CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited
In a previous Commentary it was mentioned that the keyword "cybernetics", submitted to any of a number of search engines, produced an interesting set of links that included most of the organisations that immediately come to mind as candidates, as well as many others.
Principia Cybernetica and ASC
As mentioned earlier, a valuable source of links and information is the Principia Cybernetica site, with an address in the Free University of Brussels (indicated by the letters "vub" in the address, standing for Vrije Universiteit Brussel). The name most closely associated now with the initiative is Francis Heylighen, but its beginnings are attributed to a number of workers including Valentin Turchin. Full details of the Principia Cybernetica Project including its history can be found at "child nodes" of the "welcome" site. The address for this is http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be//Default.html.
The site, when first established, was a highly innovative development. It has child nodes that describe the Free University of Brussels, with emphasis on, among other things, its innately multilingual character, making it an appropriate host for an interdenominational and international facility. Other very interesting child nodes refer, respectively, to "Things to see in Brussels" and "Belgium: Overview".
A special news flash at the site announced that the Journal of Memetics Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission, associated with the Principia Cybernetica Project, is now on-line. By following the link from the "welcome" site, the contents list of the current issue, or of earlier issues, can be viewed, and there is a search facility.
Some of the facilities available from the site, including the Web Dictionary of Cybernetics and Systems, at http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be//ASC/indexASC.html;, show by the address that there is an association with the American Society for Cybernetics. Further probing elicited both an e-mail address and a Website for the ASC. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org; and the Website is http://www.gwu/~asc/;.
Surprisingly, this important Website had not come to light in the various searches that were invoked, though probably it would have been found by looking beyond the top 20 or so hits. The Website contains information on the history of the ASC, which was founded in 1964, the year Norbert Wiener died, and while Warren McCulloch was still active. The site is now provided by the George Washington University.
A particularly useful facility offered by the ASC is an automatic server, allowing anyone with e-mail access to subscribe and to receive automatic postings and to send messages for distribution. At the time of writing this Commentary I have newly subscribed, and am looking forward to following the discussions and no doubt gleaning some items to appear in these pages. The e-mail address to use in subscribing is email@example.com; (where, once again, it is important to remember there is no final "e" in "listserv"), and the body of the message consists simply of:
sub cybcom YOUR NAME
The message sent to new subscribers introduces the server as follows:
The Cybernetic Communications Discussion Group, or CYBCOM, is managed by Dr Stuart Umpleby, Director of the Center for Social and Organizational Learning, and Dr Philip Wirtz, Professor of Management Science, at the George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA. Serving hundreds of subscribers all over the internet, the CYBCOM list provides a trans-disciplinary forum for the participants to discuss various issues that are related to the field of cybernetics. Topics such as systems thinking, social and organizational learning, self-organization and evolution, communication and cognition, constructivist epistemology, and other frontier research questions under the flag of cybernetics are discussed here.
The Austrian Society for Cybernetic Studies
For those who have attended the meetings in Vienna, in the spring of each even-numbered year since 1972 (except that the 1978 one was in Linz), it will be no surprise to know that the vigorous Studiengesellschaft, as well as its associated institutions, are well represented on the Internet. The address is http://www .ai.univie.ac.at/oesgk/oesgk.html;.
The next EMCSR (European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research) will be from 14 to 17 April 1998, and information is available at the same address as was used for the 1996 event, namely http://www.ai.univie.ac.at/ emcsr/;. It is possible to follow links from this site to pages describing the three sponsoring bodies, which are the Austrian Society for Cybernetic Studies, as above, the Department of Medical Cybernetics and Artificial Intelligence of the University of Vienna, and the International Federation for Systems Research.
Department of Cybernetics, Reading University
This is another vigorous organisation that is well represented on the Internet. Contact can be made using the address http://www.cyber.rdg.ac.uk, and thereafter there are links to pages treating various sub-topics. One is called "About Cybernetics" and gives an overview of the department, and on other pages there are details of courses, and a list of members of staff, and one of recent publications. There is also a list of research groups within the department, which makes interesting reading. As well as the famous work on interacting mobile robots there is work on solar power, artificial neural nets, and a variety of approaches to intelligent systems.
A page that could well be of interest to readers of Kybernetes is one announcing job vacancies, a sure sign in these days of the healthy state of the department. Another page has the title of "Media" and among other things it allows inspection of a Newsletter. The current issue, at the time of writing this, is number 16, produced in Autumn 1996 and presumably due for replacement shortly. Back numbers from number 11 (Winter 1994) can be seen. One item in the current issue that is probably a sign of the times is the announcement of a new undergraduate course incorporating a "sandwich" year of industrial experience, with the comment that this will provide both valuable experience and a better financial situation.
Namur and WOSC
A long-established organisation in the Cybernetics field is the International Association for Cybernetics in Namur, Belgium. It is not represented by a Website, but has the e-mail address of firstname.lastname@example.org;. Also, at present, WOSC and the Norbert Wiener Institute do not have individual sites, though the official journal, Kybernetes, is of course represented within the MCB University Press site. We plan to have, also, a separate WOSC site very soon.
A number of other interesting sites were indicated by the search engines, and a selection will be reviewed in another Commentary.
A commercial site among those indicated by a search on the keyword "cybernetics" has the simple address http://www.cybernetics.com;. It refers to an American corporation specialising in storage media, including "tape and disk solutions from 2 GB to Petabytes". I have to admit that the term "Petabyte" is new to me, but presumably the prefix "Peta" is equivalent to Mega-Mega or 1012, essentially as "pico" has been used to mean micro-micro or 1012. The storage capacities readily available have risen so rapidly in recent years that it was inevitable that such a term would come into use. It gives reason to wonder how long it will be till a prefix to indicate 1015 is needed.
Alex M. AndrewEmail: email@example.com