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Article
Publication date: 1 March 2006

Kenneth D. Bailey

To present the contributions of sociocybernetics, particularly as developed by Felix Geyer, and to compare sociocybernetics with social entropy theory (SET).

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592

Abstract

Purpose

To present the contributions of sociocybernetics, particularly as developed by Felix Geyer, and to compare sociocybernetics with social entropy theory (SET).

Design/methodology/approach

This paper first outlines the problems with earlier approaches, and then briefly discusses the four approaches constituting the “new” social systems theory: sociocybernetics, social‐autopoiesis theory, living systems theory (LST), and SET. Next the six chief contributions of sociocybernetics are discussed. Then sociocybernetics is compared with SET. The paper ends with a brief comparison of Geyer's sociocybernetics with the other two new approaches, social autopoiesis and LST.

Findings

Sociocybernetics is found to be a context‐specific, observer‐dependent approach that relies heavily on second‐order cybernetics. The comparison of sociocybernetics with SET also finds that the latter complements the former in valuable ways. Geyer's approach to sociocybernetics is also found to be compatible with both social autopoiesis and LST.

Practical implications

A very useful source of information for scholars interested in the comparative analysis of the new social‐systems theory.

Originality/value

This paper provides the first comparison of sociocybernetics with the other new social‐systems theories – SET, social autopoiesis, and LST. It clearly shows the value of Geyer's approach to sociocybernetics. It is valuable to all scholars interested in modern social‐systems theory. Sociocybernetics will be recognized as one of the great theoretical contributions of twentieth century sociology. It will also be forever linked with the names of its principal founders, Geyer and van der Zouwen. The numerous contributions of sociocybernetics are all the more impressive when it is recognized that they were made against a backdrop of widespread misunderstanding, mistrust, and outright rejection of its precursor approaches in social systems theory.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 35 no. 3/4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 1 March 2006

Johannes van der Zouwen

To investigate how far sociocyberneticians have tried to meet the criterion of “empirical testability” in their publications. What changes in this respect have taken place…

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156

Abstract

Purpose

To investigate how far sociocyberneticians have tried to meet the criterion of “empirical testability” in their publications. What changes in this respect have taken place in recent years?

Design/methodology/approach

Inventory of papers published in Kybernetes from 1977 to 2004, and classification of sociocybernetic papers by type, i.e. the degree to which empirical testability plays a role in the argument.

Findings

The number of sociocybernetic papers has increased. The purely conceptual, theoretical or methodological papers make way for papers in which particular social systems and processes are analyzed, using the conceptual apparatus of cybernetics. However, the percentage of papers in which empirical data are used for the testing of hypotheses and models has decreased. It seems that the testability problem of sociocybernetics is unsolvable.

Originality/value

These findings lead to a reflection on the way in which sociocybernetics could eventually overcome the testability problem, by more methodological sophistication, on the one hand, and a more parsimonious formulation of sociocybernetic theories, on the other hand.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 35 no. 3/4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 1 August 1997

Bernd R. Hornung and Fatima T. Adilova

A method peculiar to sociocybernetics as a paradigm is dynamic simulation. In the case of information technological (IT) systems, which are socio‐technical systems, a…

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636

Abstract

A method peculiar to sociocybernetics as a paradigm is dynamic simulation. In the case of information technological (IT) systems, which are socio‐technical systems, a qualitative (conceptual, cognitive) approach is more appropriate than a quantitative one. Already intermediate results of conceptual work aimed at a computer model have been found useful. Illustrates this via three case studies from IT in health care, in which the sociocybernetic problem‐functionalist conceptual (SPC) modelling technique was used. Two studies are from the “EUROCARDS Concerted Action on Extending the Use of Patient Data Cards”; the third concerns the development of health information systems in the Aral Basin. In all cases, a wide variety of information and materials was needed for modelling. To keep track of this, proposes a sociocybernetic standard variable number (SC‐SVN).

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 26 no. 6/7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 1 October 1996

Johannes van der Zouwen

Theories in sociocybernetics usually have a high degree of complexity, which may lead to methodological problems when these theories are tested in confrontation with “real…

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138

Abstract

Theories in sociocybernetics usually have a high degree of complexity, which may lead to methodological problems when these theories are tested in confrontation with “real world data”. From a review of the literature it appears that only a small percentage of the sociocyberneticians make an attempt to test their theory empirically. Two alternative approaches are used: the deduction from the theory of a series of univariate and bivariate hypotheses, subsequently tested with the usual statistical methods; and the reformulation of the theory into a simulation model and comparing the trajectories generated by the computer with time series of “real world data”;. Both approaches have their advantages and risks. It is shown in a simulation experiment that the inclusion of various sociocybernetical ideas (self‐referencing, goal‐referencing, morphogenesis) leads to a model with many degrees of freedom, and consequently of a large “no man’s land” in between the set of “verifiers” and the set of “falsifiers” of the theory.

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Kybernetes, vol. 25 no. 7/8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 15 March 2011

Bernard Scott and Simon Shurville

In order to develop transdisciplinary working across the disciplines, clear epistemological foundations are required. The purpose of this paper is to show that…

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725

Abstract

Purpose

In order to develop transdisciplinary working across the disciplines, clear epistemological foundations are required. The purpose of this paper is to show that sociocybernetics to provides the required unifying metadisciplinary epistemological foundations and transdisciplinary frameworks.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors note that second‐order cybernetics provides a metadisciplinary framework for discerning the causes and cures for the schisms within the natural and cognitive sciences. The particular contributions of sociocybernetics are to extend the second‐order understandings to unify the social sciences and, by incorporating extant sociological theory back into the transdisciplinary pursuits of cybernetics and systems theory, to enlighten and enrich those pursuits.

Findings

In order to highlight the power and fruitfulness of these contributions from sociocybernetics, the authors problematise, deconstruct and reconstruct key concepts concerned with human communication. To do this, they take as central the question, “What is a symbol?” and present a sociocybernetic, transdisciplinary solution. In doing so they make clear the epistemological poverty of approaches in cognitive science that are based on the thesis that brains and computers are both “physical‐symbol systems”.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to the metadisciplinary and transdisciplinary aims of cybernetics and, in particular, uses a sociocybernetic analysis to enlighten foundational issues in cognitive science.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 40 no. 1/2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 1 March 2006

B. Scott, V. Misheva and C. van Dijkum

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458

Abstract

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 35 no. 3/4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 1 August 1997

Johannes van der Zouwen

In a computer simulation experiment, the sociocybernetic concepts of self‐referencing control, disturbances from the environment, goal‐oriented behaviour, and…

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231

Abstract

In a computer simulation experiment, the sociocybernetic concepts of self‐referencing control, disturbances from the environment, goal‐oriented behaviour, and morphogenesis are subsequently included in a model. With this model, a large variety of trajectories with quite different behaviours can be generated by only minor changes of initials and coefficients, which leave the structure of the model fully intact. Shows that the same trajectory can be generated by models which have a completely different structure. Thus, the “fit” between observed and generated trajectories is an insufficient criterion to warrant decisions regarding acceptance or rejection of the model, and the theory behind it. Additional criteria have to be introduced in model‐testing methodology. The sociocybernetic concept of self‐referentiality even requires a radical change in this methodology.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 26 no. 6/7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 12 June 2009

Bernard Scott

The purpose of this paper is to set out some ideas about how sociocybernetics can contribute to understanding possible world futures. A central concept in cybernetics is…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to set out some ideas about how sociocybernetics can contribute to understanding possible world futures. A central concept in cybernetics is “governance”, the art of steersmanship. As conceived by Ashby, Beer and others, this art is concerned with the management of variety. How do we face the challenge of managing all the variety that makes up “possible world futures”?

Design/methodology/approach

The paper uses the distinction between first and second order cybernetics as a way of bringing order to the wide variety of disciplinary studies that are relevant for the understanding of possible world futures.

Findings

Sociocybernetics is concerned with applying theories and methods from cybernetics and the systems sciences to the social sciences by offering concepts and tools for addressing problems holistically and globally. With its distinction between first order studies of observed systems and the second order study of observing systems, sociocybernetics provides a unifying epistemological and methodological conceptual framework. Within this framework, sociocybernetics accommodates a wealth of specialisms in the social sciences, ranging, for example, from the drivers and effects of technological development to sustainability to justice. The shared framework facilitates communication between social science specialisms and also between the social sciences, the natural sciences and the applied, technological sciences.

Originality/value

The paper will be of interest to anyone keen to see how ideas from cybernetics and the systems sciences can facilitate interdisciplinary approaches to the understanding of complex social systems.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 38 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 14 August 2007

Phillip Guddemi

To construct, from Bateson's social ideas ranging from Naven to the 1979 Mind and Nature, a Batesonian sociocybernetics.

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347

Abstract

Purpose

To construct, from Bateson's social ideas ranging from Naven to the 1979 Mind and Nature, a Batesonian sociocybernetics.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper considers Bateson's ideas about the delineation of systems by the observer, as they were taught to his classes in the 1970s and as they were expressed in the so‐called first, 1936 Epilogue to Naven, and shows how these ideas led Bateson to a skeptical, anti‐reificationist social cybernetics.

Findings

Bateson de‐emphasized system boundaries, instead seeing systems as creations of the observer and as arbitrary cuttings of a continuous web of cybernetic processes.

Research limitations/implications

Bateson's argument in Naven, a work originally published in 1936 and partially based in a sociological tradition which also forms some of the roots of Luhmann's thought, is surprisingly relevant to contemporary issues in second‐order cybernetics and sociocybernetics.

Practical implications

Bateson's skepticism about reification, and emphasis on the observer's role in the construction of system boundaries, can point a way for sociocybernetics to address those cybernetic systems which do not fit Luhmann's or Maturana's strict criteria for autopoiesis.

Originality/value

This paper attempts to show the sophistication and relevance of Bateson's social thinking to the field of sociocybernetics.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 36 no. 7/8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 1 March 2006

Cor van Dijkum and Johannes J.F. Schroots

To demonstrate that the past of the social sciences contains all the elements of sociocybernetics and that those elements combined with the logic of modern…

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1768

Abstract

Purpose

To demonstrate that the past of the social sciences contains all the elements of sociocybernetics and that those elements combined with the logic of modern interdisciplinary simulation research will meet challenges modern society poses to those sciences.

Design/methodology/approach

A historical analysis, leading to an outline of advanced logic of social science research, shows the way to modern (computer) simulation research.

Findings

When the theoretical principles of sociocybernetics are put into practice by doing (empirically based) simulation research, it can handle in a scientifically valid way a number of research questions modern complex society poses, such as how processes of self‐organization in individuals, groups and institutes can be described and understood; self‐organization of autobiographic memory of individuals can be simulated in a computer; these individual memories are related to collective memories of generations; these different generations of social researchers can work together and balance in a creative synergy between the wisdom of the past and surprising hypotheses of the future.

Research limitations/implications

Social sciences researchers have to work with advanced logic of research such as is propagated in simulation research and by sociocybernetics.

Practical implications

Different generations of sociocyberneticians here to work together in (empirically based) simulation research to demonstrate the usefulness of sociocybernetical theory and logic.

Originality/value

Sociocybernetics is not an exotic field but a normal legitimate constituent of the social sciences.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 35 no. 3/4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

Keywords

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