Emergence and Embodiment: New Essays on Second-Order Systems Theory

Emergence and Embodiment: New Essays on Second-Order Systems Theory

Paperback Science and Cultural Theory

Edited by Bruce Clarke, Edited by Mark B. N. Hansen

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  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Format: Paperback | 328 pages
  • Dimensions: 155mm x 231mm x 23mm | 431g
  • Publication date: 17 December 2009
  • Publication City/Country: North Carolina
  • ISBN 10: 0822346001
  • ISBN 13: 9780822346005
  • Sales rank: 306,456

Product description

Emerging in the 1940s, the first cybernetics - the study of communication and control systems - was mainstreamed under the names Artificial Intelligence and computer science and taken up by the social sciences, the humanities, and the creative arts. In "Emergence and Embodiment", Bruce Clarke and Mark B. N. Hansen focus on cybernetic developments that stem from the second-order turn in the 1970s, when the cyberneticist Heinz von Foerster catalyzed new thinking about the cognitive implications of self-referential systems. The crucial shift he inspired was from first-order cybernetics' attention to homeostasis as a mode of autonomous self-regulation in mechanical and informatic systems, to second-order concepts of self-organization and autopoiesis in embodied and metabiotic systems. The collection opens with an interview with von Foerster and then traces the lines of neocybernetic thought that have followed from his work. In response to the apparent dissolution of boundaries at work in the contemporary technosciences of emergence, neocybernetics observes that cognitive systems are operationally bounded, semi-autonomous entities coupled with their environments and to other systems. Second-order systems theory stresses the recursive complexities of observation, mediation, and communication. Focused on the neocybernetic contributions of von Foerster, Francisco Varela, and Niklas Luhmann, this collection advances theoretical debates about the cultural, philosophical, and literary uses of their ideas. In addition to the interview with von Foerster, "Emergence and Embodiment" includes essays by Varela and Luhmann. It engages with Humberto Maturana and Varela's creation of the concept of autopoiesis, Varela's later work on neurophenomenology, and Luhmann's adaptations of autopoiesis to social systems theory. Taken together, these essays illuminate the shared commitments uniting the broader discourse of neocybernetics. The contributors include: Linda Brigham; Bruce Clarke; Mark B. N. Hansen; Edgar Landgraf; Ira Livingston; Niklas Luhmann; Hans-Georg Moeller; John Protevi; Michael Schiltz; Evan Thompson; Francisco J. Varela; and, Cary Wolfe.

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Author information

Bruce Clarke is Professor of English at Texas Tech University and a past president of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts. His books include "Posthuman Metamorphosis: Narrative and Systems "and" Energy Forms: Allegory and Science in the Era of Classical Thermodynamics."Mark B. N. Hansen is Professor of Literature at Duke University. He is the author of "New Philosophy for New Media" and "Bodies in Code: Interfaces with Digital Media."

Review quote

"Emergence and Embodiment is an outstanding collection of sharp, well-crafted essays by prominent authors in the field of science and literature studies, all of whom have made major contributions to discussions of cybernetics, post-structuralism, and post-humanism. Here they demonstrate the viability of neo-cybernetics as a resource for resolving the dilemmas of the post-human raised by newer fields of artificial life, complexity theory, and cellular automata." Tim Lenoir, Duke University "Emergence and Embodiment provides a useful overview and detailed analyses of the complex field of neocybernetics and its major thinkers. It indicates the significance and breadth of interdisciplinary work being done in the wake of Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Heinz von Foerster, and George Spencer-Brown, even as it makes demands on its readers to rethink some of their assumptions about the last forty years of 'theory' in the humanities and the interdisciplinary social sciences."--Robert Markley, author of Dying Planet: Mars in Science and the Imagination

Back cover copy

""Emergence and Embodiment" provides a useful overview and detailed analyses of the complex field of neocybernetics and its major thinkers. It indicates the significance and breadth of interdisciplinary work being done in the wake of Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Heinz von Foerster, and George Spencer-Brown, even as it makes demands on its readers to rethink some of their assumptions about he last forty years of 'theory' in the humanities and the interdisciplinary social sciences."--Robert Markley, author of "Dying Planet: Mars in Science and the Imagination"

Table of contents

Contents; Acknowledgments Introduction: Neocybernetic Emergence: Bruce Clarke and Mark B. N. Hansen; Interview with Heinz von Foerster; Interviewer: Bruce Clarke; Heinz von Foerster's Demons: The Emergence of Second-Order Systems Theory: Bruce Clarke; The Early Days of Autopoiesis: Francisco J. Varela; Life and Mind: From Autopoiesis to Neurophenomenology: Evan Thompson; Beyond Autopoiesis: Inflections of Emergence and Politics in Francisco Varela: John Protevi; System-Environment Hybrids: Mark B. N. Hansen; Self-Organization and Autopoiesis: Niklas Luhmann; Space Is the Place: The Laws of Form and Social Systems: Michael Schiltz; Improvisation: Form and Event--A Spencer-Brownian Calculation: Edgar Landgraf; Communication versus Communion in Modern Psychic Systems: Maturana, Luhmann, and Cognitive Neurology: Linda Brigham; Meaning as Event-Machine, or Systems Theory and "The Reconstruction of Deconstruction": Derrida and Luhmann: Cary Wolfe; Complex Visuality: The Radical Middleground: Ira Livingston Bibliography; Contributors; Index