Publication 3308

Baecker D. (2012) Observing Networks: A Note on Asymmetrical Social Forms. Cybernetics & Human Knowing 19(4): 9–25. Fulltext at
The paper looks at a combination of systems theory, cybernetics, and sociological theory in search of a tool for inquiring into contemporary social forms. The idea of observing networks, drawing on Heinz von Foerster’s and Niklas Luhmann’s notion of observing systems and Harrison C. White’s network calculus of identity and control, is outlined to enable basic sociological intuitions about social forms to be integrated with an understanding of both complexity and recursivity organizing our perspective on the human condition in a precarious world. Social forms are shown to gain robustness not from substantial identity but from relational ambiguity. Observing networks, or so the hypothesis goes, combine bodies, minds, society, and – soon perhaps – intelligent machines. The paper looks at how an understanding of complexity, recursivity, system, form, and network may help flesh out the calculus of our human condition.


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