A central question of governance in our time is how actors in complex, diverse and dynamic contexts can be harmonized, respecting the needs and limitations of their contexts. New technologies enable shaping and modelling interactions to an extent hitherto unknown. They constitute a huge potential to support and integrate interactions and to reshape governance. This paper sets out to explore a concept of interaction applicable to media which captures and addresses the specific characteristics of social systems required to ensure their viability.
The potential of cybernetics and systems theory for both the design and application of media in social contexts is explored. Building on an autopoietic concept of social systems, a notion of governance as a process of interaction is established. Beer's Viable Systems Model (VSM) and Schwaninger's Model of Systemic Control is applied to derive the characteristic elements, configurations and types of interaction required to support balancing actors' images in social systems. Links to political and social science theory are provided.
Cybernetic and system theories provide a solid conceptual basis for capturing the complexity, dynamics and diversity of interaction. Identifying and addressing the relevant characteristics of interaction in social systems can be achieved through the application of cybernetic tools and vocabulary. These can be used to specify and secure the necessary and sufficient design principles for media through which the viability of social systems can be promoted.
The paper shows that requirements to the structure of media applied in social contexts can be specified. Analysing interactions in all kind of social systems does provide clues for the development, implementation, and configuration of improved media. When applied properly, these can boost up governing interactions to much more productive and sustainable forms. This turns out to be a remarkable opportunity to promote the governance of social systems.
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