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

Florian Muhle

Abstract


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


Keywords


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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