Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 16. Nr. Juli 2006

1.3. Instabilität und Zerfallsformen gesellschaftlicher Zusammenhänge: Soziale Ungewissheit, Unsicherheit und Prekarisierung
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Recurring Reconstruction – Interpretation Of Life Story/ Biography Analysis

Ritva Lindroos (Loviisa/Porvoo)


This analysis examines entrepreneurship and the biographies of entrepreneurs as a form of communication. In this context it is assumed that such communication together with productive business activity form a coherent element. It is then possible to extract the language entrepreneurs have used in their biographies and transform them into subject matter for research .

The research is qualitative and emphasises the consolidation of different viewpoints including Niklas Luhmann’s system theory, cognitive science, semiotics and management theories - but naturally each is applied only to a limited extent. The objective is to find generalisations based on the theoretical backgrounds used. When the strength of the biographies as a variable is taken into account, it is necessary to consider the reliability of the analyses with which the research aims are defined.

The research also considers the utilisation of staff resources and biographies in organizations. The entrepreneur works for the good of the company, creating resources for the benefit of all. When the research focuses on a person and his life story, the findings can be used to support the development of the organization as a post-modern organization culture which builds the mind metaphor. The study views the organization metaphor as post-modern, since the biographies offer experiences which can be used to understand a life story as a framework for individual action. The approach can be viewed as administrative science and the research methodology is based on the author’s studies in semiotics and cognitive metaphor theory. The interviews focus on the following issues:

Stories about childhood and youth, studies, working life as an entrepreneur and organizations.

A linguistic choice can carry a meaning which may form a demarcation in the communication system. In this context the life stories are considered to be linguistic expressions of choices and actions.

How does written communication convey life stories? In order to communicate what entrepreneurship means one has to look for two meanings:


Communication and the form of language

This study perceives entrepreneurship as a form of communication, while the language used is itself the subject of the research.

Thus the biographical communication of entrepreneurs and their related factors can be approached as language research.


The reality of language

  1. The biographical narrative must be analysed along with the information it conveys, the metaphors used, and its overall meaning.

  2. In verbal communication, old forms of speech can be emphasised, and speech itself may impart calls to action or offer ideas for reflection. Therefore the communications we examine comprise stories with varying points of view on entrepreneurship. The form or character of the narration also needs to be considered. For example, the style of the language may be interpreted as renewal, reflection or as a process.

  3. Communication is a product. Life stories are reconstructions; and the reconstruction must be identified to describe the form of the language.

  4. Symbolic expression results in semiotic tendencies that in turn seek underlying symbolic theories, illustrations and descriptions. Semiotics encompasses forms of symbolism as a part of language analysis. Events are therefore indexed according to specific featuresderived from the ownership perspective - as a symbol of its own existence.


Theoretical Model / Design

This study is based on post-modern management and organization theory that could be to the advantage to the entrepreneur.(1)

The analysis attempts to present a new approach to the organizational theory of biography as an entity in entrepreneurship. Thus the biography / life story becomes a critical element in the study of entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurs must decide which factors drive their actions and the rationale behind them. Thus the experiences communicated in their biographies lend heuristic support and bring new possibilities to the training of entrepreneurs.

There is also an element of choice in which construction produces reconstruction, requiring the subject to revisit and evaluate his previous theory.

Changes in an entrepreneur’s biography / life story are defined by changes in a metaphorical sense, which give birth to an element of communication that has to be discovered. Communication and the discovery of its elements in turn result in a better understanding of entrepreneurship. When these biographies are recorded, they help others to understand the individual entrepreneur and assist in the interpretation of other related studies. An empirical study using this model can be applied to explain the fundamentals of entrepreneurship.

The perspective brought by application of these models supports the appropriate schooling, consultation and training on the subject of entrepreneurship, generating a post-modern approach to the study of entrepreneurship with new and better methods.


Metaphoric Research

The outline of this paper is partly metaphoric, and based on communication comprising consciousness and psychological machinery - or a systems approach to organization. The approach used in this study is empirical.

The source material has been collected primarily from individual entrepreneurs through questionnaires and interviews - and which is couched in metaphoric biographical language. The interviews lead to the generalisation that entrepreneurship is a trait possessed by some individuals. But on what level - what are the criteria or qualities all entrepreneurs possess?

The study is qualitative in that it tries to find a general concept for generalization.

However, since the analysis makes use of biographical content, it therefore becomes necessary to employ some empirical analysis to arrive at objective interpretations. The findings assist those working in the field by providing possibilities for entrepreneurs to gain valuable insights into an entire industry.

Biography therefore provides a frame of reference that is useful in understanding the business environment. Organizational systems supplement such knowledge to result in successful entrepreneurship. The study of biography in entrepreneurship would also be applicable for Public Administration research.

Semiotics and cognitive metaphor theories are part of development study methods. Biographies are important in influencing changes in the training of the entrepreneur. At the same time, appropriate education systems are essential for preparing and producing entrepreneurs.

New communication methods which offer flexibility and support need to be implemented to establish suitable conditions for the education and training of entrepreneurs.



Biographies can be seen as tools for producing oneness using narrations of ownership. This is allowed to those who narrate the biographies, because they cannot be a narration of any unambiguous facts or concrete-linear events. Biographies are neither lists nor facts but they inevitably include a reconstruction that is based on oneness. "The biographical subject is a structure based on the connection of the past with the future. Nobody, neither the narrator nor the outside observer is capable of presenting a life in its entirety. It is only possible to present selected memories and experiences and gather them with certain logic to be presented as a story. Every form of self-consciousness, be they possible biographical sketches or presentations of oneself as me, is a structure that contains a basic consciousness and the true existence of the self, especially in regard to culture and language."(2)

Biography is flexible and open, but changes its form to produce some coherence over time. A biography may refer back to a previous period to gain ground for reform and choice. The process of the consciousness can be seen as creating choices that cannot be predicted, but which can be regarded as a release. Inevitably, changes in the system of the consciousness are required to interact with the social system. If biography is to be observed as a continuous process, it could result in a decision regarding time: what kind of biography is narrated at that very moment, when one is not ready to form opinions about other observations?

But biography may alternate between being an observer and making observations of other realities that may be influenced by environmental disturbances of which writing a biography in turn may be the cause. The interviewer thus associates him/herself with the environment of the interview/narration. The expectations arising from the narrative level of the biography and related to other expectations, realistic with reference to the narrative, therefore create a space in the memory that is made for them.(3)

"Memory constructs structures only for momentary use due to the selectivity (of the system) and the cropping of the many possibilities of connection. All orientation is nothing but a construction newly segregations realized from one moment to other. With this understanding, identity can seem to be only momentarily stable, but changes its form in the next choice/segregation. The biography referred to by changes is produced as a choice of the moment which, in turn, chooses the information, expression and understanding of the event according to each moment and situation.(4)

It is necessary to understand biographies as consisting of different levels to make oneself part of their ownership. This study utilises the premise to reveal the kind of ownership that Max Stirner(5) represents with his philosophy. Everyone owns his/her life and makes his/her own biography.


Ownership as consciousness

The problem of the conscious is discussed in an article by Antti Revonsuo.(6) The study defines ownership as a concept of consciousness, because discussing ownership is better founded in relation to the objective. My view of the human image emphasises the individual or subject as ownership. When I speak of biographies I also mean that through communication every individual produces a story, whereby relationships between the situations and interactions create a model for story telling.

The owner produces a narrative, which is then described empirically. From this point, the research begins to construct its own theory, using existing theoretical sources. This paper identifies the narrative as ownership, described as the owner’s individual actions. Thus the owner becomes a heuristic concept, in relation to the empirical research of biographies. It is necessary to study how by relating their biographies, individuals as owners can rise to be the guardians of their own lifestyle. The study therefore creates a space for the entrepreneurial lifestyle which then constructs a societal and habitual choice describing entrepreneurship.

It begins by relating how the metaphors in biographies can raise the level of story telling to the airing of issues for discussion, in addition to constituting the mechanics of the narrative. It is evident that the story telling is a preconceived idea. The language conveys the essence of the biography as a free state of relating, which is linguistically formed primarily by picking language forms. The mechanisms of language are seen as automatic. "Speech, the external manifestation of language, is by no means the natural way of human communication. Therefore the speaker only needs to consciously think of the meaning of the words, because the sound-chains representing the words are formed automatically."(7)

I have pondered biography as a vehicle for change, and I wish to study ownership as a way to produce acts of language. The meanings forming these actions can be regarded as conscious. When an issue demands a focus of attention on the lifestyle as a whole or an individual situation, my theories can be justified as a reflection, whose objective is to accomplish change.(8) If the change described has the aim of producing a better life situation, biographies could be considered as surfacing from a need to control ownership. The existing situation therefore seems to be adequate only if it is enough to support or legitimize the individual’s real issues with the objective of maintaining the status quo of daily actions without changes. When I previously talked of a change of individual consciousness, and of metaphors as the tools of ownership to "produce" changes in my research, I implied that I am presenting facts from the ownership perspective, which I grant to everyone relating their biography. It is the metaphors of ownership that are being emphasised in this study.

The metaphors of ownership in biographical work could promote ideas of individual issues along with the possibility for improvement, change or changes brought about in life as an owner. Therefore ownership of change is an important subject for research, pertaining to which we must allow the influence of biographical metaphors as well as emotions. This paper focuses the research of biographical metaphors on ownership - that is, change brought about as a result of entrepreneurship. It essentially describes a meta-level examination of the change factor in biographies. The choices for change can be scrutinised when biographies are recognised as factors of change.

Presumably the opportunity to create a biography suitable for the study entrepreneurship is unique, but at the same time society presents expectations which must be fulfilled. The biographies are transformed when interpreted in the direction of the metaphoric cognitive levels of language; but change first requires fulfillment at the level of the mind. How can change be theoretically interpreted as a transformation at the biographical level - that is, based on a change of thinking?

This challenge should be viewed from the perspective of the existing research, but the answer lies at the communication level. This requires the interpretation of change in entrepreneurship as communication, participating in the biography to integrate into the expectations of change. So from the ownership perspective, entrepreneurial metaphors are seen as a kind of expectation of expectations. In other words it answers to the anticipated and existing expectation of entrepreneurship producing communication for society, community or some other collective level.

The individual consciousness responds to the challenges in the process of change by creating a relationship with communication. But how can communication be researched at the level of the interviewee?


The outlook of cognitive science

In the traditional, especially pragmatic models, it has been assumed, for example, that metaphors differ from verbatim language usage. Understanding these thus requires additional cognitive activity. In psycholinguistical experimental studies it has been found that metaphorical meanings or at least the verbatim meanings can be activated simultaneously in realistic social contexts.(9)

"Linguistics or semiotics are not such forums where it would be natural to discuss reliable deep representations. They can discuss how verbal and semiotic expressions build up and what some combination of symbols means, but their task is not to describe the determination and construction of deep representations. The question why in certain representations certain content elements receive a certain representation does not have a connection with code systems. Thus it is not naturally a semiotic or linguistic but a cognitive science problem. However, all explorable representation contents do always get their expression in a code system." (10)

"Linguistic or broader semiotic expressions are portrayed with a sign system, but the understanding of their proportional content and the unspoken mental contents that adhere to it contextually are seen to form the basis of the content analysis."(11)

This study presents propositions about the kind of information that provides the basis for content analysis. It uncovers meanings by creating language forms and metaphors, whose relationship and connection to cognitive propositions form the semiotic subject to be explained in this research. When the propositions of change in the text are found, so are the interpretations of which forms of language are used to describe change.

In this research it is not possible to actually focus on the cognitive psychological research because it would require a different research framework. The assumptions about the consciousness however, answer the challenges of my original theory (Luhmann’s system theory) and act as an introduction to the conscious at the centre of my research.

The ownership of biography and metaphors, and the event that follows is interpreted biographically as a change brought about by each individual biographer. Participation in the communication is possible only as the work of the conscious. Thus it is necessary to explain what kind of consciousness could possibly be produced from the communication viewpoint. The owner’s metaphors for creating entrepreneurship can be returned to the owner’s biography for individual identification in relation to events that have lead to ownership and entrepreneurship (change).


The view of cognitive semiotics

"The semiotic approach defends its position, as the issue is essentially one of signs and their relations, through which definitions evolve, and transfer into various communication and interaction forms. It is a cognitive process in a larger sense, so that it encompasses all mental attitudes and personal behaviour, that are outside the propositional thought and feelings, intentions, reactions etc. This is a question of instrumental aid for memory and communication, through which thought itself gets its content. Therefore, I see it proper to call all of these phenomena with a common name "cognitive semiosis" which I interpret as cognitive semiotics."(12)

"What is common in all different approaches is the definition by mental representation or internal models and understanding of the representation as an explicit or implicit explanation about how the signs have to be deciphered depending on the factor."(13)

The relevance of cognitive science to semiotics is discussed for example, in Thomas C. Daddesio’s(14) book "On Minds and Symbols".

Linguistics, semiotics and cognitive science and the demarcations among them can, in the future, become very important. In this part of the research, I focus on presenting the theories or models and theorizing the models provided by the empirical study. My research will produce a qualitative theory, which can be examined by using different perspectives. This provides an opportunity to return to the discussion on the possibilities provided by different sciences to continue the study of communication.


The Research

1) Communication

1a) Information

1b) Expressions or Metaphors

1c) Understanding (communication phases and elements)

2) Interaction, identity, biography

3) Ownership, symbols and system.

© Ritva Lindroos (Loviisa/Porvoo)


(1) See Holtbrügge, Dirk 2001. Postmoderne Organisationstheorie und Organisationsgestaltung. Wiesbaden: Gabler.

(2) Ecarius, Jutta 1998, 132.

(3) See Luhmann, Niklas 1997, 44 - 45.

(4) Luhmann, Niklas 1997, 44 - 45.

(5) Stirner, Max 2000 (1845). Der Einzige und sein Eigentum. Stuttgart: Reclam.

(6) Revonsuo, A. 1996. Tajunnan ongelma. Teoksessa: Revonsuo, A.&Lang, H.&Aaltonen, O. Mieli ja aivot. Kognitiivinen neurotiede.

(7) Revonsuo, A. 1996, 227.

(8) See Lindroos, R. 1999, 214; ks. myös Jörgensen, R. 1996, 275 - 276.

(9) Herkmann, J. /lessons 12. 11.2003

(10) Herkmann, J. /lessons 12. 11/2003, 55 - 56.

(11) Saariluoma, P. 2000, 46.

(12) Tuovinen, Jussi 2000, 74.

(13) Tuovinen, J. 2000, 47.

(14) Daddesio,T.C. 1995


1.3. Instabilität und Zerfallsformen gesellschaftlicher Zusammenhänge: Soziale Ungewissheit, Unsicherheit und Prekarisierung

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