Saturday, November 14, 2009

Is Facebook a status function?

Philosopher John Searle describes a certain type of invention, he calls it status function, instances of which exist only because people collectively believe in their functions:

Think of the difference between a knife and a 20 dollar bill. The knife will cut just in virtue of its physical structure. But the 20 dollar bill will not buy just in virtue of its physical structure. It can only function as money if it is recognized, accepted, and acknowledged as valid currency. The knife function can exist for anybody capable of exploiting the physics, but the status function can only exist if there is collective representation of the object as having the status that carries the function.

He claims that humans create their civilizations by inventing various status functions:

I regard the invention of the limited liability corporation, like the invention of double-entry bookkeeping, universities, museums, and money, as one of the truly great advances in human civilization. But the greatest advance of all is the invention of status functions, of which these are but instances. ... without them, human civilization, as we think of it, would be impossible.

Status functions seem to be essential for scalability. From a system point of view, they are instances of the Control component.

Source: John Searle. 2005. What is an institution? doi:10.1017/S1744137405000020

tags: invention, ideality, theory, function

No comments: