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Introduction: a conference doing the cybernetics of cybernetics

Ranulph Glanville (University College London, London, UK)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 9 August 2011




This paper introduces the other papers in this issue, describing and arguing for the context in which they were written – a conference that was, unusually, based in conversation rather than reporting through the presentation of papers: and a refereeing process that continued after the initial presentation (at the conference) of the work reported, thus allowing responses to critical comments. Many of our authors do not come from scientific backgrounds, and writing papers such as we are used to is a novel experience to, and discipline for, them.


The organisation and structure of the conference and the processes of refereeing involved are described; and the argument is made that the particularities of each are more cybernetic than the more familiar arrangements.


The conference processes were greatly valued by the authors. This is evident in the papers presented in this volume, although the convention of presenting only the final form of the paper may mean it is only evident to those who have been involved in the process of writing and refereeing.

Research limitations/implications

The limitations of the approach presented here are a combination of what we can imagine (supported by hard work) and the cultural willingness of funding sources to accept the unfamiliar.

Practical implications

The contents of this volume, that form an outcome of the conference, show it is possible and interesting to create a “non‐standard” conference based in conversation, which searches for new questions rather than reporting answers to old ones: and that papers produced within a conversational process of refereeing and discussion allow both development of research‐in‐writing, and a good quality outcome. We can and should meet in “better” ways.

Social implications

The conference and papers associated with it show that meetings in which a conversational approach is taken can be viable, not only as academic occasions but in their ability to generate papers of quality. This opens the academic world to different types of meeting and different ways of associating.


The value of this paper lies in the arguments made concerning conferences and refereeing processes. The originality is in the way these are presented as the embodiment of cybernetic understandings and processes (thus realising a cybernetics of cybernetics). The quality of the introduction is enriched by frequent references to material of generation and of record that exists as the legacy of the conference “Cybernetics: Art, Design, Mathematics – A Meta‐Disciplinary Conversation” at frequently cited urls on the conference web site. The evidence is there, as well as in this volume.



Glanville, R. (2011), "Introduction: a conference doing the cybernetics of cybernetics", Kybernetes, Vol. 40 No. 7/8, pp. 952-963.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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