This paper revisits an earlier study of the common ground shared by Alfred Korzybski, founder of general semantics, and Marshall McLuhan, the central figure in media ecology, and makes explicit the use of systems theory to bridge the gap between the two. Following a brief summary of the systems approach and its relationship to the media ecology intellectual tradition, sociologist Niklas Luhmann is identified as an appropriate mediator between Korzybski and McLuhan, for his application of the concept of autopoiesis to the study of society. Korzybski’s key term of abstracting is compared to McLuhan’s emphasis on medium, and suggests that McLuhan’s true concern was with a process of mediating rather than a medium as a thing. Korzybski only discussed abstracting in quantitative terms, i.e., levels or orders of abstracting, but McLuhan’s approach suggests the need to distinguish between qualitative differences as well, in the form of the mode of abstracting.
Lance Strate (2010), Korzybski, Luhmann, and McLuhan, Proceedings of the Media Ecology Association, Volume 11, 2010.