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A Cybernetic Musing: All the 8's

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Abstract:

In recent years, I have found an unexpected revival of interest in cybernetics amongst artists and designers. However, the cybernetics they are aware of seems to be the pre- 1968 variety brought to public attention in the Cybernetic Serendipity Exhibition. I have been wondering how to capitalise on this interest, to bring an updated cybernetics to artists and designers. One move to this end was compiling and editing a double issue of Kybernetes on Cybernetics and Design (Glanville, 2007b). Meanwhile, preparing for the 50th anniversary of the founding (in 1958) of the Biological Computer Laboratory at the May conference of the American Society for Cybernetics,2 I came to realise the importance of the 9th year of each decade in the story of cybernetics. We can form the history of cybernetics around years ending in 8--until cybernetics more or less disappeared from popular awareness. The history is, of course, familiar, but the familiar is re-formed by re-centring its focus. More importantly, we can propose a way forward for cybernetics in 2008: develop our association with artists and designers, in such a manner that we can introduce our more recent, and relevant, insights. The serendipitous launch in Vienna in November 2007 of the Gordon Pask archive provides further impetus. Pask's work, rarely touched on in this journal, is the subject of considerable scrutiny in art and design, in part because of his own performance and output as an artist. Thus, even though history contains no predictive causal mechanisms, we may take a lesson from history in order to move forward. I hope you will find this background helpful in reading the rest of the column.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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