Text as an Autopoietic System: Possibilities and Limitations of an Autopoietic Account of Digitized Text

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Maria Skou Nicolaisen
The aim of the present research article is to discuss the possibilities and limitations in addressing text as an autopoietic system. The theory of autopoiesis originated in the field of biology in order to explain the dynamic processes entailed in sustaining living organisms at cellular level. The theory has been introduced in a slightly altered version to the field of textual scholarship by Jerome McGann. In its original version, the defining traits of autopoietic system functioning are associated with distinguishable boundaries between the system and its environment, a distinction that does not seem easily upheld when applied to cultural or textual phenomena. However, addressing textual agency in such a way allows for fruitful discussions about what constitutes textual organization. This, in turn, allows for addressing the programmability of diverse textual structures in new digital formats. By comparing the biological with the textual account of autopoietic agency, the end conclusion is that a newly derived concept of sociopoiesis might be better suited for discussing the architecture of textual systems.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe International Journal of Communication and Linguistic Studies
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)13-26
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2016

Bibliographical note

The article was submitted in the wake of a talk given June 19th 2015 at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver for a "New Directions in the Humanities" conference

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - theoretical framework, textual autopoiesis, digitization, Jerome McGann

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