Ecological Systems Thinking: Luhmann, McLuhan and the Subject

Adriana Braga, Adriano Rodrigues


Relationship between Systems Theory from Luhmann and the media ecological perspective from McLuhan are discussed. Luhmann's struggle against structuralism in the 1970's derived in a reversal of the dominance of structure over the Umwelt. Against Habermas, Luhmann proposed that the Umwelt precedes the system just as for McLuhan the medium precedes the message. The notion of figure/ground entails the precedence of the ground over the figure, which is an aesthetical perspective similar to that of Luhmann, in which the Umwelt precedes the System. We intend to explore the notion of environment in these two theories and its relation to the notion of the subject. This approach of McLuhan and Luhmann's has led to some criticism of their work in terms of anti-humanism or technological determinism. Exploring the systemic nature of McLuhan’s thought we aim to relate media ecology and systems theory.


Communications Theory; Systems Theory; Media Ecology; figure/ground; Umwelt;

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Systema: connecting matter, life, culture and technology (ISSN: 2305-6991) is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal. All journal content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.