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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Informing design praxis via 2nd-order cybernetics
Keywords 2nd-order cybernetics, Biology of cognition, Design, Matorana, Varela
Purpose–This paper aims to present lessons learned in applying 2nd-order cybernetics – specifically Maturana and Varela's “biology of cognition”–to the actual design of interactive decision support systems.
Design/methodology/approach–This consists of a review of the rationale and bases for applying 2nd-order cybernetics in interactive IT design, the challenges in moving from theory to praxis, illustrative examples of tactics employed, and a summary of the successful outcomes achieved.
Findings–The paper offers conclusions about the general applicability of such theories, two sample applications devised for actual projects, and discussion of these applications' perceived value.
Research limitations/implications–The applications described are not claimed to represent a complete toolkit, and they may not readily generalize beyond the scope of interactive information systems design. On the other hand, the examples offered demonstrate that 2nd-order cybernetics can constructively inform such designs – advancing the focus of discussion from theory-based advocacy to praxis-based recommendations.
Practical implications–The paper presents illustrative examples of the exigencies entailed in moving 2nd-order cybernetics ideas forward from theory to praxis and specific tactics for doing so.
Originality/value–This paper addresses the persistent deficiencies in both concrete examples and guidance for practical applications of 2nd-order cybernetics theories. It will hopefully stimulate similar attempts to demonstrate such theories' practical benefits.