Publication 1801

Scott B. (2002) Cybernetics and the integration of knowledge. [online] Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems. Paris, EOLSS. Fulltext at
Cybernetics was formulated by its founders as a metadiscipline with the aim, not only of fostering collaboration between disciplines interdisciplinarity, but also of sharing knowledge across disciplines transdisciplinarity. As a metadiscipline, cybernetics comments on forms of knowing the cognitive processes and communicative practices of observers and also on forms of knowledge for example, similarities and differences between different discipline areas. This article presents cybernetic models of coming to know and of knowledge sharing. The distinction between first and second order forms of cybernetics is introduced to mark the reflexive nature of cybernetics as a metadiscipline. There is then a discussion of the first order study of natural systems, noting in particular: the emergent discovered properties of such domains; the role played by the observer’s a priori assumptions and decisions about what to study and how to study. This is followed by a discussion of cybernetics and the social sciences. Here the distinction between first and higher order forms of cybernetics is brought into play in order to characterize: studies of social systems and social behaviour that adopt classical scientific modes of investigation; studies that investigate the interactions of social actors; approaches that attempt to characterize social systems as distinct forms of autonomous whole. Finally there is a discussion of how the metadisciplinary perspective of cybernetics can help inform and enlighten the other than science domains of knowledge and activity known as the arts, the humanities, the vocational disciplines and philosophy.


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