Dissertation Abstracts

The Multimedia Organization: Functional Differentiations on Organizational Identity

Author: Roth, Steffen , strot@me.com
Department: Faculté des sciences économiques et sociales
University: Université de Genève, Switzerland
Supervisor: Prof. Sandro Cattacin
Year of completion: 2013
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Social Differentiati , Functional Differenc , Organizational Ident , Culturomics
Areas of Research: Theory , Economy and Society , Conceptual and Terminological Analysis


Ever since its beginnings, sociology has tended to defer to trends such as secularization, politicization, economization, mediatization, aestheticization, or juridification of society. These trend statements can be unfolded only against the background of functional differentiation; this therefore calls for a systematic reflection of functional differentiation. Most sociological research, however, implies rather than applies the concept of functional differentiation. In addressing this gap, the present thesis gives evidence to the assumption that the identity of modern societies and their organizations is as much about function system preferences in decision-making as it is about specific configurations of variables, like age, culture, or gender.

Following the introduction, Chapter 2 presents a study of the Euro coins and banknotes, which looks for the marks that function systems make on what we commonly take for the European money. Distinguishing between coin and currency, the Euro coins are not taken as economic tokens per se, but for storage devices containing both economic and non-economic information. A systemic analysis of the function system references on these storage devices shows not only the ubiquitous nature of function system references, but also that there are more political, mass media, and artistic, than economic signs on what we commonly consider money.

While existing research on organization is quite familiar with diversity resulting from encounter with different segments and strata, Chapter 3 suggests complementing these categories by treating organizational function system references - former constants of organizational research - as variables. Noticeable biases to particular function systems are therefore considered research problems rather than assertions. The chapters demonstrates that organizations can change their function system references and therefore can be considered indicators of general trends in functional differentiation.

Chapter 4 focuses on markets as organizational environments and argues for a multi-functional market concept, which challenges the idea of the ultimately economic nature of markets.

In Chapter 5, the Google Ngram viewer - an online graphing tool, which charts annual counts of words or sentences as found in the largest available corpus of digitalized books - is used for checks and challenges of familiar self-definitions of modern society. The hypotheses focus on the testing of the most prominent statements of trends in functional differentiation, such as the secularization, politicization, economization, and mediatization of society. The results show that the importance of individual function systems to society is subject to significant changes in time and across region. The findings also suggest adopting a skeptical position on semantics of the dominance of the economic principle in modern societies, which seem to be not in line with the social structures of the English-, French- and German-speaking language areas. This finding challenges the popular description of modern societies as capitalist.
The thesis finally suggests overcoming capitalism simply by taking advantage of the multimedia nature of organizations, which could be reprogrammed to no longer focus on the political system and the economy, but rather on some of the currently neglected function systems of society.

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