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Condolences and tributes
Article Type: News, conferences and technical reports From: Kybernetes, Volume 40, Issue 1/2
Prior to our celebrations of the 40 years of publishing the journal, two much-valued members of our Editorial team and Editorial Advisory Board have died.
Professor Yves Cherruault 1937-2010
Professor Yves Cherruault has supported Kybernetes since its early issues, contributing papers to both the journal and to WOSC Congresses. He was a member of the Editorial Advisory Board and a most conscientious reviewer of our mathematical contributions, and particularly those in biocybernetics.
He was Director of the MEDIMAT Laboratory of the University Paris VI, which specialized in mathematics applied to biology and medicine, and Eminent Professor of the University Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris VI (2006). A Special Issue of Kybernetes-in-memoriam-Yves Cherruault, is being compiled by Professor Gaspar Mora (Spain).
Dr C.J.H. Mann 1964-2010
Dr Jane Mann (née Rudall) was the Editor of the Book Reviews and Reports Section of this journal and also the Co-author of the regular commentary “Contemporary Cybernetics Systems and Management Sciences” and contributed to the preparation of many of the other sections.
Jane Mann was educated in North Wales and took her first degree at Keele University, UK, gaining first-class honours in both computer science and mathematics and was awarded the university graduate prize. She was invited to carry out research at the world-famous Computer Science Department of Manchester University and in July 1993, she was awarded the university’s PhD.
In her thesis, a formal method for developing real-time systems was proposed based upon the temporal logic formalism and the Estrel programming language, in contrast to informal software methodologies which by definition are lax and error prone and whose behaviour is only partially understood.
Dr Mann then took up a post at Hewlett Packard UK before joining the new IBM Tivoli Computer Centre at Austin, Texas, USA. Returning to her home country Wales in 2001, she was appointed Lecturer in Computer Science at Bangor University where she also continued her researches. She was a dedicated and gifted teacher whose work with her students merited the award of the university’s Teaching Fellowship in 2004 and the appointment of Senior Tutor. She is survived by her husband and two young children.
Reflections on the ASC Conference at Troy, NY, on Cybernetics: Art, Design, Mathematics – A MetaDisciplinary Conversation
The 2010 American Society for Cybernetics (ASC) meeting in Troy, NY, was not like previous ASC meetings. The days were mostly spent in discussions with paper presentations on a few evenings. The participants also included new people. In addition to people who had attended previous ASC conferences, there were many architects and designers, thanks to the personal networks of ASC President Ranulph Glanville.
For me, the conference was important because I was stimulated to think about the close relationship between cybernetics and design. As described by Ranulph, design is a recursive process involving numerous sketches. “Think with your pencil”. Drawing on my own experience in working with an architect to design an addition to a house, I remember not only the many sketches but also the conversations between designer and client. It occurred to me that the process of sketch, conversation, sketch, test, sketch, etc. is a very general description of how any designer works, not only architects but also software developers, computer simulators, legislators and others. One function of a sketch or a design is to hold previous decisions so attention can be focused on a smaller part. I have long believed that any model is better than no model because with a model the mind can focus either on the whole or parts and thereby encompass far greater variety than with no model to aid memory. The language used in creating a model is much less important than that a model is created.
It also occurred to me that businesses or organizations are themselves models of their future state. That is, each meeting can be thought of as a redesign of the current organization. What needs to be done? What needs to be changed? How can we work together to design and create the next iteration of the organization? In this sense, all of management is design, and implementation is also designed.
Examples of design:
In architecture, from sketches to blueprints to buildings.
In software development, structured programming entails designing the parts of a program, writing the parts of the program, assembling them, then alpha testing, beta testing and later versions 1.0, 2.0, etc.
In computer simulation, one creates diagrams, then equations, testing, modification, etc.
In legal systems, a constitution is modified through amendments, laws, judicial interpretations, etc.
In religion, a holy book is implemented through policies, procedures, sermons, rituals, reconsideration of doctrine, procedures for modifying doctrine, etc.
Businesses now feel they need to have an explicitly stated vision, mission, goals, objectives, a story about how the business was founded and has evolved, a five-year plan, an annual plan, etc. These are all the result of design processes.
In the academic world, there are procedures for accepting papers, appointing and promoting people as professors, and procedures for creating new departments. As a result of these activities, the future of the university is designed and agreed upon.
In organizations, the plan for next year is a modification of what exists – more or fewer people and more or less money for each unit of the existing organization, occasionally the closing of some units (GM recently phased out Oldsmobile) and opening of new units (GM once created the Saturn division).
The cybernetics literature has focused primarily on regulation, control and communication. But as these examples illustrate, design is very much a part of these processes. Design is clearly an aspect of communication and control in social systems. Here are a few connections between cybernetic principles and design.
Sketches aid requisite variety. Because of the magical number 7±2, the human brain needs help in dealing with complexity. Sketches, documents, models and simulations embody previous decisions, aid memory, facilitate conversation and permit testing.
When a group of people come together to create a building, organization, or machine, they organize themselves through a process of design.
Frequently, design participants ask, Is this what we want? Have we met the performance specifications? How can the design be improved? Have we considered the interests of all of stakeholders? Have we made use of new technology? Have we considered production and maintenance costs, etc.? In this way, designers spend some time reflecting on, critiquing and redesigning the design activity.
Probably design will be more frequently discussed in the cybernetics literature in the future as a result of the conference in Troy, NY.