Publication 2937

Pickering A. (2002) Cybernetics and the mangle: Ashby, Beer, and Pask. Social Studies of Science 32: 413–37. Fulltext at
This paper aims to enrich our understanding of the history and substance of cybernetics. It reviews the work of three British cyberneticians – W. Ross Ashby, Stafford Beer and Gordon Pask – paying attention particularly to the materiality of their practice – the strange and fascinating devices and systems that were at the heart of their work – and to the worldly projects they pursued – scientific, technological, artistic, organizational, political and spiritual. Connections are drawn between cybernetics and recent theoretical work in science and technology studies, in the hope of illuminating key features of both. The paper concludes by suggesting that the antidisciplinary impulse of contemporary science studies might find inspiration in the work of cyberneticians – that theory does not have to remain confined to the realm of theory.


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