Cybernetics:  Social Activism in Everyday Life

Larry Richards
Indiana University

This interactive tutorial will explore ideas in cybernetics through the lens of social processes and societal change. It will start with the concept of society and then work back to develop a vocabulary for thinking and talking about the dynamics of human relations and behavior that support the concept. As the concept of human society implies linguistic behavior, language will be a central theme of the tutorial. Special attention will be given to the distinctions that arise from the various linguistic/logical domains of cybernetics, e.g., linearity vs. circularity, causal explanation vs. descriptive dynamics, state-determined vs. structure-determined systems, control vs. autonomy, communication vs. conversation, hierarchy vs. heterarchy, power vs. participation. While every attempt will be made to relate the ideas to everyday life, the potential of the individual to participate in transforming a society will not be ignored. The tutorial should end with a discussion of responsibility and freedom in the context of human desire and action and the process of creating a desirable society.