Publication 3647

Hallowell R. (2009) Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela’s Contribution to Media Ecology: Autopoiesis, The Santiago School of Cognition, and Enactive Cognitive Science. Proceedings of the Media Ecology Assocation 10: 143–158. Fulltext at
This paper provides an overview of the major body of work in the biology of cognition produced by the Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. In addition to a review of their work together, Varela’s “enactive” approach to cognition is discussed. Insights from these studies are relat- ed to the field of media ecology. In their early work together Maturana and Varela developed the idea of “autopoiesis” (self- production) as the primary feature that distinguishes living things from non-liv- ing things. From their theory of autopoiesis in biology, they develop a naturalistic, non-transcendental and observer-dependent interpretation of cognition, language, and consciousness. They argue against any absolutely objective world; instead they claim that we bring forth a world with others through the process of our living in human created worlds that arise through language and the coordination of social interaction. Implications of this view for media ecology are considered.

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