Publication 924

Richards L. D. (2013) Difference-making from a cybernetic perspective: The role of listening and its circularities. Cybernetics & Human Knowing 20(1-2): 59–68. Fulltext at
Take as a premise that listening (and its circularities) becomes an essential practice for making a difference in the world and represents a critical concept in the design of a participative-dialogic society. The speaker-respondent circularity turns listening into a conversation. Participants set aside their habitual or socially prescribed ways of interacting and explore other ways to be present. This perspective on listening and difference-making suggests an alternative (not mutually exclusive, yet distinct) approach to the human attribute called consciousness, from one characterized by purposiveness to one focused on presence. I claim that the idea of a participative-dialogic society as desirable is so alien to prevailing ways of thinking about the world and how it must work that it would be dismissed as “anarchist” if openly promoted – that is, it implies an alternative to the reward-oriented hierarchy approach to the design of economic and social systems that dominates societal structures world-wide. By advancing the idea anyway, I expect to make a difference. With anarchic intentions in mind, I propose listening, thinking, and designing kinetically (in contrast to kinematically). Listening (and its circularities) replaces, or at least offers an alternative to, reward-oriented hierarchy as a way of thinking about difference-making in the world. Relevance: The paper provides, explicitly, a second-order cybernetic perspective.


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