Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Evolution and Communication

Virginia Nightingale.

The resurgence of interest in evolution, a ‘flow’ concept, stems from its emphasis on the body as a living system with a history that stretches back millions of years, and from its currency in the context of artificial intelligence where the prospect of future, posthuman life continues to be sought. This paper, therefore, examines the use of evolution in the development of “integrated interpretations” of communications systems, comparing in particular the writings of Humberto Maturana (Maturana and Varela 1987; Maturana:1997) and Pierre Levy (1997; 2001). The paper begins, however, by reassessing the writing of George Herbert Mead (1863 – 1931), philosopher and social theorist, whose theories of mind, self and society were informed by both Darwinian and Lamarckian theories of evolution. Mead used the concept of evolution to explain how life-processes actively produce and reproduce form, both bodies and external structures (Mead 1977). Evolution provided the underlying theoretical strength that led to Mead’s writing being so influential for the development of symbolic interactionism in the 1960s and 1970s. The grounding in evolution also brings his writing to our attention again as cyberspace disrupts the communications systems that shaped the world during the broadcasting era. Mead’s writing on evolution offers a point of comparison and contrast between both Maturana and Levy, and a sense of continuity between past and contemporary uses of evolution to interpret human society.


Virginia Nightingale  (Australia)
Associate Professor in Media and Communication
School of Communication, Design and Media
University of Western Sydney

  • Evolution
  • Communication
  • Cyberspace
  • Cyberculture
  • Emotions
  • Immanence
Person as Subject
  • Maturana, Humberto, Levy, Pierre, Mead, George Herbert

(Virtual Presentation, English)