Symposium E. Cybernetics of …: Reciprocity and Reflexivity in Cybernetic Thinking

Chairs: Ranulph Glanville, Portsmouth, UK, Karl H. Müller, WISDOM, Vienna, Austria

Paper presentations and roundtable discussions

Cybernetics has its origin in the inter-, trans- and meta-disciplinary. It provided, Margaret Mead claimed (1968), a means to allow us to create and share common understandings by developing a common language.

Thus, Cybernetics has always been an abstraction (remember Ashby’s “cybernetics is the study of all possible abstract machines”), and has (like systems theory and other meta-disciplines) always been applied in other fields. But, like systems theory, for instance, it is a field in its own right, and again like systems theory, it can be applied to itself, as Mead also requested in the same paper: in analogy to systems theory, we have the cybernetics of cybernetics, or meta-cybernetics—also known as second order cybernetics, the cybernetics of observing systems (Foerster et al 1974). More recently, some call this neo-cybernetics.

This symposium will focus on what the current approaches of second-order cybernetics bring to various fields, including second-order cybernetics itself. In keeping with the circular/spiral nature of cybernetic systems, it will, reflexively, ask the same question in reciprocation: what have the various fields brought to second-order cybernetics?

The symposium will consist of two elements: formal presentations on what we can learn from the bringing together of cybernetic insights in cybernetics and other fields: and round table discussions open to all who have attended the formal presentations, kick-started by panels of distinguished practitioners.


Foerster, H von et al (eds) (1974) Cybernetics of Cybernetics, Urbana, BCL/University of Illinois

Glanville, R. (2008), The Black B∞x, vol. 3: 39 Steps. Vienna, edition echoraum

Mead, M (1968) Cybernetics of Cybernetics, in Foerster, H von et al (eds) Purposive Systems, New York, Spartan Books

Müller. K.H. (2011), The New Science of Cybernetics. The Evolution of Living Research Designs, vol. 2: Theory. Vienna, edition echoraum


Session 1 (Chair: Burak Pak)

  • William (Bill) Curtis Seaman: Neosentience and The Abstraction of Abstraction
  • David Di Duca: Experimenting Machines
  • Dmitry V. Galkin: Collaborative Systems Design for Innovation and Creativity: From Social Networks to Collective Intelligence
  • Discussion

Session 2 (Chair: David di Duca)

  • Ray Ison, Chris Blackmore: Designing and developing a reflexive learning system for managing systemic change in a climate-change world based on cyber-systemic understandings
  • Jose dos Santos Cabral Filho: The Mutual Relevance of Cybernetics and Brazilian Culture
  • Burak Pak, Ranulph Glanville: An Online Conversational Learning Environment Based on Quasi Entailment Mesh
  • Discussion
  • Practical (during the break)

Session 3 (Chair: Karl H. Müller)

  • Practical
  • Concluding round table discussion