On the Function of “Symbolic Media” in the Process of Functional Differentiation

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: Booth 47
Oral Presentation
Akinari TAKAHASHI , Kyoto University, Japan
It is one of the most important contributions which Niklas Luhmann has made toward the thesis of functionally differentiated society to indicate the roles of “symbolic media” in concrete temporal events of communication. Medium/Form-distinction is the theoretical device introduced by Luhmann for the purpose of analysis of Form-functioning in autopoietic and information processing systems (including meaning-processing communicative ones). In short, it is necessary for meaning-processing systems in general, communication systems in particular that they constitute any appropriate distinction between Medium and Form and symbolize objects in the environment as Forms through Medium to operate and observe them.

We focus on this distinction of Medium/Form. This presentation shows how Forms in Luhmann’s terms, which mean distinctions with asymmetry between the inside and the outside, function as symbols in order to enable the self-reproduction of the communication in which they are adopted. And we deal with “health as symbolic media” for an instance so as to elucidate the significance of this theoretical device for empirical researches. In concrete terms, we will take up a case study about care work for people with physical disabilities in Japan in order to scrutinize the validity and the applicability of the thesis of functional differentiation in Luhmann’s theory. It shall be confirmed that various kinds of Forms employed as symbols are so connected with “health as symbolic media” as to allow the emergence and the self-reproduction of the functionally specific communication of care work.