abstracts

14.1 Juergen Kluever and Jörn Schmidt:
"The Geometry and Dimensions of Social Systems"


In sociology geometrical concepts are mainly used only metaphorically. Yet it is possible to apply the mathematical concepts of geometrical space and dimensions to social fields. It will be demonstrated that the concept of mathematical dimensions can be introduced into social systems theory: The dimensions of social systems, i.e. societies, are defined as the different levels of social differentiation, namely the levels of social segments, social strata and functional social subsystems. Modern societies can be described accordingly as 3-dimensional social systems. We constructed a computer model to analyze the consequences of social differentiation in a space of three dimensions. The model is a (stochastic) cellular automaton which is changed by a genetic algorithm.

The most important results are:
(a) Social evolution of different levels of social structures is very improbable because a lot of different parameter values must be combined at the same time. This explains the well known fact that the evolution of the different social levels happened only very seldom in human history.

(b) The more different levels a system contains, the more sensitive the system is to external perturbations and the more difficult it becomes for the system to reach and maintain simple attractor states as is known about modern societies.

(c) Social relations on one level are disturbed and partly dissolved when the system evolves to the next levels of differentiation. Therefore, there may be mathematical reasons for the fact that in modern societies traditional relations are permanently changed and dissolved.


Juergen Kluever, HDZ, Universität GH-Essen, xxx, D-45117 Essen, Germany. Email: juergen.kluever@uni-essen.de



14.2 Karl-Franz Kaltenborn:
"Impact of the Internet on Legal Reforms and Family Systems - A Case Study of the Reform of the Children Act (Kindschaftsrecht) in Germany"


After a rather long time of discussion in politics, science, and society, in June 1996 the German Federal Government introduced a bill for a reform of the Kindschaftsrecht (Children Act) in the Bundestag (Lower House of Parliament). Especially the discussion concerning the concept of child custody after parental separation or divorce - with or without a preference for joint custody - has been and still is highly controversial. Apart from other media, the Internet is used also by various societal groups and institutions to offer information material on the Children Act and to promote this way their own position in the custody controversy.

Given the current criticism on social science research on the Internet because of the exclusive focus on the net by ignoring the important relationship between the social life within and outside the net (BRAUN) this contribution investigates the following aspects: (a) the representation of custody concepts in the Internet, (b) the potential impact of the Internet on the legal reform, and (c) the consequences for the post- divorce family system and especially for the children involved. Ongoing analysis of the Internet information resources about custody concepts shows a predominance of the joint custody concept whereby this predominance is caused by political power, by gender specific male dominance in the Internet, and partly by accident and/or by non-transparent retrieval functions.

By applying a systemic theoretical framework, the impact of the Internet on the legislative process is seen as only one influential factor in the complex scenario of legislation. Nevertheless, the Internet as a virtual cognitive-normative system plays an important role for the people involved for communication and political actions. The main focus on the custody concept itself, which could be found in politics and in the Internet, implies the danger that to a certain extent the attention and the responsibility for the children get lost; i.e. the need for the children's protection and participation in custody decisions comes out of sight.


Braun, I.: Der Schopf des Muenchhausen. Eine sozialwissenschaftliche Annaeherung an das Internet. Berlin: Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin fuer Sozialforschung GmbH (WZB).

Karl-Franz Kaltenborn, Zur Hege 8, 5041 Marburg, Germany. Email: kaltenbo@mailer.uni-marburg.de


14.3 Günther W. Himmelmann, Jochen Prümper, Marc Hassenzahl, Jan Schulz, Winfried Eberhardt, Gunter Brückner, Manfred Dubrow:
"A General Health Information System in the Web: What is it's Impact? The German Federal Health Information System IS-GBE as a Sociocybernetic Experience"


Information on health-related matters forms part of the so-called 'Information Society'. Long-term interest in health, health care and health care costs consume a rising percentage of GNPs. Comparisons of health care systems of several leading industrialized countries suggest that morbidity and respective treatments are unequal and that mortality and money spent do not correlate. Germany currently pays more than 500 billion Deutsche Marks annually for health care. The German government reacted by creating IS-GBE as a general health and reporting system. Main goals are to:

1) address the general public, decision makers, politicians, and press alike;
2) provide free access by Internet to everybody;
3) deliver up-to-date in information in the form of freely combined texts, graphics, and numbers by OLAP;
4) provide interactive access by 'data mining';
5) combine with related publications;
6) allow downloading for further analyses;
7) support unprecise questioning;
8) induce active communication between client and provider.

The paper describes results of the sociocybernetic approach to providing information on health related problems and the resulting reactions of users measured by continuously questioning clients by standardized on-line questionnaire. Results suggest how to deal with health care and how to integrate technical information systems into the ongoing systems processes of daily communication and daily life, both at the level of professionals and at large. Final goal is to base decision making in health related questions on facts and on well informed public support.


Guenther Himmelmann, Institute of Biometrics, Philipps-University Marburg, Bunsenstrasse 3, D-35037 Marburg, Germany. Email:himmelma@mailer.uni-marburg.de



14.4 Angela Lopez:
"Local democracy: Giving a Role to the NCITS in the Construction of Citizenship"


This paper presents the thesis, methodology and results of a research project called 'Metasa: Multimedia European Experimental Towns with a Social Pull Aproach'. It is one of the two projects that had been approved and financed by the European Community (R&D programme 1995-97. Our overall contribution - research and social agency - has been developed by means of two projects, one a research project (Metasa) and the other a project designed to empower the citizens of the towns concerned in the use of the multimedia services (MIND). The objective in both cases was the dissemination of the technologies of information and communication for sustainable development to the citizens of these four European towns. (Town Halls, social networks, economic networks and ordinary citizens.) The first project (the one presented here) looks at the expectations, needs and requirements of the citizens as applied to five domains of intervention (education, health, administration, economy/work and culture/leisure) and the subsequent elaboration of social and market services in response to the requirements of the towns and their social networks.

The second project (which might be of interest in the debates to those of a more academic bent) was a project for designing equipment [infrastructure?], services and applications, a public demonstration in the four towns of how to use them and an acceptance of the interactive multimedia services by their social networks (popular organizations and groups of communities). Various multimedia companies and various universities and research centres (all of them European) collaborated in the design and realization of these projects. The four towns involved were: Arnedo (Spain), Weinstadt and Torgau (Germany), Parthenays (France). This paper presents the Spanish experience within the context of the four towns.


Angela Lopez, Department of Sociology, Facultad de Ciencias Economicas, C/ Dr Cerrada 1-3, 50005 Zaragoza, Spain. Email: malopez@posta.unizar.es



14.5 Chaime Marcuello:
"Internet Yes, But People First: Popular Server of Electronic Information (SPIE, Servidor Popular Aragones de Informacion Electronica)"


This paper presents an analysis of the relationship between information technologies, - especially Internet and World Wide Web - and social movements in one European city, Zaragoza (Spain). The case study started three years ago. During 1995, ten NGOs (Non- Governmental Organizations) cooperated to build an experimental site on Internet. The idea was to put people first and to construct inside the new big marketplace of the world - the Internet - a place to include people, radical ideas and alternative readings about our planet. This was a social demand for this, growing up from the citizenship. Today, there are twenty four groups managing something like a "freenet", working from differents points of view, and using technologies of information as an integrative, ecological and "eutopic" means.

This paper first offers a short history about the SPIE, and continues with the struggle between fears and hopes, expectations and difficulties, followed by an analysis of the social actors involved and their roles. It finishes thinking about the conquests, mistakes and the next steps, as told by the protagonists. At the end, there is a "coda" to theorize about the cultural change created inside social movements because of these new systems of information and communication - internet, e-mail, etc. - and an epilogue about the methodology of investigation used.



Chaime Marcuello, Dept. of Sociology, University of Zaragoza, E.U. Estudios Sociales/ 50009 Zaragoza, Spain.
Email: chaime@posta.unizar.es



14.6 Michael McElwee:
"Chaos and Culture: Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions in Organizations"


Though descriptions of organizational phenomena and their relationships to chaos theory and related areas are often compelling, heavy reliance on the use of metaphor implies the presence of a gap in organization theory as well as between physical and behavioral sciences. The work offered here moves toward bridging that gap. By illuminating the presence of sensitive dependence on initial conditions (SDIC) in organizational settings, the membership of organizations in the class of dynamical systems can be supported. This, in turn, enables and legitimizes development of a theory of organizations as dynamical systems. The organizational literature at present is silent with respect to this topic. The approach is exploratory and foundational in nature, and qualitative in its methods. A new view of organizational culture is provided and several areas that might be fruitful for further analysis are indicated.


Michael McElwee, 7 Darnby Court, Orinda, CA 94563-4207, USA. Email: mmcelwee@ix.netcom.com



14.7 Francisco Parra-Luna:
"The Role of a Referential Pattern of Values in the Analysis of Social Systems"


Values can be considered to be the main raw material which founds and forms the social phenomenon. If "value" is the "degree of usefulness or suitability of things to satisfy necessities or afford comfort and content= " or, to use more sociological terms, if one can call value "an element of a shared symbolic system which serves as the criterion for choice between orientative alternatives" (Parsons), then, it can be extrapolated that everything, or almost everything, in the field of human relations, can be considered as an enormous and complex framework of necessities and interests which can only be satisfied through the achievement of values. Thus, the worker tends to aim for an adequate standard of living, security and personal satisfaction; the student looks for knowledge and preparation for the future; the sportsman, for health and perhaps glory and prestige; the man of religion seeks a subjective security with a view to the great beyond; the housewife wants security and affection, and even the retired person, at the end of his days, pursues peace and tranquillity or maximum freedom and personal satisfaction when his responsibilities at work no logger occupy all his time.

This can also be seen in institutions: education stresses knowledge; economy, the material side of living; the armed forces, security and order; justice, equality of everybody before the law; the health service, physical and mental well-being of the community, etc.. The reason for the existence of institutions, the aim of all human association, from two lovers or friends to the United Nations, passing through the family, the firm, or the state, is solely due to the need for carrying out and attaining values which will satisfy original, or derived, necessities. Any systemic theory of society could not avoid to deal with values as one of its main subjects.


Francisco Parra-Luna, Dept. Sociologia I, Fac CC Politicas y Sociologia, Univ. Compultense (Somosaguas), 28223 Madrid, Spain. Email: parralun@lix.intercom.es



14.8 Bernd R. Hornung:
"Data Protection and New IT in Sustainable Social Systems - Sociocybernetic Aspects of Recent Developments in IT"


The up-coming information society puts information at an ever more central place in the lives of people, organizations, and societies. This creates new risks and vulnerabilities and provokes a quest for the protection of human rights and liberties, including data protection. The latter has to be seen in the larger societal context and its ultimate ends. The paper argues that a concept from ecological research, sustainability, could constitute an adequate point of departure for societal analysis and technology assessment replacing less convincing general goals. An example from health care exemplifies how data protection at the organizational level can be integrated into such a framework and how a multitude of aspects from different disciplines have to be taken into account. Data protection, e.g. in a hospital, has to cope with the risks and potentials of world-wide information traffic, automatic medical and administrative data exchange, hackers, computer viruses as well as with the needs of medical doctors for fast and authentic medical information along with patients' claims for adequate treatment, privacy and confidentiality. The answer proposed to this challenge is a mix of up-to-date technical solutions, cryptology (smart cards and electronic signature), organizational measures, and training and motivation.


Bernd Hornung, Institute of Medical Informatics, Marburg University, Bunsenstrasse 3, D-35037 Marburg, Germany. Email: hornung@mailer.uni-marburg.de



14.9 Vladimir Degtiar:
"Relationships Between Ecological and Social Strategies Directed for a Sustainable Development"


The problems of ecology and social problems belong to a set of problems the solutions of which are determined on a rather long-term scale. Therefore the small time horizons of decision-making create high-power potential barriers on the path toward their solution. The ecological problem has two components, the first of which belongs to a class of Pareto-optimal problems and can be solved by an increase in the time horizon of the members of a population and by accumulation of the necessary resources. The second component is generated by the extension of social conflicts to an intensive level in the course of their "solution". It is a pareto-nonoptimal one, since it is generated by pareto-nonoptimality of social problems. Due to this there is the same (additional to the first component) set of potential barriers on the path towards its solution which have arisen on the path of the solution of social problems.

Due to the availability of two components of the ecological problem it is natural to create such a co-operation of the strategies of solution of ecological and social problems, where the mentioned Pareto-optimal component, utilized to overcome considerably smaller potential barriers than the pareto-nonoptimal one, would allocate a part of obtained resources for the last one, i.e., for the solution of social problems. This paper will be devoted to the description of detailed co-operation between use of the strategies of solution of ecological and social problems, in order to lift the solution of the last ones over a dead point.


Vladimir Degtiar, 9, Bolshoy Koptevsky projezd, apt. 49, 125315 Moscow, Russia. Email: degtiar@mx.iki.rssi.ru



14.10 Larisa A. Pautova:
"Postmodernistic Science & Research of Social System Stability"


Can a stable system be not in equlibrium? Can the stability of society exist together with change and conflicts? Traditional sociology rejected this possibility. Stability and steadiness, capacity to overcome impacts, have been always associated with social harmony and comfort. In the 20th century "stability" - which means capacity to preserve conditions normal for this system, and a tendency to come to a balanced state in case of deviations - becomes one of the most important aspects in the theory of systems. But while in mathematics, physics, automatic regulation and administration stability means retaining approximately the same behavior over a period of time, i.e., the ability of the system to deviate a little from balance and return to this state in case of inevitable deviations, in sociology "stability" is now interpreted very widely, for example as the ability of the system to develop and fuction, to retain its quality definition and it is even assosiated with wholeness. For sociology it is more characteristic to identify stability with invariability, balance, constancy of composition, structure, functions, the absence of changes.

However, postmodernistic science must be dedicated to advancing critical and scholarly research and practice relating to problems of mutually connecting and mutually penetrating of stability and change, to problems of absence of balance, and instability.

Future explorations will be organized around three themes: 1) to refuse the identification of stability and balance; 2) to refuse the opposition of stability and change, unbalance, unsteadiness, vagueness; 3) to research the entire spectrum of variants and multimeasures of stability.


Larisa A. Pautova, Department of Sociology, Omsk State University, 644077 Omsk-77, Russia.





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created: June 10,1998