This seems obvious to me, but I’m now reading an article that deals with the theory of the constitutive role of communication within organizations. It argues that communicative practice is reflexively constructed rather than determined in advance by its fixed components, which include a menagerie of possibilities, ranging from language to satellite hardware. In some ways, then, I think it reacts to MacLuhan’s the medium is the message, although my equation probably stems from an oversimplification of what MacLuhan is arguing…
The seminal theory here (I guess) was devised by two academics from Arizona State, McPhee and Zaug. In “The Communicative Constitution of Organizations: A Framework for Explanations,” they provide this argument (from the abstract):
In this paper we argue that the communicative constitution of organizations requires not just one, but four types of messages, or more specifically types of message flow or interaction process. Such a variety of message flows is required because complex organizations require distinct types of relations to four “audiences”. They must enunciate and maintain relations to their members through membership negotiation, to themselves as formally controlled entities through self-structuring, to their internal subgroups and processes through activity coordination, and to their colleagues in a society of institutions through institutional positioning. These four sorts of communication are analytically distinct, even though a single message can address more than one constitutive task; we need to recognize that complex organizations exist only in the relatedness of these four types of flow.
See what they did there? I *think* that this is all part of the effort to code data elements within organizational structures in order to more effectively quantify them. And it’s either very Gestaltian (subject-subject relationships vs. subject-object, discrete entities interacting with each other in ways that construct identity vs. solo player driving itself through a web of social relations that do not constitute what that entity is) or I’m reading everything through that lens.
The other lens that keeps popping up in this discussion is mystical one. Social media often seems to be represented in impossibly idealistic terms, going so far as to talk of people being converts to one platform or another.