This article reviews recent work in socio-historical technology studies. Four problems, frequently mentioned in critical debates, are discussed – relativism, reflexivity, theory, and practice. The main body of the article is devoted to a discussion of the latter two problems. Requirements for a theory on socio-technical change are proposed, and one concrete example of a conceptual framework that meets these requirements is discussed. The second point of the article is to argue that present (science and) technology studies arc now able to break away from a too academic, internalistic perspective and return to the politically relevant “Science, Technology & Society” issues that informed much of this work more than a decade ago.
Umpleby S. A. (2007) Reflexivity in social systems: The theories of George Soros. Systems Research and Behavioral Science 24: 515–522. https://cepa.info/1280
George Soros’s reflexivity theory is quite compatible with second order cybernetics. Indeed his work shows how to apply ideas in second order cybernetics to economics, finance, and political science. This paper briefly reviews three theories of reflexivity in cybernetics. It provides an introduction to Soros’s version of reflexivity theory and reviews applications in economics and finance. Soros’s approach to economics is based on different assumptions about information and about human behavior. His approach to finance is more holistic than most current work in finance. He does not emphasize mathematical models but rather sees finance as a human player game with himself as a participant. The paper concludes that Soros’s work is a very important contribution to and expansion of contemporary social science.
This article consists of three parts. In the first part we describe a short history of cybernetics and an effort, which has been undertaken by a group of scientists in the United States and Europe in recent years, to expand the conception of science so that it more successfully encompasses the social sciences. The intent is to aid communication among disciplines and improve our ability to manage social systems. The second part of the article presents an effort in Russia to develop reflexivity theory into a general theory of purposeful, self-developing systems, thus improving our understanding and management of social systems. Understanding Western and Eastern approaches to cybernetics can be difficult because of the very different histories and intellectual traditions of cybernetics in the United States and Russia. The article ends with a comparison of the two approaches to cybernetics, comparing their features side by side. The differences suggest a great potential for ideas from Russian and Western scientists to enrich the further development of cybernetics and science in East and West.