martes, 22 de septiembre de 2009

Self-Organization is not Utopia

This brief essay was written a few years ago. It pretends to limit the use of Self-Organization as a model for utopia.

Arturo Escobar as other cyberspace theorist make an emphasis on Self-Organization (SO) as the desired and achievable model-dynamic for social order [1], but they doesn’t stress on the phenomenological facts which, under the framework of Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS), represents the limitations to SO –the same could be said on his treatment of decentralized dynamics–.
Although hitherto there is no clear way to distinguish the 'inside' from the 'outside' of a CAS, if one is to apply CAS theories to any system including social communities, the consideration of an influential environment is a starting point. This consideration is important because it exerts a limit on the possibilities of SO and decentralization of the CAS. Moreover, the very fact of SO may be argued by an alternative explanation based on evolution of systems where the environment interacts in a regular way with the system. In fact, the latter argument is much more compatible with the laws of physics where SO is related to information loss and therefore to interaction with a "noisy" environment. This is what's been called Out of Equilibrium Phenomena. So CAS theories and physics laws tell us that SO has its limits imposed by the inevitable effects of the environment. As much as SO phenomena may help to articulate a type of humanist discourse in the context of Complex Systems in the form of human aggregate, self-referenced behavior, the former additional conditions impose limits to these kinds of approaches. For example, it reminds us that cyberspace structural behavior can't be isolated from 'out of cyberspace' phenomena, although as we said in the beginning, differentiating cyberspace from 'out of cyberspace' may be increasingly difficult. The challenge for distinguishing these two realms can be sized when compared with the ideological and the material realms as exposed in the philosophical tradition. To understand this progressive dialectic is a challenging academic enterprise initiated by early modern sociologists and pragmatic linguists up to cyberspace anthropologists.

Related posts: Tras los límites de la descentralización I y II.

[1] Escobar, Arturo, 2005, Other Worlds Are (already) Possible: Cyber-Internationalism and Post-Capitalist Cultures, Revista TEXTOS de la CiberSociedad, 5. Temática Variada. Disponible en