This week Raul Espejo discussed his work on the Chilean Cybersyn project. Raul was the Operations Director of the project and one of the people to invite Stafford Beer to Chile to design a cybernetic system of industrial co-ordination for Allende’s socialist government (1970-73). Following the military coup of 1973, Raul left Chile for Manchester to continue his work with Stafford Beer and has remained in the UK ever since, now residing in Lincoln.
During this week’s seminar, Raul refers to three publications on Cybersyn:
The slides for this week can also be downloaded and will be especially useful as we spent some time discussing illustrations of the Viable System Model and different case studies of complexity, including the case of ‘Baby P’, a firm in Birmingham, and UK national energy policy.
As always, reading material for the course can be downloaded from the SSC website, and new people are still welcome for the final seminar on Tuesday 15th March, 7-9pm. The reading for the final week is Raul’s paper on ‘Cybernetics of Governance: The Cybersyn Project 1971-1973‘. Raul was the Operational Director of Project Cybersyn and worked closely with Stafford Beer.
As you can see from the slides and recording, the themes for this week were variety engineering, interactions and self-organisation, effective organisation and relationships, and recursive management. We also discussed how cybernetic theory might improve the running of social services, looking at the case study of ‘Baby P’, which prompted a discussion about the relationship between politics and cybernetics.
Our next seminar is on Tuesday March 1st, 7-9pm, followed by the last seminar on Tuesday 15th March. All welcome!
Summary of ‘solidarity’ workshop held at Croft Street Community Centre, Lincoln, on January 29th, 10-4pm.
This final workshop of the project was concerned with ‘co-operation among co-operatives’ and other international organisations providing higher education. We sought to identify the features of a transnational network for co-operative higher education as well as acknowledge existing models and organisations to learn from. Not only were the well-established organisations such as the ICA, CICOPA and UNESCO mentioned, but also the various student co-operative groups in the UK, USA and elsewhere, the national co-operative colleges that already undertake research and coordinate educational activities within the movement, like-minded institutions such as Antioch College, the WEA, Northern College, and other worker education initiatives, the Trade Unions, and national and international campaigns within higher education such as #RhodesMustFall. This activity highlighted how participants understood the role and purpose of co-operative higher education as connecting to and serving a broader concern with social, political, economic and ecological issues. It emphasised both the breadth of existing organisations and campaigns that share similar values and principles with the co-operative movement, as well as the need for the co-operative movement to address a long-standing need for higher education provided by and for its members.
Here is a recording of our second seminar on Social Cybernetics, with Professor Raul Espejo. The reading for this week was Raul’s ‘What is Systemic Thinking’. Also note that his paper on the ‘Viable System Model’ is expected reading across the course. All articles for the course can be found here.
This week we discussed, among other things, the integration of the informational and operational domains, recursive organisations, voluntarism vs. determinism, the ‘law of requisite variety’ and the significance of constraints to any organisational system. As before, we tried to get to grips with the different levels of abstraction that the model assumes. Raul’s slides can be downloaded from here and will be especially useful this week because much of our discussion referred to the ‘black box’ model of organisation that Raul introduces.
It’s hard to grasp at times if you are not familiar with organisational theory, but is proving to be an enjoyable and thought-provoking series of seminars and a useful way into understanding this influential area of social science. It’s also great to meet new people who are attending from London and Leicester.
Our next seminar will be on February 18th, 7-9pm, and the reading for that is ‘Good Cybernetics is a Must in Policy Processes’. Anyone is welcome to attend.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below in the comments box.