Much scholarship in the history of cybernetics has focused on the far-reaching cultural dimensions of the movement. What has garnered less attention are efforts by cyberneticians such as Warren McCulloch and Norbert Wiener to transform scientific practice in an array of disciplines in the biomedical sciences, and the complex ways these efforts were received by members of traditional disciplines. In a quest for scientific unity that had a decidedly imperialistic flavour, cyberneticians sought to apply practices common in the exact sciences – mainly theoretical modeling – to problems in disciplines that were traditionally defined by highly empirical practices, such as neurophysiology and neuroanatomy. Their efforts were met with mixed, often critical responses. This paper attempts to make sense of such dynamics by exploring the notion of a scientific style and its usefulness in accounting for the contrasts in scientific practice in brain research and in cybernetics during the 1940s. Focusing on two key institutional contexts of brain research and the role of the Rockefeller and Macy Foundations in directing brain research and cybernetics, the paper argues that the conflicts between these fields were not simply about experiment vs. theory but turned more closely on the questions that defined each area and the language used to elaborate answers.
Purpose: Appreciating the relationship between Sylvio Ceccato and Ernst von Glasersfeld, both as people and in their work. Approach: historical and personal accounts, archeological approach to written evidence. Findings: Ceccato’s work is introduced to an English speaking audience, and the roots of Glasersfeld’s work in Ceccato’s is explored. Flaws in Ceccato’s approach are indicated, together with how Glasersfeld’s work overcomes these, specially in language and automatic translation, and what became Radical Constructivism. Conclusion: Glasersfeld willingly acknowledges Ceccato, who he still refers to as the Master. But Ceccato’s work is little known, specially in the English speaking world. The introduction, critique and delineation of extension and resolution of Ceccato’s ideas in Glasersfeld’s work is the intended value of the paper.
The first part of this paper examines the differences between Piaget’s constructivism, what Papert refers to as“constructionism,” and the socio-constructivist approach as portrayed by Vygotsky. All these views are developmental, and they share the notion that people actively contribute to the construction of their knowledge, by transforming their world. Yet the views also differ, each highlighting on some aspects of how children learn and grow, while leaving other questions unanswered. Attempts at integrating these views [learning through experience, through media, and through others] helps shed light on how people of different ages and venues come to make sense of their experience, and find their place – and voice – in the world. Tools, media, and cutural artifacts are the tangible forms, or mediational means, through which we make sense of our world and negociate meaning with others. In the second part of this paper, I speak to the articulations between make-believe activities and creative symbol-use as a guiding connection to rethink the aims of representations. Simulacrum and simulation, I show, play a key role besides language in helping children ground and mediate their experience in new ways. From computer-based microworlds for constructive learning (Papert’s turtle geometry, TERC’s body-syntonic graphing), to social virtual environments (MUDing). In each case, I discuss the roles of symbolic recreation, and imaginary projection (people’s abilities to build and dwell in their creations) as two powerful heuristic to keep in touch with situations, to bring what’s unknown to mind’s reach, and to explore risky ideas on safe grounds. I draw implications for education.
Upshot: In view of Kenny’s clinical insights, Hug’s notes on the intricacies of rational vs. a-rational “knowing” in the design sciences, and Chronaki & Kynigos’s notice of mathematics teachers’ meta-communication on experiences of change, this response reframes the heuristic power of bisociation and suspension of disbelief in the light of Kelly’s notion of “as-if-ism” (constructive alternativism. Doing as-if and playing what-if, I reiterate, are critical to mitigating intra-and inter-personal relations, or meta-communicating. Their epistemic status within the radical constructivist framework is cast in the context of mutually enriching conversational techniques, or language-games, inspired by Maturana’s concepts of “objectivity in parenthesis” and the multiverse.
This bibliometric review covers the scientific production with or about the repertory grid technique between 1998 and 2007. The analysis of previous reviews suggests the need for a more careful and broad process of bibliographic research. With this aim, 24 bibliographic sources were used to cover a wide range of specialties. We began with the drawing up of an explicit protocol in which the research terms were detailed. Then the bibliographic sources were consulted, taking into account a specification of inclusion and exclusion criteria. As a result of this process, 973 references were obtained: 468 were journal papers, 335 book chapters, 108 doctoral theses and 62 books. The review also evaluates the types of documents found, the evolution of the number of works published, the repertory grid’s fields of application and the degree of openness to other disciplines. The most relevant authors, their affiliations, their countries and the publication language are also revealed in this article, as well as the major journals contributing to disseminate the work done with this technique. Relevance: Since Kelly created his personal construct theory (PCT), the repertory grid technique (RGT) has been the most well-known instrument used not only by researchers and practitioners within PCT but also across a variety of disciplines and approaches. In the present work, we try to portray a recent picture of the status of the RGT using bibliometric analysis.
The paper looks at how a society having to deal with the introduction of the computer and its derivatives may differ from earlier societies which dealt with the introduction of language, writing, and the printing press. Each one of the introduction of these media of the dissemination of communication is regarded as a ‘catastrophe ’ forcing the society into new ways to selectively deal with new kinds of surplus meaning. The paper presents a sociological theory having to incorporate aspects of heterogeneous networks and of self-referential action in order to watch how the transformation of modern society into a next society may enfold. It draws a distinction between the structure of a society, ensuring the dissemination of communication, and the culture of the society, enabling it to condense the meaning of disseminated and distributed communication into a form which allows actors to focus on selections of it while taking account of the unmarked state as the other side of any one selection. Niklas Luhmann proposed to consider Aristotelian telos the ancient literal society’s culture form, and Cartesian self-referential restlessness or equilibrium as modern printing press society’s culture form. We add the culture form of boundaries for primitive oral society, and Spencer-Brownian form for the emerging next computer society. The paper will be
This is the second paper of a pair of two, the first one of which looked at a sociological theory of a computer-based future society distinct from earlier language-based ‘primitive’ society, writing-based ancient society, and printing press-based modern society. If the form of the next society’s culture will be the Spencer-Brownian form as we suggest, then sociological theory will have to reformulate itself in terms of an analysis of network synthesis. We look at possible reasons to do so, stemming above all from demands to be able to describe and understand how social actors are able to frame indeterminacy, present a possible model of social action, and advance the idea that it may be useful to base social analysis neither on subjects nor on objects but on a hypokeimon which we here propose to christen ‘catjects’. Catjects describe how a network synthesis comes about.
In the paper we maintain that one way to phrase the title question is to look for the introduction of new media for the distribution of communication as chocks forcing society to develop new structures to both reject and accept possible communication. We develop a kind of media archeology by checking this thesis in the four cases of language, writing, the printing press, and the computer, respectively. We show that four models, the ethnological, the ontological, the functional, and the ecological, help to hold society together by precisely asking the question of how it holds together. The paper is relevant for constructivist approaches because it shows the culture forms that different societies rely on to construct themselves.
Excerpt: Inthe French language, the verb vivre means both “to be alive” (Leben) and “to have an experience, to feel something” (Erleben): it is neutral with respect to the distinction between the transitive life that we call consciousness, and the intransitive life of organisms that merely keep themselves alive. In this text, we put forward the hypothesis that this neutrality, far from being a simple accident of language, is highly revealing as to the primordial status of life; it thus indicates the direction that a phenomenology of life should take. The question that a phenomenology of life has to confront is thus the following: what is the primordial meaning of life such that it precedes the distinction between intransitive and transitive life, and thereby makes this distinction possible? In other words: what is life such that the possibility of consciousness is grounded therein? From the moment we consider that consciousness is basically characterized by intentionality, primordial life must already contain the germ of a fundamental transitivity where intentionality can be grounded; it follows from this that the question of the Being of intentionality, and that of the mode of Being of life, are one and the same question.
I employ spoken and written discourse and extended excerpts from teleconferences between local, state, and federal officials in the midst of Hurricane Katrina to examine the term coordination as one powerful way of accounting for and pragmatically (re)constructing weather in crisis discourse. By means of discourse analysis, I find that the indexical term coordination is part of a metadiscursive vocabulary of disaster, and that, though it performs important social functions in the communication of accountability, authority, and redress, it has very little to do with communicating about weather itself. My conclusion presses for a discursive approach as a means of recovering and understanding social ontologies like weather and the way we materially organize around themes what Latour refers to “matters of concern.” Relevance: It analyzes how notions of weather and disaster are constructed in language.