my way

Last modified December 29th, 2012 by hofkirchner

from the beginning of my academic life, that is, when being educated as political scientist and psychologist, i have been concerned with problems that address the fate of humanity on earth. in the end of the 80ies my conviction formed explicitly that, as scientists, we have to take responsibility for the global challenges humanity is facing. according to my analysis, the challenges that confront societies nowadays result from disparities in human-society relations, in human-environment relations, and in human-technology relations. thus my stance is, in a way, normative in that it guides scientific research and teaching as well and gives orientation. the basic position i since ever have been emphasising at the Vienna University of Technology or the University of Salzburg is that computers, Internet and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) at large make real sense only if applied to enable societies to cope with the challenges and make them altogether sustainable.

empirical studies and designing practical solutions in whatever field can take decisive advantage of being backed by theoretical foundations. ever since my days of formal education, i have been occupied with my predilection for theorising across social sciences and humanities, as well as engineering sciences and natural sciences. it is my conviction that it is in theory where general properties of the most diverse objects of investigation may find common ground.


since ever i have been used to working on the borderline of academic disciplines. actually, i share an interest in natural science that goes back to the early days of my school time when i chose to attend the naturalist branch which, however, could not meet my interest in what makes society work. that was the reason why, in the 70ies of the last century, i enrolled in the study of Political Science and Psychology at the University of Salzburg where i was awarded my Dr.phil. on the thesis “Zur Kontroverse zwischen Karl Raimund Poppers Kritischem Rationalismus und dem Marxismus. Der wissenschaftliche Gesetzesbegriff in den ideologischen Auseinandersetzungen unserer Zeit [On the controversy between Karl Raimund Popper’s Critical Rationalism and Marxism. The concept of scientific law in the contemporary dispute]“.

since the beginning of my professional career i have been working in the field of Science–Technology–Society (STS) which cuts across different disciplines.

when being a research fellow at the Institute of Socio-Economic Development Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences which was well known in the 80ies for interdisciplinary studies, i dealt with a variety of topics like the assessment of automatisation technologies, philosophy of science, peace research, political economy, ecology. during these years with Peter Fleissner who was deputy director of the institute, i was trained in mathematical tools of systems science like Input-Output-analysis and Systems Dynamics modeling.

however, i was not willing to neglect the importance of the qualitative side of scientific reasoning and became interested in the foundations of systems science and complexity science after i had followed Peter Fleissner from the Austrian Academy of Sciences to the Vienna University of Technology where he founded the Social Cybernetics Working Group when being appointed full professor. at the same time when i became aware of the importance of global challenges for scientific research i discovered the connection between the rising complexity of practical problems of development of society and thinking in complexity.

in the years that followed i have been trying to apply complex thinking to information science, information technology and information society. thus self-organisation has begun to take center stage. i undertook my habilitation (professorial dissertation) in the field of Technology Assessment on the topic of “Projekt Eine Welt. Versuch über die Selbstorganisation der Informationsgesellschaft. Oder Kognition Kommunikation Kooperation [Project One World. An essay on the self-organisation of information society. Or Cognition Communication  Co-operation]“. in 2002 i founded, together with Christian Fuchs who originally was a student of mine, the Unified Theory of Information Research Group which is dedicated to the advancement of information sciences. during my stay at the University of Salzburg i could further elaborate my critical stance and i developed the vision of the “Global Sustainable Information Society”.

now i am heading for a new science of information. a book on my approach towards a unified theory of information in the perspective of self-organisation – “Emergent Information” – (a very short introduction to which was recently released) has been released at the turn from 2012 to 2013 and i’m currently writing, based upon that, another book about a critical approach towards information society theory.