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Emergence and synthesis: science studies, cybernetics and antidisciplinarity

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Research in science studies supports a vision of the world as an endlessly lively and emergent place. This essay briefly notes a range of philosophical and scientific positions that elaborate cognate ontologies, but I dwell at greater length on a variety of objects and practices that, in contrast to the modern sciences, thematise, foreground and stage emergence for us. Drawn from the history of cybernetics these span the fields of robotics, organisations and management, the arts and architecture. Noting the eruption of cybernetics into many different fields, I suggest that its history offers a model for an antidisciplinary synthesis that dissolves conventional boundaries within and beyond the academic sphere. I characterise the political valence of this synthetic assemblage in terms of Martin Heidegger's contrast between projects of enframing and revealing.
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Keywords: cybernetics; dance of agency; emergence; interdisciplinarity; mangle; posthumanism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Exeter.

Publication date: 21 August 2008

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