Week 1 readings

What are Cybernetics and Systems Science?


  • Cybernetics and systems theory involve technological and biological studies.
  • How ever complex the system, it can further be broken down into even more complex systems
  • Cybernetics equates to information, control, feedback, and communication coined by mathematician Weiner.
  • Shannon’s information theory which lead to second-order cybernetics emphasizes the observer and the observer’s interaction.



Gordon Pask

  • In Europe cybernetic theories parallel those of control theory, automation theory, information processing, and modeling of brains and organisms.
  • Ideas of General systems theory, Bionics , Self-organizing theories, and artificial intelligence were spread by America.
  • Cybernetics is the science of constructing, and applying cybernetic models to the organization of the physical world.
  • Cybernetic Model: goal oriented system which involves a sensor, a goal, error detection, and effectors.
  • Cybernetics is then a goal directed system brining together logical operators and information storage media.
  • Applied cybernetics is given design and descriptively as explanatory devices.
  • Pure Cybernetics have an axiomatic and a philosophical aspect.


Systems Esthetics – Jack Burnham

  • Unobjects – Paintings, sculpture, conceptions etc.
  • Paradigm shifts distinctly reflect the present state of art.
  • Techniques to implement social change is necessity –wealth more than information, has its hold on this potential change.
  • We are shifting object-oriented to a systems oriented culture.
  • This system focuses on organic and non-organic systems.
  • Art is not defined just by its material, but even more so the relationship it builds with the components of its environments and people.
  • Systems concepts are not restricted to traditional barriers such as frames and stages, more so it its concept analyses  than its material limits.
  • Systems components whether purely functional or art, has no higher meaning gathering their value solely based on context.
  • Kinetic sculpture is underrated.
  • Some systems have limited life such as Haake’s Sky Line, which played with helium balloons.
  • A systems esthetic will likely be the approach of the future.


Penny Burnham – Cyborg Art

  • Idea that sculpture is a system, which takes away the significant of the material sculpture creating a systems aesthetic.
  • Burnham prediction: Nothing more spectacular heralds the beginnings of the sculpture of the future than the slow emergence of what I have called ‘Cyborg art’ (the art of cybernetic organisms).”
  • Peter Callas compares video and architectural monuments stating that although monuments persist over time and confined to a space, video is easily accessible even though it is constrained by time.
  • Technology and accessibility has changed the convention of traditional sculpture.
  • Film is a technological medium which carries a narrative.
  • Suggestions of a new art form: sculpture-esque  which integrates behavior of the audience in time.
  • Burnham states, “sculpture…in a technological society must be regarded as a tiny microcosm of the entire socio-technical-biological evolution.”

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