Volume 16 · Number 3 · Pages 356–361
Systems Theory and Algorithmic Futures: Interview with Elena Esposito

Elena Esposito, Katrin Sold & Bénédicte Zimmermann

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Abstract

Abstract: By introducing us into core concepts of Niklas Luhmann’s theory of social systems, Elena Esposito shows their relevance for contemporary social sciences and the study of unsettled times. Contending that society is made not by people but by what connects them - as Luhmann does with his concept of communication - creates a fertile ground for addressing societal challenges as diverse as the Corona pandemic or the algorithmic revolution. Esposito more broadly sees in systems theory a relevant contribution to critical theory and a genuine alternative to its Frankfurt School version, while extending its reach to further conceptual refinement and new empirical issues. Fueling such refinement is her analysis of time and the complex intertwinement between past, present and future - a core issue that runs throughout her work. Her current study on the future as a prediction caught between science and divination offers a fascinating empirical case for it, drawing a thought-provoking parallel between the way algorithmic predictions are constructed today and how divinatory predictions were constructed in ancient times. Keywords: Algorithms, communication, critical theory, future, heterarchy, Luhmann, paradox, prediction, semantics, sociology, subsystems, systems theory, time.

Citation

Esposito E., Sold K. & Zimmermann B. (2021) Systems theory and algorithmic futures: Interview with elena esposito. Constructivist Foundations 16(3): 356–361. https://constructivist.info/16/3/356

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References

Baraldi C., Corsi G. & Esposito E. (2021) Unlocking Luhmann: A keyword introduction to systems theory. Transcript, Bielefeld. Originally published in German as: Baraldi C., Corsi G. & Esposito E. (1997) GLU: Glossar zu Niklas Luhmanns Theorie sozialer Systeme. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Esposito E. (2011) The future of futures: The time of money in financing and society. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Esposito E. (2017) Critique without crisis: Systems theory as a critical sociology. Thesis Eleven 143(1): 18–27. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Esposito E. (2020) Systemic integration and the need for de-integration in pandemic times. Sociologica 14(1): 3–20. https://sociologica.unibo.it/article/download/10853/10995
Esposito E. (2021) Digitale Prognose: Von statistischer Ungewissheit zur algorithmischen Vorhersage [Digital forecasting: From statistical uncertainty to algorithmic prediction]. In: Labisch A. (ed.) Kann Wissenschaft in die Zukunft sehen? Prognosen in den Wissenschaften. Acta Historica Leopoldina, Halle: 177–198. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Koselleck R. (2004) Futures past: On the semantics of historical time. Columbia University Press, New York. Originally published in 1979. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
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MacKenzie D. (2006) An engine, not a camera: How financial models shape markets. MIT Press, Cambridge MA. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar

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