"Are You Human?": A Plea for a Communication-Theoretical Approach to Interpretive Research at the Borders of the Social

Florian Muhle


Sociology in general and interpretive social research in particular are regarded as human sciences. However, this human-centered perspective has recently been questioned as an "anthropological bias,"  both by debates within social theory and empirical research on non-human agency. Against this background, I address the question of how the anthropological bias in sociology can be overcome and what empirical analysis should look like that deals with non-human agency and the borders of the social. Drawing on competing approaches, namely actor-network theory and actor-centered methodologies, I argue for an analytical perspective that is based on a Luhmannian approach to communication theory and methodology. The thesis is that communication theory offers an appropriate methodological toolbox for symmetrical and open-ended analysis of social border phenomena. In order to demonstrate the potential of the discussed tools, I close with an analysis of a human-machine encounter in a virtual world.

URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1601183


borders of the social; agency; social theory; communication theory; methodology; membership categorization analysis; artificial intelligence

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-17.1.2489

Copyright (c) 2016 Florian Muhle

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