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

By Maria Skou Nicolaisen.

Published by The International Journal of Communication and Linguistic Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: September 2, 2016 $US5.00

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.

Keywords: Theoretical Frameworks, Textual Autopoiesis, Digitization, Jerome McGann

The International Journal of Communication and Linguistic Studies, Volume 14, Issue 3, September 2016, pp.13-26. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: September 2, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 689.716KB)).

Maria Skou Nicolaisen

PhD Student, Royal School of Library and Information Science, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark