chapter  19
SYSTEMS THEORY
ByBRUCE CLARKE
Pages 12

However, the strong sense of the system concept denotes a complex ensemble unified in such a way that a process emerges from, and only from, the interdependent interactions of those elements. Systems theory attends to both the elements and the processes of the systems it observes. For instance, a genome – the full packet of DNA within every cell – is a double-helical structure composed of molecules, a macromolecule ordered so as to encode and replicate genetic information. However, the genome is only one element of the entire cellular system. In order to get to the processes of life, you need to bring together the entirety of a cell. All of the interdependent and interacting elements (structures or sub-systems) of that complex totality – genome, organelles, cytoplasm, and membrane – come together to produce the ongoing processes of cellular life. As such, the cell is the minimal form of a living system. An element/process distinction can now be observed between Barthes’s

statement about narrative and the strong definition of systems. As a complex structure of signs, the literary object, such as a narrative text, is an element ready to be taken up and processed by an observing system. However, the narrative subject – the observer of the text – can be one of, or be comprised of, multiple systems, most immediately the psychic systems (or minds) producing perceptions and intuitions of the text, and the social systems (or conversations)

within which the text circulates as an element of literary communication. At least one more distinction must be noted: in their prodigious variety, systems may be physical or technological, biological or cultural, natural or artificial, or a combination of all of the above. Unlike stories, nothing restricts the nature of systems to “man’s” dominion. In this way, systems theory lends itself to the discourse of posthumanism.