Cybernetics and Design: Conversations for Action

  • Hugh Dubberly
  • Paul PangaroEmail author
Part of the Design Research Foundations book series (DERF)


Ranulph Glanville came to believe that cybernetics and design are two sides of the same coin. The authors present their understanding of Glanville and the relationships they see between cybernetics and design. They argue that cybernetics is a necessary foundation for twenty-first century design practice: If design, then systems: Due in part to the rise of computing technology and its role in human communications, the domain of design has expanded from giving form to creating systems that support human interactions; thus, systems literacy becomes a necessary foundation for design. If systems, then cybernetics: Interaction involves goals, feedback, and learning, the science of which is cybernetics. If cybernetics, then second-order cybernetics: Framing wicked problems requires making explicit one’s values and viewpoints, accompanied by the responsibility to justify them with explicit arguments; this incorporates subjectivity and the epistemology of second-order cybernetics. If second-order cybernetics, then conversation: Design grounded in argumentation requires conversations so that participants may understand, agree, and collaborate on effective action – that is, participants in a design conversation learn together in order to act together. The authors see cybernetics as a way of framing both the process of designing and the things being designed – both means and ends – not only design-as-conversation but also design-for-conversation. Second-order cybernetics frames design as conversation, and they explicitly frame “second-order design” as creating possibilities for others to have conversations.


Conversation ⋅ Cybernetics ⋅ Design ⋅ Framing ⋅ Glanville ⋅ Interaction ⋅ Learning ⋅ Second-order ⋅ Systems ⋅ Wicked problems 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dubberly Design OfficeSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Human-Computer Interaction InstituteCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

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