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The Cybernetics of Design and the Design of Cybernetics

  • Klaus KrippendorffEmail author
Chapter
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Part of the Design Research Foundations book series (DERF)

Abstract

This book chapter reciprocally connects cybernetics and design, and contrasts both with what the sciences do. Whereas the sciences aim at understanding, explaining, and theorizing observations, design proposes courses of actions that lead into desirable but currently unobservable futures. Its first section teases out cybernetic epistemologies that constructively embrace the practices of design. Its second section applies cybernetics to the emergence of artifacts in interactions between living organisms and their environments. It grounds cybernetic epistemology in the evolution of sensory-motor coordinations, not of objects. Its third section develops the cybernetics of human-centered design. It suggests that designers cannot escape being part of the very social world into which they intervene. This reflexivity was already evident in the creative conversations in which cybernetics emerged. It is also practiced in design teams. Recognizing designs as proposals means that they have to energize and inform multidisciplinary networks of stakeholders which decide the fate of any design. This section generalizes the concept of user interfaces and acknowledges that designers can at best design affordances for interfaces to emerge, in effect calling for designers to delegate designs to their stakeholders. Its final section turns the cybernetics of design into the design of cybernetics. It draws on the historical shift from a cybernetics of self-organizing systems to a cybernetics of cybernetics, which regards cybernetics as a discourse that brings forth self-governing practices of communication. It concludes that cyberneticians actively shape their discourse, not let it determine what they do.

Keywords

Cybernetic/scientific epistemology Self-organization Artifacts/observation Human-centeredness/objectivity Design ethics Problem solving/declaring Possibilities Delegation of design Discourse Stakeholders Interdisciplinarity 

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Annenberg School for CommunicationUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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