Cybernetics and Society Redux: The Necessity of Design

  • Laurence D. RichardsEmail author
Part of the Design Research Foundations book series (DERF)


Norbert Wiener warned us to avoid the potential application of cybernetics to the production of technologies of oppression – that is, we need to design structures and processes in which violence is not an alternative or, at least, is an alternative of last resort. This chapter presents cybernetics as a way of thinking about ways of thinking, making the way of thinking a choice. The cybernetic vocabulary of choice and autonomy provides a foundation for building a participative-dialogic approach to design (and society) that is distinct from the purposeful (goal-oriented) and hierarchical (reward-oriented) design approach of traditional engineering and management. In a participative-dialogic society, design becomes a necessity, not only to address the concerns expressed by Wiener, but also to satisfy the human need for participation in the decisions that affect our daily lives.


Goal-oriented purpose ⋅ Desires as constraints ⋅ Reward-oriented hierarchy ⋅ Networks of conversations ⋅ Relations and dynamics ⋅ Participatory design 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indiana University EastRichmondUSA

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