In this review of Ranulph Glanville’s book Objekte, I begin by covering the following topics: my own relationship with Glanville, his relationships with peers and mentors and how Objekte came into being. I then briefly discuss some of Objekte’s major themes. I end by positioning Glanville’s book as a valuable contribution to cybernetics.
Purpose: To present sociocybernetic models of observers in interaction with the aim of encouraging reflection on what is good practice in human communication. Design/methodology/approach – Foundational cybernetic concepts of process and product are drawn upon to develop models of belief, meaning, truth and power. Findings: Belief, following Pask and Rescher, is modelled as a coherent, self-reproducing system of concepts. Meaning, following Peirce, is modelled in terms of the pragmatic consequences of holding certain beliefs to be true. The concept of truth is modelled as justified true belief, the classic ideal of the objective sciences. Power is modelled as the pragmatic consequences of socialinteraction. Originality/value – The paper invites the members of the sociocybernetics community to reflect on the reflexive nature of these models and to critically monitor and evaluate the quality of the communication within that community.
Innovations in the use of Information and Communications Technologies ICT, give rise to organisational change as a more or less intended concomitant. At the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, ICT is being deployed in a number of innovative ways to support the delivery of education and training and associated business processes. Part of my role, as a learning technology specialist, is to act as a facilitator of organisational change. In this paper, I give an account of my work. For guidance, I draw on the action learning, action research and organisational change literatures. I also explicitly draw on sociocybernetics to provide key concepts and principles. I set out my understanding of these key concepts and principles and illustrate their relevance and application using my Defence Academy and some other experiences as case studies.
This review of the work of Gordon Pask is in two parts, ordered chronologically. The first part concludes with reference to a seminal paper Park 1969a in which Pask argued the need for a cybernetics which could successfully address itself, in a full-blooded sense, to the problem of human cognition and consciousness. The requirements to be met by such a theory were spelled out; their statement represented the distillation of Park’s work as a cybernetician which, at that stage, already spanned nearly two decades. Pask responded to his own challenge and in the following years in association with Kallikourdis and Scott produced what he, himself, recognised as his major work: conversation theory and its several applications in education and decision making. Conversation theory and its chief areas of application are addressed in Part 2 of this article.
Conversation Theory was conceived and developed by Gordon Pask in the days when he was Research Director of System Research Ltd, a non-profit research organisation founded in the 1950's. I worked with Gordon at System Research Ltd between 1968 and 1978. Here, I give a personalised account of the development of Conversation Theory and its applications as I observed and participated in them during those years. Conversation Theory is reflexive: it explains the observer to himself. Being party to its development was a journey of self-discovery and self-invention in which Gordon was my guide and mentor. I have ordered my account chronologically; I have also tried to show how Conversation Theory evolved in a “boot-strapping” manner as a tool and as an explanation of its own significance. Gordon, par excellence, knew how to foster creative conversation and “moments of excellence”
Purpose: Gordon Pask has left behind a voluminous scientific oeuvre in which he frequently uses technical language and a detail of argument that makes his work difficult to access except by the most dedicated of students. His ideas have also evolved over a long period. This paper provides introductions to three of Pask’s key concepts: “conversations,” “individuals,” and “concepts.” Method: Based on the author’s close knowledge of Pask’s work, as his collaborator for ten years and as someone who has had access to and is familiar with almost all of his published work, the paper selects three of Pask’s key concepts for elucidation in order to motivate the interested reader to explore Pask’s work in the original. Results: Pask’s key concepts, “conversations,” “individuals,” and “concepts,” which are central in his conversation theory and his later elaborations in “interaction of actors theory,” are shown to be grounded in fundamental principles from cybernetics. Furthermore, the form of Pask’s theorising is that of second order (reflexive) metatheorising, developing theories of theorising that explain their own form and genesis.
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to set out some ideas about how sociocybernetics can contribute to understanding possible world futures. A central concept in cybernetics is governance, the art of steersmanship. As conceived by Ashby, Beer and others, this art is concerned with the management of variety. How do we face the challenge of managing all the variety that makes up possible world futures? Design/methodology/approach – The paper uses the distinction between first and second order cybernetics as a way of bringing order to the wide variety of disciplinary studies that are relevant for the understanding of possible world futures. Findings: Sociocybernetics is concerned with applying theories and methods from cybernetics and the systems sciences to the social sciences by offering concepts and tools for addressing problems holistically and globally. With its distinction between first order studies of observed systems and the second order study of observing systems, sociocybernetics provides a unifying epistemological and methodological conceptual framework. Within this framework, sociocybernetics accommodates awealth of specialisms in the social sciences, ranging, for example, from the drivers and effects of technological development to sustainability to justice. The shared framework facilitates communication between social science specialisms and also between the social sciences, the natural sciences and the applied, technological sciences. Originality/value – The paper will be of interest to anyone keen to see how ideas from cybernetics and the systems sciences can facilitate interdisciplinary approaches to the understanding of complex social systems.
As stated in the conference call for papers, The Web has moved from being a one-way communication channel extending traditional media, to a complex peer-to-peer communication space with a blurred author/audience distinction and new ways to create, share and use knowledge in a social way. The theme of this paper is that of the emerging ‘global conversation’ that is being afforded by social media and how, as individual and collectives, we embody, construct and, hopefully, survive the social order of which we are a part. The paper develops an understanding of what are individuals and collectives drawing on Pask and Scott’s conversation theory, Beer’s viable systems model and Luhmann’s theory of social systems. The stage is then set to identify and address a number of issues, theoretical and practical, that arise as one contemplates the form that the global conversation is taking.
Throughout the world, educational, political and other social systems are in transition under the combined impact of ecological, demographic, cultural and technological changes. Arguably, there is a special role for Higher Education Institutions HEIs, not only to accommodate themselves to these changes, but also to lead the way in understanding them, to help avoid or ameliorate the painful consequences of change and to contribute to the practical achievement of sustainable development. In order to move towards these goals, it is worthwhile, if not essential, for there to be a reappraisal of the roles and functioning of HEIs. This paper addresses these issues by first briefly summarising the developments that have led to the age of global information and the ‘great debates’ concerning ownership, poverty, literacy and sustainable development that have been engendered. It goes on to consider the special roles of HEIs in understanding what is happening and in promoting constructive action. It argues that is a particularly constructive role for the transdisciplines first and second order cybernetics, sociocybernetics. These latter can fruitfully be a source of order and simplicity amidst disorder and complexity, by providing a ‘lingua franca’, conceptual understandings and hopefully shared values. Particular reference is made to the conversation theory of Gordon Pask. Finally, there is a brief discussion of how developments in e-learning can contribute to ensuring a secure and sustainable future for all.