5. Design 5.

1 Ecology The sociological theory of communication as form describes a completely determined calculation of the social only under the condition that a location of the undetermined but determinable plays an indispensable role in this calculation (Laclau 1994). Without a constant shifting from the singular of form into the plural of forms and back again, we would not be prepared to talk of communication. That too is a form of introducing the undetermined and hence of stipulating degrees of freedom. We emphasise that we are talking of communication only on the level of what an observer sets out as an interpretation of two organisms in general and of individuals in particular (von Foerster 2003: 247ff.). And we point out how we can interprete the interaction of two organisms differently as well, for example as stimulus/response behaviour in the sense of Behaviourism (Skinner 1974), as the result of calculations of individual interest in the sense of the rational-choice model (Becker 1976), as a more or less subtle sublimating of Eros and the death instinct in the sense of later psychoanalysis (Freud 1989; Hertz 1985), or also as history, which is to be recounted variously and variously renounced (Benjamin 1969: 253ff.; König 1967). We consider the distance between interaction, on the one side, and its interpretation, on the other, as essential, yet nevertheless point out that this too is one theoretical option among others. Hartmut Esser, for example, designs his model of sociological explication explicitly as a solution to the problem all previous sociology has not been able to solve, namely establishing a connection between structure and action, or respectively between the preconditions, on the one side, and the consequences of human activity in society, on the other (Esser 1999: 1ff.). In that way, it might be possible to resolve the old opposition between human individual and society. We, on the contrary, do not consider this opposition actually central, and certainly not in the sense of Humanism, but, nonetheless, heuristically helpful. In our theory, we opt for the space of action, for the “missing link” in whatever form, because it designates the place where the degrees of freedom are introduced, and doing that, as well as stipulating them, is what permanently occupies the social. From the starting point derived from the theory of action for determining via a “logic of the situation” and a “logic of selection” against the background of a “logic of action,” that in addition differentiates itself less than might appear, as soon as the theory of action is prepared to begin not with action but with selection (ibid.: 14 ff.). But that presumably will not work, because this would extend the search governing the theory of action for “general” and “causal” laws ad absurdum. We consider the gap between structure and action, or respectively the free space for interpretation when observing interaction, to be an indispensable aspect of the circumstance
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to be understood and explained. Solving the problem is one selection among possible other selections and so it loses sight of presumably the most important circumstance, namely how selective selection is. The unsolved problem is, by contrast, in a position to observe every conceivable selection against the background of a range of choice offering other possible selections and to look at how and when and for whom every individual solution can then be convincing all the same. The formula on the usefulness of unsolved problems (Baecker/Kluge 2003) seems suitable for fulfilling the condition underlying Claude Shannon’s original insight into the selectivity of selection: “The system must be designed to operate for every possible selection, not just the one that will actually be chosen since this is unknown at the time of design” (Shannon/Weaver 1963: 31). We only need to exchange the technical assumption, anchored in the concept of the machine or also of the robot to the effect that a system has first of all to be fashioned, against the social assumption anchored in the concepts of self-organisation and autopoeisis to the effect that it has already fashioned itself and will always do so anew, as long as reproducing itself succeeds, in order to be able to formulate the speculation that what is processual and provisional about communication’s objective, temporal and social horizons fulfils Shannon’s condition for system design. Every communication has to know what it is about, how long we will probably hold onto it and who is involved in it, in order to come about at all. But at the same time it has to contain the observation that the topic can be changed under certain circumstances, that past and future can be expanded or reduced, other participants involved or current participants also excluded, as and when. Without this index of contingency, according to our thesis, we would not be dealing with communication but with causality. If this index of contingency is a part of system design, then it produces enough unrest, irritability and sensibility to be able to cope with all possible selections and not only the one just chosen. As long as which selections are possible for a system remains an open question, under the likewise associated condition of limiting them too, a system can always restructure itself to remain equal to possible selections. Social systems fulfil this condition, in as far as they do indeed successfully support and incorporate how their possibilities are technically determined in the framework of rituals, routines, processes, rules and machines for easing communication, yet do not confuse this determination with their own selves. That is because a form is always social when it commits to the interpretation of an interaction, which includes including excluded possibilities (Luhmann : chap. 1). That respectively applies to different degrees for topics, participants and temporal perspectives. The design of a system aiming at possible selections has to include exclusion in the form of being, according to the parameters of the system, capable of

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correction, if not absolutely all the time, then nevertheless within expectations. In the sense here intended, what the collective, science/academia, politics, economics and morality can do, as described by Bruno Latour, aims at designing a system, where practices of exclusion and those of inclusion can be conducted in parallel (Latour 2004). All the same, we ought not to fool ourselves about the extent to which the rules of system design are being re-set. As it concerns nothing less than justifying exclusion, even when eloquent instances point it out, complain about it and suggest corrections, this suggestion far exceeds the formula of democracy the programme of modernity articulates as only considering universal inclusion justifiable. It corrects the actual politics, however much that is denied, of excluding women, the sick, the insane, animals and machines, as it favours a politics of acknowledged but variable exclusion, that is, it begins by not excluding exclusion any more but by including it (Luhmann 1995b: 138ff.). Bruno Latour assigns the moralists the task of nonetheless demanding the fundamentally impossible re-inclusion of what is excluded, regardless of whether it concerns women in Islam, asylum-seekers in Europe or animals in laboratories, and Jacques Derrida worked on an appropriate formula for justice (Derrida 1992), all the time underlining the impossibility of that. It is not superfluous to point out that here is also a correction for what Luhmann discovered as the modern asymmetry, which demands of society inclusivity whilst conceding exclusivity to every individual organisation, provided it can be presented as rational (Luhmann 1997: 844f.). In modernity, everyone belongs to society, but always only few to organisations. That is the reason why there is only one society in modernity, but many organisations. Only one society is permitted to exist, because otherwise the exclusions, which really do exist, would become a problem; and many organisations have to exist, so that everyone nevertheless has a chance at a job. The system design of modern society seems, however, to have exhausted its possibilities, for reasons still not clear. Our current interest in bureaucracy and organisation in the framework of reforming society is also an interest in how we can learn from organisations to handle exclusions without abandoning the social demand of, at least in principle, reintegrating the excluded in relation to staff, customers and partners, but also in relation to products, programmes and profiles. Our point of departure, introducing and stipulating degrees of freedom, is at once abstract and concrete enough to examine every system design in the light of Shannon’s demand and also to be able to vary it according to circumstances. This applies here in four respects, which we here once again collate under the headings of ecology, difference, fractals and design: 1) The heading of ecology is meant to indicate that we interpret forms of communication as forms which have to prove themselves according to the ecological rule of vicinity and for

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this purpose are neither bound into a super system somehow coordinating and integrating everything nor can they rely on the capabilities of such a system. The formula of ecology always focussed on this as it took care not to talk about “eco-systems”, as a large part of the relevant literature nevertheless does, and instead it follows Luhmann’s recommendation to talk about “eco-complexes” (Luhmann 1995a: 505, Fn. 53). Only in this way can we identify and take complexity, variety and multiple layering further as the actual topic, without following the traditional European reflex of looking around for the entirety, where everything is somehow attached to everything and which we only need to know or invoke, in order to discover the rules of this interdependence and show them to others. Our forms of communication are no more parts of a whole than organisms are parts of an eco-system. Instead, we think of every single form and also every single organism ecologically in that radical sense the, empirically, not totally favoured urban sociology in 1920’s Chicago made fundamental to its work (Park/Burgess/McKenzie 1967; see Abbott 1997): we describe forms, where their capacity for integration lies in how suitable they are for neighbourhood relations (in the urban sense), namely in including the exclusion of all others. To this extent, the heading ecology only formulates one more time the idea of differentiating as differentiating what belongs together. That is because it is the case here that the interdependence does not exist outside but inside every single form, that is, it is different for each form. We refuse allegiance to an identity for anything differentiated in this way, and we consider just that the fundamental civil condition of the social. 2) The heading of difference is here mentioned once again for itself, in order to recall how the interaction of participants in communication is interpreted in the framework of two perspectives, which likewise belong together only in the form of their differentiation, namely in the framework of communication’s perspective and in that of consciousness. Every individual is considered to have, in principle, an endless outward horizon of behaviour, action and communication and, in principle, an endless inward horizon of experience, feeling and perception. These horizons are endless, because we treat them like black boxes, that is, as horizons of interpretation, which can be investigated in many ways but never conclusively defined (Glanville 1982; Luhmann 1995a: 117ff.). It is a matter of horizons, because they give an orientation, yet we cannot approach them without their receding. The difference between communication and consciousness is decisive for our model, because it once again secures another form for assuring distance between individuals’ interaction, on the one hand, and their interpretation as communication, on the other. We observe that individuals seem to accompany their communication more or less consciously, but at the same time we observe how opaque this consciousness is too. And we observe our

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own interpretation of their interaction as something observation performs, about which we can never be sure if it is a question of mere consciousness in action or also, and then how, of something communicable in action. How I am supposed to know to what extent the forms of communication I observe and have sketched in this sociological theory of communication are anything else than the inventions of my consciousness in dealing with my social experiences? I cannot know, but have to wait for the communication of this theory, which does not depend on me alone. And were it to be communicated, I have, like everyone else, one more the possibility of tracing the possible contents of this communication back, not only to the idiosyncratic consciousness of readers and authors but also to a squabble among sociologists within their discipline, to an argument among intellectuals or to a praxis in society itself. Every interpretation of an interaction as communication is an observation and, in as far as it is observed by others, an action or respectively a communication, for its part. It can be attributed to mere experience and in that way not only silenced but also made interesting; and it can be taken seriously as communication and so varied once again, because a new interpretation is called for. This ambivalence between experiencing and acting, and the concomitant self-observing of its ambivalent interpretation, is what validates every communication which is self-aware, and hence, while it is indeed the rule in communication itself, it is also the special case of its reflection. 3) The heading of the fractal is a further form of securing what is undetermined and what is determinable. A fractal, according to mathematical conceptualising just as much as to sociological interpretation of it, is a self-similar, utilised form, that is, one emerging in the same way on various levels (micro, meso, macro; short, medium and long term, consensual, dissenting, indifferent) repeatedly, which can be recursively re-identified and iteratively varied, whilst in the same system many other things are going on and evolving at the same time (Mandelbrot 1983; Turner 1997; Abbott 2001; von Foerster 2003: 261ff.). Our forms of communication prevail, as my thesis has it, when interpreting the interaction of individuals, although and because this behaviour simultaneously displays a succession of characteristics, which do not obey any particular interpretation. The form is fractal when it not only permits and repeatedly recovers deviations, exceptions, slip-ups, mistakes and interference but makes them into the material for reproducing itself (Ortmann 2003). A form is fractal when it functions more as rhizome than hierarchy and never repeats the same thing as an identity, but is always confirmed as difference, as twist, as the differentiation it makes (Deleuze/Guattari 1988; Deleuze 1993). Only so can we make sure that the distance between what is interpreted

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and the interpretation, and with that the selectivity of the particular selection, is not lost sight of. A further point for understanding the fractal should be mentioned and is one we have as yet not introduced for itself, yet it is elementary for understanding both the operation of a form of communication and its robustness as a fractal too. This point concerns the way communication is bound up with time and hence with a thought Luhmann recognised and developed as definitive not only for the theory of social systems, but also, in my opinion, for the general theory of systems (Luhmann 1995a: chap. 8; with reference to Allport 1940, 1954, 1955). Communication, it means to say, only appears as a fleeting event and in this form ensures that the problem of reproduction constantly arises anew, but also that connections are both uncertain and variable. We must and we can understand every form of communication, therefore, as a form of micro oscillation, where, whilst employing expectations and correcting them as well as perceptions and their shifting, negotiation goes on for every individual event as to whether and how it is to be understood, adopted and continued. We can only mention this point in retrospect here, because it certainly underpins our construction, but is not yet theoretically proven. For our concept of form as fractal, this idea in any case means that communication can only be understood and described as self-similar, when it is understood as restless or, as people meanwhile like to put it, dynamic. 4) The heading of design is once again meant to bring what Shannon formulated as the demand on every system design explicitly into focus. The circumstance it exploits is classical, yet has recently been newly presented and rendered theoretically accessible, and indicates that people always talk about design when a form is examined, shaped and improved with regard to its function. If we do not oppose form to material or content, but understand it, in Spencer Brown’s sense, as a self-differentiation within a space arising through it, and if we interpret function not teleologically or mechanically, but in Korzybski’s sense as the relation between variables, the heading of design becomes a further key category in the sociological theory of communication. We give design the following form:

The idea of form, of re-integrating what is excluded, opens up a space of differentiation, which is functionally determined subsequently, or in the to and fro between form and function
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respectively. That expresses how a design not only differentiates form and function, but brings it into a context in such a way, that the form informs the function and vice-versa. Informing the function through the form does not mean determining the function, but observing it as regards deeming it contingent, and as regards its reflection and variation. At the same time, that also provides the function, not actually through referring to purposes, needs or intentions, but itself as an interpretation gained by observing the form and one, in contrast to the form, still having to prove itself in each case. In other words, we can vary the form of a design (teacups, chairs, architectural concepts, clothing, cities, public offices, websites….) with a view to possible functions as well as discover new and different functions with a view to the form. If we take these four headings of ecology, difference, fractals and design seriously, we can, in the framework of a sociological theory of communication, name in conclusion some conditions, where the help of such a theory makes it possible to intervene in the circumstances it enables us to describe through its offers of interpretation. The theory, I surmise, has a practical value. Yet that has still got to be shown, and we will, of course, not depart from theory in the framework of presenting it. “Theory” is hence, if so desired, a fifth heading, under which the conditions are set down, allowing the point of departure in indeterminateness, as chosen in the present approach, to be reflected as a determined one. The sociological theory of communication harks back to an ecological indeterminateness, and hence one in the best sense sociological, not to a cosmological, theological or anthropological one. It expects what it can furnish as determinations to be drawn from the world’s conditions of living and from the already tested conditions of communication and not from the order of the whole, from divine decree or from teachings about humanity. The cosmos, the gods and humanity are classifying figures, which, for their part, have to allow themselves to be measured against their capacity for proving themselves in realising a life under ecological conditions. And they are classifying figures we can call on to reflect this life via another perspective from that of our own niche in it.

5.2 Interfaces The sociological theory of communication derives the guarantee of the determinable indeterminacy it talks about from the difference between communication and consciousness. At the latest since William James’s question as to whether consciousness exists (James 1922), both consciousness and communication have been capable of figuring as horizons for attributing their workings as fulfilling a function in reproducing meaning. Consciousness, just
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as much as communication, presents infinite horizons, from which pointers to meaning can be newly gained repeatedly, which, however, all over again make it also possible to trace determined states back to those undetermined. Recently new “locations of indeterminacy” have come into play with computers and the internet (Luhmann 1997: 118), which join in communication with their own calculating capacities and for which we will not, however, be somewhat better prepared until the moment we allow our experiences with consciousness and communication to culminate in describing them as an infinite horizons. The step from the World Wide Web to the Semantic Web (Fensel 2003) may still be pipe dreaming, but it will both fashion itself and be controllable only to the extent that we behave as if what we, in fact, do not master in dealing with spirits, gods and humans, but are all the same used to, were only a qualitative matter. The vanishing point making it possible to apply the sociological theory of communication practically is the concept, known from the design sciences, of the interface or the junction, as the case may be (H. A. Simon 1981; White 1982). Here, we pick up Niklas Luhmann’s suggestion once again, when we say that every design represents a structural link between communication and consciousness (Luhmann 2000b: 148f; see above section 4.7). A teacup, a television set, a flag, a logo, a pub, an internet portal or a corporate identity are designs in all those respects, where they address the perceptive capacity of a consciousness communicatively. The same goes for communication, which we can observe at any time in terms of its design, although we only do that as an exception. It goes for the print of a book, the gestures of a body, the tone of a voice, the smell of a leather chair, and how a knife suits the hand, in as far as here not only are signals being given as to how things can be treated materially, but also signs are being set as to what meaning can be achieved with them, what difference can be respectively reconciled. No communication can manage without such a design, and every design can be read in terms of this demand by communication (Alexander 1964; Norman 1989). That means, however, that design occupies the junction between communication and consciousness and does this in a manner accepting their operative separation, in order to sound out which communicative intentions respectively can be bound up with what type of perception or structurally linked to it in such a way that a sort of attention can be secured, which typically oscillates between irritation and fascination. We know about the bottleneck factor of attention being scarce since the theory of organisation has become empirical and has not only discovered the boundaries of rational decision-making but also described them (March/Simon 1993; Simon 1982). And we know since Georg Simmel’s description of the modern “style of living” (Simmel 1978: chap. 6) how important is an economy of attention

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(Franck 1998), which can find, between indifference and interest, disgust and desire, boredom and curiosity, a balance capable of being both lived and represented. In all societies, we presumably find virtuosi in this style of attention, which always has to include representing its own selectivity, the criteria for it and their inscrutability, if it wants to be communicatively successful and exemplary. Since antiquity, the concept of ethos, the art of living, has gained currency and formulates the problem of how one and the same life has to be conducted, of how it corresponds to the demands of a particular society, whilst simultaneously assuring an individual keeps a distance vis-à-vis society. With one eye on this paradox of a socially furnished freedom for the individual, Michel Foucault spoke of the tasks of ethopoiesis (Foucault 2005), of generating an ethos, which is at once our own and not our own. Homer’s heroes, the youths of the Greek academy, the Roman Stoics are just as much examples of a virtuoso design of communication and consciousness as are the shamans of tribal society, the ladies of courtly society, the Puritans of early capitalism, the dandies of the 19th century and the hippies of the 1960’s. In each case, attitudes of consciousness, although and because inscrutable, are here brought into a form of communication, which is capable of address but cannot be pinned down. A design for the interface between communication and consciousness consists in trying out restrictions, which allow expressing distance and engagement, irritation and fascination simultaneously for perception and for communication in the alternation of sequences. This is because only so, as is to be assumed, can the one, as does the other, can communication as does consciousness, be experienced at all. Irritation makes obvious how dangerous is the game we join here, and fascination how unavoidable. Who actually wants to know what another person is thinking? And who wants to know what behaviour they desire? But for that very reason, it is attractive to find out a segment of what we do not want to know and to prove by that segment that we then do, in actual fact, leave the rest alone. In this way, we operate at the point of interface, we mark it, exploit it, shape it, suffer by it and are happy about it, and on both sides we allow the infinite horizons of communication and consciousness to arise, which make specific how, beyond knowing, there exists not-knowing, and, beyond design, collapse. It is worth testing out the theorem of what design grants as the unity of the difference between irritation and fascination also on door knobs, buttons to make electrical gadgets work, coins, clothes, meat counters, house façades, cityscapes, airports and football stadiums. Normally, we do not notice how we navigate on a hair’s breadth between too great an irritation and too great a fascination, in order to be coolly interested in what is offered to us at any particular time and to deal at our ease with what that involves. With our gaze

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unshakeably directed at the design, we deploy a succession of both social and psychic techniques, in order to dismiss what possibly does not correspond to it. But minimal disruptions are enough to have us experience irritation and fascination as unbearably identified with each other and either to make off or to wind up, consciously and communicatively, at the limits of our own possibilities. Artists exploit this. Yet, for their manoeuvring against whatever is the dominant design, they are also constrained to keep to a design, which counts as aesthetic and can be accepted in this form, namely as a mere suggestion to observers. Art is the re-introduction of design into design; and it can typically choose whether it does this on the side of the form already discovered by design, or on the side of the medium this form calls upon. In the first case, it works on Beauty, in the second on the Sublime, if we understand by that something which still needs sounding out as to whether it is possible at all (Kant 2000: §§23-29). The interface between communication and consciousness is, however, only one example offering points from which to initiate a design comprehending numerous other cases: the interfaces between humans and machines, bodies and things, organisation and society, family and school, politics and economy, religion and education, or truth and science. Each of these interfaces combines two infinite horizons; each of these interfaces gets to deal with a boundary, where quality and structure does not, in fact, result from the differentiated circumstances, but precedes them (Abbott 1995. Every design, therefore, does not deal just with irritation and fascination being simultaneous, but also likewise with truth and lies, in as far as the latter is undeniable in the moment a design works with signals, signs and symbols, which the infinite horizons in question necessarily include as contexts of their selections. Lies and truth are given criteria the moment signs are employed to designate something, which, by definition, cannot be identical with the sign itself (Eco 1979). For us, every design for a interface counts as true if it sends signals, sets up signs and calls on symbols, which are all validated in the sense that they display references capable of being examined independently of the signals, signs and symbols. The signals should not lead people astray. The signs must show what they designate. And the symbols must, in actual fact, accomplish the translations they invoke. Correspondingly, whatever sends false signals, sets up deceptive signs and invokes worthless symbols counts as a lie. But how do I find that out in each case? From what point on am I prepared to attribute a truth or, as the case may be, to suspect a lie? It is not by chance that meanwhile the very words “truth” and “lie” have become difficult for us. We have learned to distrust all signals, signs and symbols, yet, at the same time, we scarcely notice that we constantly trust the signals, signs and symbols we are confronted with all over the place. We believe our trained consciousness and our subtle

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communications warn us off, whilst our perception is just not able to avoid following things as they are offered to it. Against this background, the concept of the interface acquires a heuristic value aimed at being able to describe what has long functioned, in order to be able to test out how it is that what functions here actually does. When a consciousness believes it understands a sentence it hears; when my body accepts the armchair pushed across to it; when I literally buy into the bank for the solidity its advert signals, when children learn that they can behave differently at school from at home; when politicians claim that exceeding their country’s balance of payments means success; when priests profile their educational measures as ministry; and when scientists/academics confuse their theses with truth, interfaces are called on in favour of a communication, which initially functions in each case and can then be brought into doubt. In other words, truth and lies apply, for themselves, to the design of the system. They allow interfaces to vary long enough until they fit, even when we, in the case of sitting on a chair, know that the ideal chair does not exist, because we change our sitting position every ten minutes, so that the design of the interface finds its criterion in variability, not in truth or lies.

5.3 Intervention It is only on the level of design that we have the chance to intervene in circumstances characterised by the infinite horizons of communication and consciousness. Ecology sets the conditions for successful interventions; interfaces provide starting-points. Each intervention is correspondingly unpredictable, but this unpredictability is the condition making it possible. To clarify this condition that makes it possible, we only need to take the heading of interface literally and to read it as intruding, as transmitting, as intervening. If we think of individuals in their environments, who mutually observe each other, go along with each other in entering and quitting the forms of interaction, organisation, society and protest movements and use the meaning functions of system, person, medium, network and evolution to make sense of what selections and attributions of communication are involved at any given time, then it seems advisable to see intervention as a communication with two sides, which tries to encourage particular communications and discourage others. In other words, interventions are communications, which suggest a change, where it would not come to it otherwise, and hence risk both marking an old communication and offering a new one. Interventions are hence communications, which profile themselves by contrast with their own improbability, as neither their self-interest may speak against them, nor may the old communication have

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reasons on its side, which speak against intervention, or lead the new communication into problems intervention has no answers to. An intervention is the exception. Only by remembering this, do we have a chance of not only understanding why it nevertheless happens so often, but also of understanding when it can be successful, The typical stating-point for an intervention is a conflict. Only conflict can guarantee that intervention’s self-interest can be deemed secondary, that the motives for changing communication are plain and that almost every new communication can figure initially as attractive. If this is the case, intervention only has, difficult as that may be, to resist the conflict’s inherent dynamic, which profits from the fact that the world of the conflict is, as regards the topic, the apparently obvious past and foreseeable future as well as the participants, one where communication is so much more evident than in any other. That does mean, however, that intervention has to find a third party, which describes the partners in the conflict as such and hence makes it that much more difficult for them to vote for and not against the conflict and makes them offers about how things could go on after the intervention. Intervention must make itself, with a view to this third party, increasingly invisible and make so attractive the communication newly coming into reach, that discrediting the old is indeed scarcely worth mentioning any more. Hence, intervention is, in the first place, observation (Willke 1994: chap. 2). It has to clarify the conditions under which it can be effective, and it is clear to it that the conditions are not to be clarified causally, but, as in the ancient Chinese teachings on wisdom, only in the context of a situation’s potential (Jullien 2004). Then intervention has to be irritating, that is, to insinuate its observations into the circumstances in such a way, that the latter observe themselves with a view to altering themselves as necessary and possible, without getting the idea of observing the intervention instead (Luhmann 1995b: 90 ff.). And thirdly, the intervention has to have something to offer which defines the conditions under which it can be attractive to engage with it (P. Fuchs 1999: 94f.). All that culminates in describing an intervention and the forms in which it appears: therapy, counselling, but also punishment and education, as forms addressing conflicts in order to give interfaces a new shape. An intervention has hence the following form:

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Marking a conflict opens up a space for differentiation, which can be used for seeking interfaces, determining them and sounding out their potential for variation. Hence, an intervention is design’s mirror image. Whilst in design, form is reflected in order to vary function, a conflict is reflected through intervention in order to vary a interface, that is, to give it a new shape such that the conflict is less obvious or hurts less. The interface is function’s zero point, just as conflict is form’s. Hence, an intervention is, once again differently from art, a form of reintroducing designs into design, yet here not at the point of Beauty and of the Sublime (the all-too-much), but at the point where both form and function fail. And with that, it comes right where the interface is, which can be asserted at any time against communication, which acts as if it could reconcile it, and which, if need be, seeks conflict, in order to prove just that. At present, design and intervention, shaping and changing systems of reproduction and disrupting communication are displaying certain tendencies towards convergence. We are beginning to take seriously what Terry Winograd and Fernando Flores recommended about anticipating collapses, in order to grasp the situation in which a new design is meant to prevail (Winograd/Flores 1986). Fashion stages its clientele’s image-crisis, management the organisation’s bankruptcy, the university its students’ failing, politics the outbreak of violence, in order, in each case, to gain support for its projected changes. This side of collapse, intervention is manifestly scarcely available any more; this side of a failing interface, a new design can scarcely be given away any more. This tendency to convergence bespeaks a paradoxical trust in robust ecologies, as if we could disrupt interfaces at will, because in the latter the observers’ environment finds enough resonance to stimulate them into new attempts at order. We can doubt whether that is justifiable. However, our concept of communication may be suitable, not only theoretically but also practically, to observe more accurately which relations between observers come about and which conditions prevail. On the other hand, this tendency to convergence is, in turn, not so new, when we consider that, in society, law has always aimed, in this sense, at shaping it through offering mechanisms for identifying and resolving conflicts (Luhmann 2004). As soon as observers wanting to assert claims recognise the opportunities coming out of reaching back to the enforcing mechanisms of the state and the law, they can engage in appropriate conflicts, even when these claims are not covered by their own power and persuasive capacity. In this way, someone can go onto the street with a video camera and film traffic infringements and bring them to the notice of the police as well, without on their own ever being able to prevent them (and without preventing them this way either). Here, society is shaped by conflicts being

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marked, so that everyone can consider, on confronting them, whether they engage with them or would rather avoid them. It is precisely in this way that communication between individuals takes on a particular form, which it would not take in another case. In comparison to that, it becomes attractive to reflect on, and to try out, those of communication’s formative possibilities, which do not range over how attractive conflicts or their avoidance are, but over how attractive economic exchange, loving intimacy, scientific/academic curiosity, religious fervour, artistic experiments, neighbourly conversation, organised activity or communal protest are. Of course, it remains the same thing, whether we orientate ourselves according to interfaces and commit to the ecological circumstances of mere vicinity. Perhaps we can say that avoiding conflict only gains its profile thanks to the possibility of conflict and hence, in order to remain attractive, always contains this possibility. Then this would be the measure for every design: having handy the conflict between those things separated by interfaces, whilst making offers for avoiding conflict attractive.

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Index of forms form:

p. 15

p. 35

p. 37

p. 38


p. 52

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p. 63

p. 65

p. 68

p. 73

p. 75

p. 84

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p. 85

p. 92

p. 100

p. 107

p. 118

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