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Paul Pangaro

On its mid-20th century emergence, cybernetics dominated the science zeitgeist but then waned. Resurgent in today’s times, cybernetics and other systemic disciplines are proffered as possible response to social and environmental complexities, which are not yielding to 20th-century practices. From its inception cybernetics has been a discipline for modeling systems in terms of purpose, feedback and information. Most recently it has proven effective for designing systems of interaction (software), designing systems for collaboration (teams, organizations) and designing the practice of design itself (design curricula).

Using examples from his client projects, software and teaching, Paul Pangaro will discuss cybernetics, conversation, design and their synergistic roles. The core models of cybernetics—feedback systems, requisite variety, conversation, and bio-cost—create a foundational, shared and explanatory language across disciplines and domains of applications. Conversation theory, developed from cybernetic observations of human interaction, creates a single framework for encompassing deterministic relationships with systems of objects, as well as those of subjectivity, values, re-framing, and argumentation, in systems of participants. As such, conversation can be applied to the processes of design, comprising as they do all these aspects, even as they start from basic feedback models of goal-directed systems. Therefore, cybernetics, encompassing conversation, proffers a model for design as a pragmatic language for understanding, augmenting and co-evolving our collaborations as actors in a world for which we hope for better outcomes.

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