Second-Order Cybernetics

AKA

Cybernetics of Cybernetics
New Cybernetics
Second Cybernetics

Focus

Recursively elaborative dynamics among entangled dynamic 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

Originated

1960s

Synopsis

Three popularly cited characterizations of Second-Order Cybernetics are:
  • the Cybernetics of Cybernetics (i.e., the recursive application of Cybernetics applying Cybernetics to itself)
  • the study of Cybernetics by people who recognize themselves to be part of the system they’re studying (or, the realization that there are no observerless observations)
  • the study of organism-plus-environment as a single system
Second-Order Cybernetics is, then, an elaboration of Cybernetics’ core interest in circular causal relationships (feedback) between systems. The interest is extended to include phenomena that can involve feedback to feedback – that is, that have some level of responsive awareness. Second-Order Cybernetics thus simultaneously sparks and addresses issues of autonomy, self-referentiality, knowing, mind, and ethics.

Commentary

Almost entirely, criticisms of Second-Order Cybernetics are based on either shallow readings or troublesome descriptions/applications.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Margaret Mead; Gregory Bateson; Heinz von Foerster; Gordon Pask

Status as a Theory of Learning

As with Cybernetics, it is more correct to say that Second-Order Cybernetics offers a theory of learning than Second-Order Cybernetics is a theory of learning. The domain is too broad to constrain it to one focus – even when that focus is as expansive as “learning.”

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Second-Order Cybernetics is not a theory of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Second-Order Cybernetics easily meets our criteria for a scientific theory.

Map Location



Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “Second-Order Cybernetics” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.


⇦ Back to Map
⇦ Back to List