What I am describing is life in education institutions is relational, and that these relationships are multi-directional and multi-layered. These are social relationships, occurring between human participants, the technological objects they have at their disposal, and the environment of the educational institution. These relationships only exist because there are participants who are autopoietically enactive in sustaining these relationships. They autopoietically structurally couple to the other people, objects, and the environment, and through that activity, they create composite unities. These composite unities are comprised of the participants involved in autopoietic structural coupling, and the objects they are are interactive with, and the educational institution they are situated within.
I am applying autopoiesis to social systems because any system that is self creating, that is, it would not exist without the activity of those who sustain it, is dependent on its existence for the autopoietic activity of the participants for whom it exists.
This is how enactivism in education systems works. The education system would not exist without the human participants, whose activity gives life to the education system. The participants are autopoietically sustaining the life of an education system by their drive to structurally couple to each other within the environment of the educational institution. Each instance of structurally coupling to the educational institution is an instance of enacting the institution as a composite unity, as a living social system. At the same time, as the educational institution constitutes the environment within which participants are structurally coupling, it is simultaneously constituting the possibilities for autopoietic imagination. The educational environment is constituting the possible experiences of the environment that participants are drawing from, in order to discern how they are going to structurally couple to that environment. Participants’ experience in the educational system contributes to the range of possibilities the participants are able to imagine as they formulate their autopoietic response to the environment. They structurally couple to that environment based on this information, and in so doing, they create a composite unity of the institution. At the same time, because the educational institution is a composite unity of what participants are capable of imagining, and participants’ experiences within the educational institution constitute what participants are capable of imagining, the relationships amongst participants constitute the educational institution, and those relationships are predicated on experiences within the educational institution.
What we have is a continuous feedback loop, wherein the educational institution, as a composite unity of all the relational activity occurring within it, is in a constant process of being created. The participants within the educational institution, whose autopoietic imagination is shaped by their institutional experiences, enact the entity of the institution through structural coupling.
This explains why education systems have been so slow to implement any new practices into the profession of teaching. Even though educators themselves, and the institutions they work within, express a desire to change the course of life in educational institutions, if they don’t understand how that life is continuously being reconstituted through their daily relationships within it, and that they must change their involvement in those behaviours, there will be no change.
This is the connection between autopoiesis, structural coupling, and composite unities as a biological theory that explains the innate properties of living organisms that sustain life in ecological biological systems, and my argument that social systems are also living ecological systems, whose life is sustained by the relational web of social beings. These social beings are social because they have an innate property of autopoiesis, which enables them to form social relationships, to structurally couple in social dimensions. Through the formation of these composite unities, they create and sustain living social systems, whose properties are ecological, these living social systems are ecologies of social systems.