Cybernetic-Systems Discourses


Inquiring into the internal dynamics of adaptive, self-maintaining systems

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … current range of functional possibilities
  • Knowing is … acting/responding appropriately
  • Learner is … adaptive system
  • Learning is … adapting, changing
  • Teaching is … triggering




Cybernetic-Systems Discourses are concerned with the means by which elements of adaptive, self-maintaining systems communicate, coordinate, and co-regulate. Such systems can be organic, mechanical, or a combination. Associated discourses include:
  • Cybernetic Epistemology – a philosophical engagement with matters associated with knowledge, meaning, learning, and learners that emerge in the context of more-than-human cybernetic systems.
  • Informatics (K.K. Kolin, 1990s) – a term with multiple meanings – but, in the context of discourses on learning, refers to a blending of Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence. Informatics thus researches natural and artificial computational systems, both examining and seeking to influence their structures, algorithms, behaviors, and interactions.


One of the struggles faced by modern science has been to define “life.” For centuries, the prevailing strategy was to list necessary criteria (e.g., a living form must metabolize, must have some form of locomotion, and must respond to stimuli) – an approach that inevitably included some non-living forms while excluding some living forms. In the 1900s, Cybernetic-Systems Discourses was part of a movement toward another strategy, essentially defining living in terms of learning – that is, as dynamic and adaptive co-participation with/in other forms.


  • Cybernetic Epistemology
  • Informatics

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2022). “Cybernetic-Systems Discourses” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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