Whitaker’s Autopoiesis

How can Maturana’s theory of “autopoiesis” be applied to understanding computing?

Randall Whitaker has an extensive site on Autropoiesis that provides a background and discusses in depth many of the concepts. See Self-Organization, Autopoiesis, and Enterprises. Whitaker is interested in how autorpoietic theory can be applied to enterprise computing – groupwork, human factors, and information systesms.

Here is his summary and conclusion:

“Autopoietic theory provides a rigorous theoretical basis for addressing people and the social systems in which they participate. Because the theory proceeds from formal specifications on systemic unities, its tenets can conceivably be applied to both. Owing to the extent of Maturana and Varela’s expansion of the core concepts to describe a phenomenology of living systems, the theory’s scope is relatively broad. This permits researchers to apply its principles across a broader range of subject phenomena than is the case for other current approaches. Because it is rooted in a formal analysis of living systems and cognition, the theory can support research focusing on individual subjects and their activities within an enterprise (e.g., workflow analyses, human factors / HCI analyses of specific information system users). Because the theory includes an explanation for linguistic interaction, it can support research focusing on enterprise social interactions and communications (e.g., ethnographic studies; qualitative research).

Having completed this overview, it should be clearer to you how autopoietic theory intrinsically supports attention to the three themes in today’s enterprise research innovations: systemic perspective, auto-determination, and contextualization. The first occurs by definition, the second by focus, and the third by the manner in which Maturana and Varela lay out the phenomenological aspects of the theory.”