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.


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.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2019). “Cybernetic-Systems Discourses” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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