Thursday, 5 August 2010

Reflections on New York, Cybernetics and Reality

I did these two improvisations whilst in New York, after leaving the American Cybernetics Society conference. They are very contrasting impressions: one is quite bleak - I felt the force of the city rather dehumanising and it made me sad. The other is very energetic although strangely, this was produced after visiting the 9/11 site, which I found incredibly moving (I was surprised and slightly embarrassed by the extent to which this affected me)

The conference was very good. It's left me with some big questions. Two key themes came out for me:
1. the importance of play, experimentation, 'lightness' and not getting tied to any particular way of looking at things. This is making me re-look at Baudrillard's work on 'seduction'... very interesting. Unfortunately, cybernetics isn't free from dogmatism - even 2nd order cybernetics dogmatism. It strikes me that 'is-ness' may be the real problem: "there IS no reality, just construct". Why  say 'is' rather than 'may be'? 'Is' suggests a statement about reality; but this 'is' statement is saying there's no reality... This makes me think that 'is' may be also a personal 'is' - something which may be significant to the identity of the person saying it. But the great joy of cybernetics is(!) the flexibility it can give us to see the world in many different ways (back to playing); that may be the flexibility to be different types of people all at once; to hold different identities.  For me, cybernetics works as a safety-mechanism that whenever I say something 'IS', I can consider the conditions under which I might be convinced otherwise. As such, ironically, cybernetics may provide a way of 'getting real' (real needs to be distinguished from 'actual' I think), where to 'get real' means this sort of flexibility of personal identity.

2. The cybernetic mechanisms of the emergence of social form, politics, personal identity and value.  The cybernetics of value - social values and personal values - may be something which we need to get to grips with if cybernetics is to have any real use politically (and many technological and institutional matters, including educational technology, boil down to politics at some point). Cybernetics, in changing the world as it has, has introduced new values and mechanisms of values; it has been less successful at changing itself to understand the impact it has had.

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