Approaches to the World: The Multiple Dimensions of the Social: Introduction - open access - Link:



The introduction discusses the recent challenges for a general theory of the social. Actor-Networktheory and Anthropology (Descola) have questioned that only living human beings can be social actors. How must a theory of the social be constructed that understands the circle of legitimate actors as historically contingent. If the circle of legitimate actors is open to question, one cannot any longer presuppose that there is a universal distinction between nature and culture. Instead a general theory of the social has to understand the nature-culture distinction as particular form of making sense of the world. A particular order of making sense of the world cannot be grasped as only a social order, instead materiality (body and artefacts), time and space as well as symbols have to be understood as dimensions of order building. This has to be recognized by a general theory of the social. Violence has been introduced by various empirical studies as a structuring power of social processes, but so far violence has not been recognized as a part of a general theory of the social. Herewith “Approaches to the World” combines three strands of recent debates: The debates on the necessity of a theoretical turn (like the linguistic turn, material turn, body turn, pictorial turn oder spatial turn), second the debates on the actor status of non-humans and the borders of the social world and third the discussions on the relevance of violence for structuring social processes. Finally Weltzugänge formulates a perspective for a theory of society, in order to builds pathways of critical self-reflection into the research process and thus retains awareness of its inherent presuppositions.
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Theories of face-to-face interaction employ a concept of spatial presence and view communication via digital technologies as an inferior version of interaction, often with pathological implications. Current studies of mediatized communication challenge this notion with empirical evidence of “telepresence”, suggesting that users of such technologies experience their interactions as immediate. We argue that the phenomenological concepts of the lived body and mediated immediacy (Helmuth Plessner) combined with the concept of embodied space (Hermann Schmitz) can help overcome the pathologizing of digital communication in social theory and enable descriptions which are truer to the experience of using said technology. From this perspective it appears as an ethnocentric premise to restrict interaction to human actors being present in local space. This restricted understanding of interaction does not allow for an appropriate empirical analysis of the emerging structures of digital communication.
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