Cybernetics and Systems Societies American Society for Cybernetics (ASC) - a society for the art and science of human understanding


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 1 April 2000




Warburton, B. (2000), "Cybernetics and Systems Societies American Society for Cybernetics (ASC) - a society for the art and science of human understanding", Kybernetes, Vol. 29 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Cybernetics and Systems Societies American Society for Cybernetics (ASC) - a society for the art and science of human understanding

Cybernetics and Systems Societies American Society for Cybernetics (ASC) - a society for the art and science of human understanding

Keywords: ASC, Cyberneticcs

A recent communication from the American Society for Cybernetics (ASC) provided a great deal of information for ASC members and also for the world's cybernetics community. Some of the newsletter is reproduced here. The opportunity is also taken to encourage readers with "an interest in, or a passion for cybernetics" to contact the society. The addresses for membership information are included at the end of this entry.

ASC membership

We are pleased to see that a number of European colleagues have chosen to reapply for membership and we want to encourage as much conversation as possible among the groups of people worldwide who are currently contributing to the on-going knowledge about observing systems and the implication that such an ontology has for the way in which we live and act in the world.

Monograph - second order cybernetics

Students at the School for Designing Society in Urbana, Illinois prepared a small monograph prior to the syntegration held by the ASC in March, 1999 to discuss the role of cybernetics in the twenty-first century. This school is engaged with the study of second order cybernetics and is committed to its practical application in designing society. As there are very few educational institutions, or university departments, dedicated to second order cybernetics in the world, this school represents an important foundation for young people wanting to pursue this view of the world.

Regional meetings of ASC

At the ASC Syntegration in 1999 one of the ideas discussed was the concept of regional meetings, or a traveling conference that went to different locations in North America, and perhaps beyond. The thought was that such a meeting would help to energize local groups and maintain a continuity of ideas and conversations. Although we intend to continue in the tradition of having a major conference in which we can all participate at least once a year, the notion of these smaller regional meetings has appeal. Indeed, the idea has been floating around for years.

Recently we have been discussing the idea of using a collection of' video-tapes of interviews or conversations as an organizing framework for such a series of local meetings. We have been told about a variety of video tapes that exist with interviews of Gordon Pask, Stafford Beer, Heinz von Foerster and others. We would put out a "call for videos" and establish a committee to review these with the intent of creating a well rounded program. These would then be compiled and duplicated and distributed to the various regions. Along with the videos themselves, we would offer a sort of conference template that someone in a particular region could use to host a small regional event without great cost in terms of money or personal time commitment.

Video tapes

In July 1999, three video-taped conversations between Dr Heinz Von Foerster and Dr Humberto Maturana were recorded. We are looking for an appropriate venue to premier these - they could be part of the above mentioned regional meetings. In the longer term we wish to make these, and any other videos of interest to the ASC, available to members at cost. If anyone has relevant videos, and the copyright is available for their use, we would like to hear from you. We might also want to send a copy to the ASC archives at the University of Illinois at Urbana. If you have relevant video tapes please contact: Kathleen Forsythe, Vice President, at 8468 Victoria Drive, Vancouver V5P 4A9. Tel: (604) 731-8445 or with details.

World Congress for the Systems Sciences, Toronto, July 16-22, 2000

Readers will know from the recent mailing from the ISSS that we are co-hosting the World Congress for the Systems Sciences organized by the International Society for Systems Science (ISSS) in Toronto, July, 2000. The ASC is responsible for a plenary session on "Conservation and change" to be followed by a panel discussion on "Environment and ethics: a conversation on conservation and change". Further, we have invited the students from School for Designing Society to provide an evening performance on the same topic. ASC members are encouraged to participate in this conference through the many Special Integration Groups. The call for papers is currently available on the ISSS Website,

Next ASC conference

We would like to hold a conference in the fall of 2000 but do not yet have a site or a sponsor. We would like to have the site and location booked by the next member's letter mailing. Contact the ASC President, Pille Bunnell, at 2366 West 18th Ave, Vancouver V6L 1A8. Tel: (604) 732-9864 or with details.

ASC Web site

The web site committee has met twice to plan a development path for the ASC Website. Actions to date include securing a domain name, namely "", obtaining a service provider, and designing the Website structure and layout and graphics for the Web pages, preparing protocols for submission and stylesheets. We are currently in the process of porting material from the two previously extant Websites to the new ASC Website and hope to have a launch date early in 2000.

Current on-line discussions

As far as we know, the cybcom listserv is the only current on-line discussion on cybernetics directly involving the ASC.

Earlier this year an e-mail discussion was held arising from the ASC conference in March 1999. The discussions on "Evil and ethics" and the "Lie of race" continued from April until August 1999 and will be compiled into a monograph for inclusion in a later ASC mailing. However, the experiences of on-line discussion within both these forums, and the desire to capture a trace of a multi-branched discussion, has led us to explore different means of establishing such conversational spaces.

We are researching the new crop of "community building" software that offers the ability to form groups across the Web in real-time. Some of this software provides the ability to generate threaded discussions, which is of interest to us as we want to open a space for conversation on the Website, mindful of the notion that the manner in which the virtual space is used does affect the discussion.

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