From Within, or the Domain of Design Practice
by Claudia Westermann
Constructivist Foundations 18 (1): 137-139. 2022. (open access)
Presenting an Open Peer Commentary on “In Maturana’s Wake: The Biology of Cognition’s Legacy and its Prospects” by Randall Whitaker, the article suggests that engaging with Maturana's biology of cognition in the context of design is a form of practice rather than application. Maturana's biology of cognition, the article argues, can be conceived of as initiating an educational process that supports agents to act “from within” rather than “from without.”
Open access. Special Issue <<Humberto Maturana’s Impact on Science and Philosophy: A Plurality of Perspectives>> edited by Alexander Riegler & Pille Bunnell. Target articles by Fritjof Capra, Alexander V. Kravchenko, Nelson Monteiro Vaz, Jorge Mpodozis, and Randall Whitaker.
Cybernetic Musings on Open Form(s): Learning to float
by Claudia Westermann
RSD 11: Annual Systemic Design Symposium: Relating Systems Thinking and Design at: https://rsdsymposium.org/cybernetic-musings-on-open-forms
Second-order cybernetics conceives of human beings as agents and participants in the making of worlds, embedded in the design process. This conception of designing as a practice of living with and in a world grants it both urgency and hope.
The paper proposes that design practitioners, in the widest sense, can learn from design cybernetics when conceiving new methodologies for the post-Anthropocene era. Further, it proposes that these methodologies’ development can take advantage of comparative studies of design cybernetics and design strategies found in traditional Chinese culture. Significantly, Chinese landscape poetry and landscape painting, and, in relation to this, Chinese classical garden design, emphasise elements that are also present in cybernetics discourse: circularity, a floating observer, and the continuity of observer and environment. The paper proposes that these ideas create the necessary conditions for the development of design approaches that re-connect human beings to their environments and permit future agents to initiate change from within. It concludes with an example of a public art installation that implements these ideas.
Editorial: On Modes of Participation
by Bardakos, Ioannis, Claudia Jacques, Dalila Honorato, Claudia Westermann, and Primavera de Filippi
Technoetic Arts: A Journal of Speculative Research, 19.3 On Modes of Participation, volume year 2021. https://ta.pubpub.org/pub/19-3-contents-abstracts
On globes, the Earth and the Cybernetics of Grace
by Claudia Westermann
Technoetic Arts: A Journal of Speculative Research, 19(1/2) Global Conversation special issue, pp. 29–47. Published in 2022, volume year 2021. https://doi.org/10.1386/tear_00049_1.
You may use the following link to access the article via the EBSCO subscription of your academic library. Choose the Institutional Login below the blue Sign In button. If you do not have access to an academic library, you may obtain a copy of the preprint via the PhilPapers platform or contact the author for a personal copy of the article.
The article presents an enquiry into conceptions of ‘global’ that began at the American Society for Cybernetics 2020 Global Conversation conference. Following the traces of Margaret Mead’s statement that emphasized that the first photographic images of the Earth from space presented notions of fragility, the article contextualizes the recent critique of the dominant representation of the Earth as a globe that emerged in conjunction with the discourse on the Anthropocene. It analyses the globe as an image and the sentiments that accompanied it since the first photographs of our planet from space were published in 1968. The article outlines how the cultural meaning of the whole Earth representation changed in parallel with the appropriation of the image by the large technological enterprises that emerged from America’s counterculture. It returns to the possibility of a coexistence of ‘views from within’ and ‘views from without’ following a detour with Gregory Bateson via Bali and proposes a Cybernetics of Grace as a practice of resistance against pure exteriority. The article concludes by linking the Cybernetics of Grace with the second-order conversations of Gordon Pask.
A Conversation on a Paradise on Earth in Eight Frames
by Tordis Berstrand, Amir Djalali, Yiping Dong, Jiawen Han, Teresa Hoskyns, Glen Wash Ivanovic, Siti Balkish Roslan, and Claudia Westermann, East Asian Journal of Philosophy, Special issue: Philosophy of the City, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 95–116. https://doi.org/10.19079/eajp.1.3.95
Once known as the city of silk, Suzhou [苏州] has become the centre of wedding dress production, selling paradise on earth for one day, including copies of the last royal wedding dress, out of shops at the foot of mythic Tiger Hill. Suzhou is also the host of what is known as the Silicon Valley of the East. It has attracted millions of migrants searching for a better future; millions of tourists visit every year to experience the past, strolling through the gardens and courtyards of its Old Town. The contrasts could hardly be more apparent. Slow time, and fast time, and the time of the in-between, are woven into the city’s complex spatial fabric. This is a conversation by eight authors in eight frames on a city that connects them.
Poiesis, Ecology and Embodied Cognition
by Claudia Westermann
July 2021, Technoetic Arts a Journal of Speculative Research 18(1):19–29. http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/tear_00023_1
Since René Descartes famously separated the concepts of body and mind in the seventeenth century, western philosophy and theory have struggled to conceptualize the interconnectedness of minds, bodies, environments and cultures. While environmental psychology and the cognitive sciences have shown that spatial perception is ‘embodied’ and depends on the aforementioned concepts’ interconnectedness, architectural design practice, for example, has rarely incorporated these insights. The article presents research on the epistemological foundations that frame the communication between design theory and practice and juxtaposes it with scientific research on embodied experience. It further suggests that Asian aesthetics, with its long history in conceiving relations and art as interactive, could create a bridge between recent scientific insights and design practice. The article outlines an approach to the interconnectedness of minds, bodies, environments, the sciences and cultures, in favour of a future that is governed by creative wisdom rather than ‘smart’ efficiency.
Due to copyright restrictions, we are not permitted to share the manuscript on this website until July 2022. If you are a student or a researcher you likely have access to the text via your academic library's EBSCOhost subscription. Try this link: https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=vth&AN=151469195&site=eds-live&scope=site. If it does not work, send Claudia a message. She will be happy to share the text privately.
Featured by the American Society of Landscape Architects as one of the best books of 2020:
New Horizons: Eight Perspectives on Chinese Landscape Architecture Today
edited by Jutta Kehrer
[..] flowing with the waters, halting with the mountains. In the images of light and wind the ephemeral is inscribed. Time is part of space. The scene performs.
The essay "Chinese Landscape Aesthetics: the exchange and nurturing of emotions" by Claudia Westermann included in New Horizons: Eight Perspectives on Chinese Landscape Architecture Today introduces ideas of landscape in traditional Chinese thought. Following the etymology of the Chinese terms for landscape and recognizing that their conceptual focus is on the exchange and nurturing of emotions, which is not captured by the English term 'landscape,' one may gain a new understanding of contemporary works of Chinese landscape architecture.
The (very short) essay "Chinese Landscape Aesthetics: the exchange and nurturing of emotions" by Claudia Westermann of LITRA can also be accessed via google books. The author's manuscript is available for download from this server.
The Art of Conversation | Design Cybernetics and its Ethics
The art of conversation: design cybernetics and its ethics was published in 2020 in Kybernetes. The manuscript is available from researchgate, and from this server.
Concerned with questions of ethics in design, the paper highlights second-order design cybernetics as an approach to design that has inscribed in its conception a radical openness toward the future and the agency of others. Design Cybernetics, the paper argues, creates a suitable frame of reference for conceiving social systems of all kinds, including environments that are designed to be inhabited. The second-order conception of art of Gordon Pask, his collaborators, and pupils, can be seen to follow John Dewey's 'grounding' of art in experience. Its focus, however, is slightly different, as it emphasises the capacity of art to open an intersubjective space.
The paper identifies an aesthetics grounded in the process of living-with-others as an ethical principle implicit in second-order cybernetics thought. It is an aesthetics that is radically open for the agency of others. The interconnection of aesthetics and ethics in the second-order cybernetic conception of art and design is unique and has not yet sufficiently been highlighted. Linking aesthetics and ethics, the paper's contributions are of specific value for practitioners and theoreticians of design.
The article may contribute to a better understanding of how second-order cybernetics provides for unique, so far overlooked, opportunities for re-thinking design research, aesthetics and the philosophy of art.
Poetics of Designing, in: Design Cybernetics | Navigating the New
edited by Thomas Fischer and Christiane M. Herr, published by Springer in 2019.
You might have access to the ebook via your academic library's Springer Link subscription. https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-3-030-18557-2 (Log in via Shibboleth or Athens). The author's manuscript of the chapter 'A Poetics of Designing' is available for download from this server.
The chapter provides an overview on what it means to be in a world that is uncertain, e.g., how under conditions of limited understanding any activity is an activity that designs and constructs, and how designing objects, spaces, and situations relates to the (designed) meta-world of second-order cybernetics. Designers require a framework that is open, but one that supplies ethical guidance when ‘constructing’ something new. Relating second-order design thinking to insights in philosophy and aesthetics, the chapter argues that second-order cybernetics provides a response to this ethical challenge and essentially it entails a poetics of designing.
'A Poetics of Designing' is part of the first book-length collection of texts in Design Cybernetics. It introduces the subject from the point of view of aesthetics. Importantly, the chapter argues that second-order cybernetics circumvents the necessity for a muse inspired artist or genius as a mediator between higher spirits and life, in favour of artists and designers who have true agency.
Cybernetics is often associated with AI, which is, however, only one of the branches that developed on the basis of the interdisciplinary research begun in the 1940s and entitled cybernetics. The chapter may contribute to a better understanding of the second-order cybernetics that has been conceived in close relationship with art and design from the late 60s onwards.
The conference papers An eco-poetic approach to architecture across boundaries and Constructing the Hybrid City: Shanghai were published open access in 2019 and 2020 respectively and may be obtained via the links underlying the above titles. The manuscript of the paper On delight: Thoughts for tomorrow published in 2018 in Technoetic Arts may also be obtained from researchgate.