Social Cybernetics: Week Four

Here is the recording from the fourth seminar on Social Cybernetics with Prof. Raul Espejo.

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.

Social Cybernetics: Week Three

Here’s a recording of the third seminar for our course on Social Cybernetics. The reading for this (and next) week is Raul Espejo’s Good Cybernetics is a Must in Policy Processes. Raul’s slides for this week can be downloaded, too.

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!

Social Cybernetics: Week Two

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.

Hope, fierce resilience and education.

 

Notes from the Social Science Imagination course, Autumn 2015.

Lucy and I planned the course together, meeting in a pub near the Witham river in the centre of Lincoln. She brought her knowledge of running training sessions for voluntary sector organisations, while I was trying to unlearn how to be a university professor.

This was to be a free course for anyone who wanted to learn more about how the social world works and how we can change it, with the help of social science.

The format was to be open and encouraging, taking a lead from the reading and people’s life experiences. The course would be taught in an informal environment that is inclusive, and that encourages and supports participants to share and think about their experiences. Both teachers and students are considered scholars who can learn a lot from each other. Everyone doing the course was to be encouraged and supported to read authors who have written about their concerns, and to write short essays setting out their own ideas.

We wanted to encourage participants to think about ideas, problems and issues that are important to them based on their own life experiences. Rather than viewing these experiences solely as individual problems, which can often overwhelm us and make us feel powerless to act, we wanted the course to consider how we can make connections between the individual problems we face in our everyday lives and wider public issues that affect us all, such as cuts to public services, rising food prices, and racism, sexism and homophobia in daily life.

The course was based on a close reading C. Wright Mill’s The Sociological Imagination. This book provides a framework for thinking about our own life experiences and understanding the world around us in a way that gives us confidence rather than feelings of frustration, fear, anxiety and indifference. For Mills, it was important to understand how our personal lives are affected by power in the wider society and how, by making these connections, we can start to overcome the difficulties we face individually and collectively.

The group was made up of Laura, Lucy, Mahmood, Andrew, Wendy and Mike.

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Social Cybernetics: Week One

Here’s a recording of our first seminar or ‘conversation’ with Professor Raul Espejo, who introduces some of the history and key concepts of social cybernetic theory. The audio becomes a little louder as we get going.

Much of the reading material that Raul refers to can be downloaded from here. The book about the Macy conferences that we discuss is by Heims, S. J. (1991). The cybernetics group. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. The course outline and further references can be found elsewhere on our website.

Anyone is welcome to attend. We meet every two weeks and the next seminar is on February 4th.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below in the comments box.