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Social systems:
Volume: 18, Issue 2
We argue the case that human social systems and social organizations in particular are concrete, non-metaphorical, cognitive agents operating in their own self-constructed environments. Our point of departure is Luhmann's theory of social systems as self-organizing systems of communications. Integrating the Luhmannian theory with the enactive theory of cognition and Simondon's theory of individuation, results in a novel view of social systems as complex, individuating sequences of communicative interactions that together constitute distributed yet distinct cognitive agencies. The relations of such agencies with their respective environments (involving other agencies of the same construction) is further clarified by discussing both the Hayek-Hebb and the perturbation-compensation perspectives on systems adaptiveness as each reveals different and complementary facets of the operation of social systems as loci of cognitive activity. The major theoretical points of the argument are followed and demonstrated by an analysis of NASA's communications showing how a social organization undergoes a process of individuation from which it emerges as an autonomous cognitive agent with a distinct and adaptive identity. With this example we hope to invite a debate on how the presented approach could inform a transdisciplinary method of cognitive modeling applied to human social systems.