Today, most sociologists accept that communities arise, not necessarily from face-to-face interaction, but rather from shared meanings. Because they are capable of promulgating shared meanings on an unprecedented scale, new communication and media technologies (including newspapers, motion pictures, radio, television, and computer-based communications) are capable of creating communities that vastly transcend the limits of face-to-face interaction. (Pfaffenberger 2008: 651)
Durkheim’s understanding of society was informed by likening its constituent elements to an advanced, highly differentiated organism. Scientific and technological advances in the twentieth century made new metaphors available to sociological theorists. Drawing on the emerging fields of cybernetics and systems theory, in the 1930s American sociologist Talcott Parsons (1902–1979) depicted the interdependence of social phenomena in terms of a hierarchy of intercoupled systems and subsystems. Niklas Luhmann (1927–1998), a student of Parsons, drawing on chaos theory, depicted society as a complex, self-organizing system. (Pfaffenberger 2008: 651)
PFAFFENBERGER, BRYAN. 2008. “Society,” in International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2nd Edition edited by William A. Darity Jr. et al., Vol. 7, pp. 650-653. Woodbridge: MacMillan Reference USA.