Organisations as Computing Systems


  • David Strohmaier Cambridge University


social ontology, group agency, philosophy of the social sciences


Organisations are computing systems. The university’s sports centre is a computing system for managing sports teams and facilities. The tenure committee is a computing system for assigning tenure status. Despite an increasing number of publications in group ontology, the computational nature of organisations has not been recognised. The present paper is the first in this debate to propose a theory of organisations as groups structured for computing. I begin by describing the current situation in group ontology and by spelling out the thesis in more detail. I then present the example of a sports centre to illustrate why one might intuitively think of organisations as computing systems. To substantiate the thesis, I introduce Piccinini’s restrictive analysis of physical computation. As I show, organisations meet all criteria for being computing systems. Organisations are structured groups with the function of manipulating medium-independent vehicles according to rules. Furthermore, I argue for the modal claim that this is a necessary feature of organisations. Having sketched the computational account of organisations, I compare it to other proposals in the literature.


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