be supplemented.
There are two possibly unsolvable questions to be dealt with. The first one is to model sociological and cultural theorems within a programming language. And the second one is to look for ways of how to access, code, and present the data to prove or disprove those theorems.
If next society is moving from writing, reading, and printing to sampling, visualizing, and navigating, then which data within which metadata will prove useful to give sociological theory a life after modern society?
With respect to programming languages and software development this research and design project proposal comes late, but with respect to data mining and further steps of the development of sociological theory it may come at just the right moment. We need ludic and probably also lucid ways to explore its possibility.