Considers that in ecosystem, landscape and global ecology, an energetics reading of ecological systems is an expression of a cybernetic, systemic and holistic approach. In ecosystem ecology, the Odumian paradigm emphasizes the concept of emergence, but it has not been accompanied by the creation of a method that fully respects the complexity of the objects studied. In landscape ecology, although the emergentist, multi-level, triadic methodology of J.K. Feibleman and D.T. Campbell has gained acceptance, the importance of emergent properties is still (...) undervalued. In global ecology, the Gaia hypothesis is an expression of an organicist metaphor, while the emergentist terminology used is incongruent with the underlying physicalist cybernetics. More generally, an analytico-additional methodology and the reduction of the properties of ecosystems to the laws of physical chemistry render purely formal any assertion about the emergentist and holistic nature of the ecological systems studied. (shrink)
Well-known critics of AI such as Hubert Dreyfus and Michael Polanyi tend to confuse cybernetics with AI. Such a confusion is quite misleading and should not be overlooked. In the first place, cybernetics is not vulnerable to criticism of AI as cognitivistic and behaviouristic. In the second place, AI researchers are recommended to consider the cybernetics approach as a way of overcoming the limitations of cognitivism and behaviourism.
Systems Theory and Scientific Philosophy constitutes a totally new approach to philosophy, the philosophy of mind and the problems of artificial intelligence, and is based upon the pioneering work in cybernetics of W. Ross Ashby. While science is humanity's attempt to know how the world works and philosophy its attempt to know why, scientific philosophy is the application of scientific techniques to questions of philosophy.
This book, published in 1976, presents an entirely original approach to the subject of the mind-body problem, examining it in terms of the conceptual links between the physical sciences and the sciences of human behaviour. It is based on the cybernetic concepts of information and feedback and on the related concepts of thermodynamic and communication-theoretic entropy. The foundation of the approach is the theme of continuity between evolution, learning and human consciousness. The author defines life as a process of energy (...) exchange between organism and environment, and evolution as a feedback process maintaining equilibrium between environment and reproductive group. He demonstrates that closely related feedback processes on the levels of the behaving organism and of the organism’s nervous system constitute the phenomena of learning and consciousness respectively. He analyses language as an expedient for extending human information-processing and control capacities beyond those provided by one’s own nervous system, and shows reason to be a mode of processing information in the form of concepts removed from immediate stimulus control. The last chapter touches on colour vision, pleasure and pain, intentionality, self-awareness and other subjective phenomena. Of special interest to the communication theorist and philosopher, this study is also of interest to psychologists and anyone interested in the connection between the physical and life sciences. (shrink)
This is the outline: Introduction — La question de la cybernétique et de l'information — Une « pensée du milieu » — Cybernétique et homologie — Une théorie de l'apprentissage — L'information vue de l'autre côté — Champ et domaine unitaire — La thèse des « autres-je » — Le passage par l'axiologie — La rétroaction vraie — L'ontologie de Ruyer — Le bruissement de l'être même.
It is asked to what extent answers to such questions as ?Can machines think??, ?Could robots have feelings?? might be expected to yield insight into traditional mind?body questions. It has sometimes been assumed that answering the first set of questions would be the same as answering the second. Against this approach other philosophers have argued that answering the first set of questions would not help us to answer the second. It is argued that both of these assessments are mistaken. It (...) is then claimed, although not argued in detail, that the following three approaches to the first set of questions are mistaken: (1) machines (and robots) obviously cannot think, feel, create, etc., since they do only what they are programmed to do; (2) on the basis of ah analysis of the meaning of the words ?machine? ('robot?, ?think?, ?feel?, etc.) we can see that in principle it would be impossible for machines (or robots) to think, feel, create, etc.; (3) machines (and robots) obviously can (or could) think, feel, etc., since they do certain things which, if we were to do them, would require thought, feeling, etc. It is argued that, once it is seen why approach (2) is mistaken, it becomes desirable to decline ?in principle? approaches to the first set of questions and to favor ?piecemeal investigations? where attention is centered upon what is actually taking place in machine technology, the development of new programming techniques, etc. Some suggestions are made concerning the relevance of current computer simulation studies to traditional mind?body questions. A new set of questions is proposed as a substitute for the first set of questions. It is hoped that attempts to answer these may provide us with new and detailed portraits of the mind?body relationship. (shrink)
Artificial intelligence and the interrogation game; Scientific method and explanation; Godel's incompleteness theorem; Determinism and uncertainty; Axioms, theorems and formalisation; Creativity; Consciousness and free will; Pragmatics; A ...
In this age of DNA computers and artificial intelligence, information is becoming disembodied even as the "bodies" that once carried it vanish into virtuality. While some marvel at these changes, envisioning consciousness downloaded into a computer or humans "beamed" _Star Trek_-style, others view them with horror, seeing monsters brooding in the machines. In _How We Became Posthuman,_ N. Katherine Hayles separates hype from fact, investigating the fate of embodiment in an information age. Hayles relates three interwoven stories: how information lost (...) its body, that is, how it came to be conceptualized as an entity separate from the material forms that carry it; the cultural and technological construction of the cyborg; and the dismantling of the liberal humanist "subject" in cybernetic discourse, along with the emergence of the "posthuman." Ranging widely across the history of technology, cultural studies, and literary criticism, Hayles shows what had to be erased, forgotten, and elided to conceive of information as a disembodied entity. Thus she moves from the post-World War II Macy Conferences on cybernetics to the 1952 novel _Limbo_ by cybernetics aficionado Bernard Wolfe; from the concept of self-making to Philip K. Dick's literary explorations of hallucination and reality; and from artificial life to postmodern novels exploring the implications of seeing humans as cybernetic systems. Although becoming posthuman can be nightmarish, Hayles shows how it can also be liberating. From the birth of cybernetics to artificial life, _How We Became Posthuman_ provides an indispensable account of how we arrived in our virtual age, and of where we might go from here. (shrink)
The history of British cybernetics offers us a different form of science and engineering, one that does not seek to dominate nature through knowledge. I want to say that one can distinguish two different paradigms in the history of science and technology: the one that Heidegger despised, which we could call the Modern paradigm, and another, cybernetic, nonModern, paradigm that he might have approved of. This essay focusses on work in the 1950s and early 1960s by two of Britain’s (...) leading cyberneticians, Stafford Beer and Gordon Pask, in the field of what one can call biological computing. My object is to get as clear as I can on what Beer and Pask were up to. At the end, I will discuss Beer’s hylozoist ontology of matter, mind and spirit. This material is not easy to get the hang of—but that is what one should expect from an unfamiliar paradigm. (shrink)
Any great new theoretical framework has an epistemological and an ontological aspect to its philosophy as well as an axiological one, and one needs to understand all three aspects in order to grasp the deep aspiration and idea of the theoretical framework. Presently, there is a widespread effort to understand C. S. Peirce's (1837–1914) pragmaticistic semeiotics, and to develop it by integrating the results of modern science and evolutionary thinking; first, producing a biosemiotics and, second, by integrating it with the (...) progress in cybernetics, information science, and system theory to create a cybersemiotics. In this paper, we focus on the understanding of the evolution of the universe that Peirce produced as an alternative to the mechanistic view underlying classical physics and try to place man in an evolving universe as a creative, aesthetical agent. It is true that modern non-equilibrium physics has made a modern foundation for a profound physical understanding of the basic evolutionary processes in the universe. But science still has not produced a theory that can explain how the creativity of the universe could produce signification, interpretation, and first-person consciousness. To this end, Peirce's thoughts on agapastic evolution coupled with the aesthetically influence of the growth of ideas and reasonableness on man could make a contribution. (shrink)
Context: The term “second-order cybernetics” was introduced by von Foerster in 1974 as the “cybernetics of observing systems,” both the act of observing systems and systems that observe. Since then, the term has been used by many authors in articles and books and has been the subject of many conference panels and symposia. Problem: The term is still not widely known outside the fields of cybernetics and systems science and the importance and implications of the work associated (...) with second-order cybernetics is not yet widely discussed. I claim that the transition from cybernetics to second-order cybernetics is a fundamental scientific revolution that is not restricted to cybernetics or systems science. Second-order cybernetics can be regarded as a scientific revolution for the general methodology of science and for many disciplines as well. Method: I first review the history of cybernetics and second-order cybernetics. Then I analyze the major contents of von Foerster’s fundamental revolution in science and present it as a general model for an alternative methodology of science. Subsequently, I present an example of practicing second-order socio-cybernetics from within. I describe some consequences of doing science from within, and I suggest some new horizons for second-order cybernetics. Results: Second-order cybernetics leads to a new foundation for conducting science and offers important contributions for a new way of organizing science. It expands the conception of science so that it can more adequately deal with living systems. Implications: Second-order cybernetics extends the traditional scientific approach by bringing scientists within the domain of what is described and analyzed. It provides models of research processes for when the scientist is within the system being studied. In this way it offers a new foundation for research in the social sciences, in management science, and in other fields such as the environmental sciences or the life sciences. Keywords: Epistemology, general scientific methodology, cybernetics, social sciences, action research, Heinz von Foerster. (shrink)
Is cybernetics good, bad, or indifferent? SherryTurkle enlists deconstructive theory to celebrate thecomputer age as the embodiment of difference. Nolonger just a theory, one can now live a virtual life. Within a differential but ontologically detachedfield of signifiers, one can construct and reconstructegos and environments from the bottom up andendlessly. Lucas Introna, in contrast, enlists theethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas to condemn thesame computer age for increasing the distance betweenflesh and blood people. Mediating the face-to-facerelation between real people, allowing (...) and encouragingcommunication at a distance, information technologywould alienate individuals from the social immediacyproductive of moral obligations and responsibilities. In this paper I argue against both of thesepositions, and for similar reasons. Turkle''scelebration and Introna''s condemnation of informationtechnology both depend, so I will argue, on the samemistaken meta-interpretation of it. Like Introna,however, but to achieve a different end, I will enlistLevinas''s ethical philosophy to make this case. (shrink)
Context: Second-order cybernetics and its implications have been understood within the cybernetics community for some time. These implications are important for understanding the structure of scientific endeavor, and for researchers in other fields to see the reflexive nature of scientific research. This article is about the role of context in the creation and exploration of our experience. Problem: The purpose of this article is to point out the fundamental nature of the circularity in cybernetics and in scientific (...) work in general. I give a point of view on the nature of objective knowledge by placing it in the context of reflexivity and eigenform. Method: The approach to the topic is based on logical analysis of the nature of circularity. Mathematics and cybernetics are both fundamentally concerned with the structure of distinctions, but there can be no definition of a distinction without circularity, since such a definition would itself be a distinction. The article proceeds by explicating the structure of reflexive domains D where the transformations of the domain are in one-to-one correspondence with the domain itself. Results: I show that every element of a reflexive domain has a fixed point. This means that eigenforms arise naturally in reflexive domains. Furthermore, a reflexive domain is itself an eigenform (at a higher level. This supports the context of a second-order science that would study domains of science as part of a larger cybernetic landscape. Implications: The value of the article is in its concise reformulation of the scientific endeavor as a search for eigenforms in reflexive domains. This new view of science is promising in that it includes the former worlds of apparent objectivity and it embraces those newer worlds of science where the theories and theorists become active participants in the ongoing process of creating knowledge. Constructivist content: I argue that the perspective of reflexive domains constitutes a new way to think about the practice of science, with observers deeply imbedded, and objectivity understood as the mutual search for eigenforms. (shrink)
Context: Although second-order cybernetics was proposed as a new way of cybernetic investigations around 1970, its general status and its modus operandi are still far from obvious. Problem: We want to provide a new perspective on the scope and the currently available potential of second-order cybernetics within today’s science landscapes. Method: We invited a group of scholars who have produced foundational work on second-order cybernetics in recent years, and organized an open call for new approaches to second-order (...)cybernetics. The accepted contributions are discussed and mapped. We also investigate the relations between second-order cybernetics and second-order science. Results: We present a coherent outlook on the scope of second-order cybernetics today, identify a general methodology of science and show that second-order cybernetics can be used in a large number of disciplines that go well beyond purely scientific domains. These results are based on a new epistemic mode “from within,” which can be traced back directly to von Foerster. We also arrived at the conclusion that from its early years onwards second-order cybernetics was developed in two different ways, so that second-order cybernetics and second-order science operate in different domains. Implications: Both the coherent perspective of the scope of second-order cybernetics with a new five-part agenda and the outline for a general methodology of science based on a new epistemic mode that was created within and for second-order cybernetics demonstrate the growing importance of reflexivity in science, which, so far, has not been widely recognized. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “Cybernetic Foundations for Psychology” by Bernard Scott. Upshot: Scott’s proposal is well-founded and opens interesting possibilities. We selected some critical aspects of his argumentation and discuss them in the context of the constructivist perspective. We highlight as Scott’s “blind spot” his statement - presented without further argument - of the need for a conceptual and theoretical unification of psychology from the perspective of second-order cybernetics. We find this especially worrisome as it is based (...) on only one version of cybernetics. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “Second-Order Cybernetics as a Fundamental Revolution in Science” by Stuart A. Umpleby. Upshot: This commentary looks at the parallel developments in contiguous fields that include and encourage multiple viewpoints and the validity of multiple positions. I contend that necessity will overcome the resistance to disturbing the status quo of power structures when the stakes become high enough.
Context: The thoroughly second-order cybernetic underpinnings of naturalist theatre have gone almost entirely unremarked in the literature of both theatre studies and cybernetics itself. As a result, rich opportunities for the two fields to draw mutual benefit and break new ground through both theoretical and empirical investigations of these underpinnings have, thus far, gone untapped. Problem: The field of cybernetics continues to remain academically marginalized for, among other things, its alleged lack of experimental rigor. At the same time, (...) the field of theatre studies finds itself at an impasse between post-structuralist semioticians and embodied cognitivists regarding key onto-epistemological issues. A program of research framing and utilizing naturalist theatre as a second-order cybernetic/cybersemiotic laboratory holds much promise in addressing both matters and lending credence to Ross Ashby’s assertion that “the discovery that two fields are related leads to each branch helping in the development of the other.” Method: After establishing the nature of the onto-epistemological deadlock within theatre studies, this article examines the application of cybernetic heuristics within naturalistic theatre, leading to a second-order cybernetic analysis of its processes of production and reception and the outline of an experimental program for exploring these processes further. Results: Foundations for a model of naturalist theatre as a cybersemiotic laboratory grounded in a novel operationalization of Gordon Pask’s conversation theory. Implications: The proposed laboratory could result in the generation of quantitative and qualitative research pertaining to several dimensions of second-order cybernetics; particularly cybersemiotics, which, as a result, may end up better positioned to help dissolve onto-epistemological deadlocks between constructivists and realists of all stripes across the academy and beyond. Constructivist content: I argue that an analysis of naturalistic theatre’s processes of meaning-making filtered through the constructivist ontological agnosticism of second-order cybernetics offers a productive middle way forward for those on both sides of the social constructivist/embodied cognitive realist divide, within and beyond theatre studies. The article draws upon the works of Gregory Bateson, Søren Brier, Ranulph Glanville, Heinz von Foerster, and Niklas Luhmann. (shrink)
It remains to summarize the contributions which each of the three disciplines discussed here is making toward the development of a science of man. "Significs" makes a study of the effects on human behavior of the linguistic aspects of the evaluative process, the most distinctly human aspect of the behavior of the human organism. "Mathematical Biophysics" seeks to describe the events associated with evaluative processes in physico-mathematical terms. "Cybernetics" is discovering important invariants common to these processes and others, particularly (...) those observed in man-made machines and in situations which lend themselves to description in thermo-dynamic or statistical (order -- chaos) terms. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “Second-Order Cybernetics as a Fundamental Revolution in Science” by Stuart A. Umpleby. Upshot: Connecting Umpleby’s article with Piaget and García’s genetic epistemology, I will argue that the revolution the former discerns is more comprehensive. Additionally, since the latter differ from cybernetic and radical traditions in their philosophical assumptions about society and its conditioning on knowledge, I will suggest that these assumptions must be considered to explain each constructivist program’s achievements and challenges.
Open peer commentary on the article “Design Research as a Variety of Second-Order Cybernetic Practice” by Ben Sweeting. Upshot: This commentary supports Sweeting’s case for the relationship between the design tradition, second-order cybernetics and second-order science. It argues, however, that the extension of this argument to other intellectual traditions and areas of practice is complicated by differing views of material agency.
Organizational cybernetics offers theoretical and methodological support for self-organizing communities seeking to contribute to the conscious evolution of society. Previous experiences with the Viable Systems Model (VSM) and Team Syntegrity (TS) illustrate ways of enabling social networks to create a shared language, reach democratic agreements, and develop knowledge networks.
Open peer commentary on the article “Second-Order Cybernetics as a Fundamental Revolution in Science” by Stuart A. Umpleby. Upshot: Theory without a strong methodology is stranded in philosophy. Principles devolved from theory can be applied to situations in the arena of practice in many ways; however, a continually improving science must refine its theories with feedback from data drawn from the use of continually improving sets of codified methodologies. Second-order cybernetics is contingent upon sense-making within sapient systems. A (...) perspective on cognitive science points toward the requirements for an enabling sense-making methodology for second-order cybernetic science. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “Second-Order Cybernetics as a Fundamental Revolution in Science” by Stuart A. Umpleby. Upshot: Buried in the jargon of constructivism and cybernetics lies the essence of what second-order cybernetics can do for its practitioners. The labels and names get in the way; to move forward we must refocus on that essence - which is to ask always how context matters.
Summary: The aim of this collection is to provide a two-fold access to von Foerster's legacy and his work at the Biological Computer Laboratory, the institution he founded and directed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1958 to 1976. It represents a precious contribution for the understanding of BCL, a crucial but still not properly understood chapter in the history of cybernetics and, more generally, of cognitive science. It is greatly recommended.
Open peer commentary on the article “Cybernetic Foundations for Psychology” by Bernard Scott. Upshot: Scott’s ideas of a unifying conceptual framework and metanarrative for the seemingly divergent psychology fields may be met with challenges. Four obstacles are presented, which can be addressed in order to mitigate resistance to Scott achieving his goal of cybernetics fulfilling these dual roles in the psychologies.
Open peer commentary on the article ““Black Box” Theatre: Second-Order Cybernetics and Naturalism in Rehearsal and Performance” by Tom Scholte. Upshot: Scholte’s attempt to link theatre studies with cybernetics faces at least two problems: historically, there could not have been any direct influence between these two fields; and conceptually, do we need second-order cybernetics, and the concept of the black box in particular, to account for the Stanislavski system?
Open peer commentary on the article ““Black Box” Theatre: Second-Order Cybernetics and Naturalism in Rehearsal and Performance” by Tom Scholte. Upshot: Scholte proposes using the theatre as a laboratory for experimenting with ideas in second-order cybernetics, adding to the repertoire of approaches for advancing this way of thinking. Second-order cybernetics, as art, science and craft, raises questions about the forms of experimentation most useful in such a laboratory. Theatre provides an opportunity to “play” with the dynamics of (...) human interactions and relations and possibly demonstrate value in second-order cybernetic thinking. (shrink)
From the perspective of biological cybernetics, “real world” robots have no fundamental advantage over computer simulations when used as models for biological behavior. They can even weaken biological relevance. From an engineering point of view, however, robots can benefit from solutions found in biological systems. We emphasize the importance of this distinction and give examples for artificial systems based on insect biology.
The ideas and methods of cybernetics are increasingly penetrating the biological and medical sciences, and today we are justified in speaking of a new branch of science: biological and medical cybernetics. This branch already has a number of important and encouraging subfields.
The field of information technology is broadened up to the domain of ‘learning’ systems and cybernetics. In covering this extension of the field due recourse is made to the epistemological basis of theory construction. When so comprehended, information technology becomes a philosophical inquiry on a variety of social, scientific and technological issues. A new idea that we refer to as neuro-cybernetics is born. The term neuro-cybernetics is used to delineate the epistemological field of system and cybernetic study. (...) The above-mentioned phenomenological or the epistemic model of a cybernetic and system type is applied to flood control problem in Bangladesh. This example presents an application of the cybernetic model to a physico-human problem. This is the nature of socio-scientific system. In it, organically unifying relations occur between the environment and the human world, with the objective of controlling the perennial problem of floods by using interactive factors. (shrink)
Context: In this empirical and conceptual paper on the historical, philosophical, and epistemological backgrounds of second-order cybernetics, the emergence of a significant pedagogical component to Heinz von Foerster’s work during the last years of the Biological Computer Laboratory is placed against the backdrop of social and intellectual movements on the American landscape. Problem: Previous discussion in this regard has focused largely on the student radicalism of the later 1960s. A wider-angled view of the American intellectual counterculture is needed. However, (...) this historical nexus is complicated and more often dismissed than brought into clear focus. Method: This essay assembles a historical sequence of archival materials for critical analysis, linked to a conceptual argument eliciting from those materials the second-order cybernetic concepts of observation, recursion, and paradox. Results: In this period, von Foerster found the “positive of the negative” in the social and intellectual unrest of that moment and cultivated those insights for the broader constitution of a new cognitive orientation. Implications: As a successful student of his own continuing course on heuristics, von Foerster left the academic mainstream to ally his constructivist epistemology with the systems counterculture. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “Design Research as a Variety of Second-Order Cybernetic Practice” by Ben Sweeting. Upshot: I claim that the parallels between design research, second-order cybernetics and second-order science, as discussed by Sweeting in the target article, are more explicit in digital design. The discussion of SOC and SOS can point towards the creation of an epistemological foundation to digital design, where self-reflexivity and the inclusion of the observer are central questions.
Open peer commentary on the article “Design Research as a Variety of Second-Order Cybernetic Practice” by Ben Sweeting. Upshot: Based on Sweeting’s central question of what design can bring to cybernetics, this commentary extends and adds further depth to the target article. Aspects discussed include the nature of practice in relation to design, the introduction of designerly ways of acting and thinking through acting to cybernetics, and the re-introduction of material experimentation typical of early cybernetics.
Open peer commentary on the article “Cybernetic Foundations for Psychology” by Bernard Scott. Upshot: Based on my personal and professional experiences as a university teacher of social work, systemic psychotherapy, and education, I suggest the concepts of third-order cybernetics and synergetics as a support to creating a more unified and integrated framework of psychology to better understand and deal with complex, self-organizing systems.
The fateful entanglements of psychoanalysis, cybernetics and digital media Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9570-0 Authors Leon Antonio Rocha, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, Free School Lane, Cambridge, CB2 3RH UK Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
Open peer commentary on the article “Designing Academic Conferences in the Light of Second-Order Cybernetics” by Laurence D. Richards. Upshot: Richards’s long history and commitment to cybernetics provides a well-rounded view of the dichotomy between the traditional conference and one aspiring for second-order cybernetic attributes. We examine why traditional conferences have proved so resilient, despite their shortcomings, and discuss some issues that underlie the dynamics of the participation of academics in non-traditional conferences.
Cybernetics as a usable past Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9497-x Authors Ronald R. Kline, Science and Technology Studies Department, 334 Rockefeller Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
The achievements of modern cybernetics and mathematical logic are of much importance to an understanding of the nature of the thinking process. One of the principal tasks which these branches of knowledge set themselves is a study of the laws of thought with the aid of exact mathematical methods and modeling techniques. It goes without saying that neither cybernetics nor mathematical logic can pretend to offer a complete explanation of so complex a process as that of thinking. The (...) physiological aspect, which relates to the fact that life is the specific form of existence of proteins, is outside the framework of cybernetics and especially of mathematical logic. Likewise, cybernetics and logic do not and cannot replace the social sciences in explaining the specifics of the social aspect of the thinking process. (shrink)
No generally accepted, unambiguous definition of the term "cybernetics" yet exists. However, we believe that many disputes about the purpose and spheres of application of cybernetics could be brought to an end if the definition of it as the science of the laws of control of complex dynamic systems were accepted. Such dynamic systems exist in unique forms both in living nature and in human society. These are systems capable of changing their state and comprising a multitude of (...) simpler, interrelated and mutually-influencing elementary systems or elements. The state of a complete dynamic system as a whole, like that of its individual elements, is characterized by the value of one or a number of parameters changing in accordance with various laws. The transition of a complex dynamic system from one state to another is termed a process. The switching of a system from one condition to another by bringing influences to bear upon its parameters is termed control. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “Designing Academic Conferences in the Light of Second-Order Cybernetics” by Laurence D. Richards. Upshot: Richards offers a variety of second-order concepts relevant when designing academic conferences. I insist and add on a few ideas. An emphasis for both: How can one design a space and structure that encourages deep conversations?
Context: A tension exists between the needs and desires of the institutions providing the funding for academics to attend conferences and the potential for transforming the knowledge and understanding of conference participants - than in advancing their own careers and celebrity. Approaches to the problem can recognize the importance of funding and career-building in the current society, while still experimenting in ways that could generate new ideas. Method: Ideas from second-order cybernetics are used to derive design principles that might (...) alleviate the tension and encourage deep conversations, idea generation and experimentation. The author draws on experiences with designing, organizing and participating in cybernetics conferences over a period of 34 years. Results: An academic conference designed to a set of broad, second-order cybernetic principles, where participants are informed of the design intent before they decide to attend, can open an opportunity for learning, understanding and the creation of new ideas in ways that would not otherwise be available. Although there are no guarantees, such designs can attenuate the tension, often experienced at traditionally designed conferences, between advancing individual careers/celebrity and building new knowledge together. Implications: The design principles derived, already exhibited in some conferences, could be useful to organizers wishing to foster incompatible and opposing ideas and facilitate dialogue among conference participants. These same principles have implications for the design of other social systems and point to the possibility of a new and more humane society. Constructivist content: A feature of second-order cybernetics is that knowledge is continually changing as our desires change, and we must take responsibility for the consequences of the ideas we construct and use to satisfy our desires. Key Words: Design by constraint, dynamics of interaction, asynchronicity, tyranny of the clock, times of truth, moments of art. (shrink)