Four pillars of Luhmann’s analytical apparatus: Applications for communication research




Niklas Luhmann, systems theory, communication research, analytical frameworks, form analysis, observation analysis, differentiation analysis, semantic analysis


By extending Andersen’s (2003) propositions, the current paper formalizes Luhmann’s four fundamental analytical frameworks and proposes a model that delineates the relations among them. That is, with the form analysis as the base framework, observation analysis is considered the social extension of form analysis as it involves the distinction observer / observed or ego / alter. Differentiation analysis is described as the factual extension of form as it distinguishes a system (this) and everything else (in its environment). Finally, semantic analysis is considered the temporal extension of form analysis as it focuses on the condensation of meaning over time. In addition, to overcome the abstractness of descriptions in the existing literature, this paper suggests the workable definitions that operationalize the analytical frames. Rich research examples are also presented to demonstrate the broad applicability of the four frameworks in communication research and their analytical gains. These theory-driven analytical frameworks are expected to provide meaningful connections between empirical data and theories, thereby enriching the field of communication research. In turn, more empirical applications will contribute to Luhmann’s systems theory by bringing in productive insights.




How to Cite

Sohn, Y. (2021). Four pillars of Luhmann’s analytical apparatus: Applications for communication research. Studies in Communication Sciences, 21(2), 207–224.