02 January 2009

A Brief, 3,000-Year History of the Future of Organization

In honour of the 40th anniversary of the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, the Program is sponsoring the publication of an edited volume entitled, Effects of Technology: Multidisciplinary perspectives. Because of my involvement with the Program (prior to joining OISE), I was invited to contribute a chapter. Here's the abstract I proposed for my chapter:
The Toronto School of Communications discourse suggests that the dominant form of communication in a society creates an environment, from which the structuring institutions of that society emerge. This paper briefly traces the history of the institution of organization through the major cultural epochs of Western civilization: primary orality, phonetic literacy and the manuscript culture, the mechanized print culture and industrialization, and the contemporary culture of instantaneous, multi-way, electric communication. In particular, the paper proposes, and reports on empirical research that supports, a new fundamental model of organization that is consistent with today’s conditions of ubiquitous connectivity and pervasive proximity (UCaPP). This Valence Theory of Organization represents a fundamental reversal (McLuhan, 1988) of the prior conception of the purposeful organization, structured with Bureaucracy, Administrative controls and Hierarchy (BAH).
I just completed a first draft of the chapter entitled, "A Brief, 3,000-Year History of the Future of Organization." It looks at the organizations of Athenian democracy, the medieval Church, modern bureaucracy, administration and hierarchy, and of course, Valence Theory and UCaPP organizations (and how did you spend your Christmas break?). Thanks to all those who provided me feedback before submitting the chapter to the editors. If you might like to read the current version of the draft chapter, please email me your request.

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