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Language (reconstructing its origins) and Accountability reconsidering its Cybernetics Klaus Krippendorff Gregory Bateson Professor for Cybernetics, Language.

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Presentation on theme: "Language (reconstructing its origins) and Accountability reconsidering its Cybernetics Klaus Krippendorff Gregory Bateson Professor for Cybernetics, Language."— Presentation transcript:

1 Language (reconstructing its origins) and Accountability reconsidering its Cybernetics Klaus Krippendorff Gregory Bateson Professor for Cybernetics, Language and Culture The Annenberg School for Communication University of Pennsylvania Workshop on Language in Vienna

2 Plan Questioning some assumptions of second-order cybernetics Coordination Bootstrapping conceptions Accountability Discourse Discourse of (second-order) cybernetics

3 Questioning some assumptions Cognitivism The role of the observer Abstractions Fundamentalizing any one discourse Theories of language Reconsidering (second-order) cybernetics

4 Questioning some assumptions Cognitivism A Mind produces subjective representations of the objective world outside Descartes B The experiential world is a platform to reach the world outside Husserl C Human beings are born into an environment and rely on equipment, nature and present others. They need to construct uses Heidegger All evidence of human cognition is extracted from language use or constituted in language. Is radical constructivism radically cognitivist? Proceeding as in B? Why not C?

5 Questioning some assumptions Cognitivism The role of the observer Knowledge during the enlightenment became what detached observers, spectators, could describe, explain and theorize Second-order cybernetics insists on entering the observer in the observed, calling for descriptions of processes of observation von Foerster What would happen if we were to shift to how-to knowledge as a criterion for understanding? The knowledge of one’s ability to make something happen, including generating data by scientific experiments? If language performs constructed or created reality, descriptions and explanations become problematic accounts

6 Questioning some assumptions Cognitivism The role of the observer Abstractions Abstractions like “THE observer” cannot be observed, does not exist as such but resides primarily in language (and only secondarily in cognition) Need to consider all concepts as embodied somewhere concepts in the language used by speakers / writers actions as performed by someone governments do not speak, people do cybernetics does not do anything, cyberneticians do Experiments in category theory suggests super-ordinate categories are not imaginable Rosch (1978)

7 Questioning some assumptions Cognitivism The role of the observer Abstractions Fundamentalizing any one discourse There are numerous discourse communities seeking superior status – physics, economics, biology – claiming to be more fundamental than others To understand languaging, its history of embodiments in generations of users is important. No discipline is more important than the process of human engagement with the world For example, autopoiesis (Maturana’s theory) is not required for living systems to live. It is a construction in language and important in the discourse of biology. Yet in everyday life, language use constitutes the very phenomena described: “This is the 3 rd Heinz von Foerster conference”

8 Questioning some assumptions Cognitivism The role of the observer Abstractions Fundamentalizing any one discourse Theories of language Abstract/objectivist – medium of representation Vološinov (1929) Individual/subjectivist – medium of expression Vološinov (1929) Hermeneutic/interpretivist – medium of rearticulation von Glasersfeld (1983) Constructive/constitutive – medium of being in language

9 Coordination Coordination vs. subordination Con-sensual coordination Coordination theory Coordination and conversation Language games

10 Coordination Coordination vs. subordination Coordination = co-ordination = jointly worked out dynamics, relation R Subordination according to a principle R or authority

11 Coordination Coordination vs. subordination Con-sensual coordination Language is the consensual coordination of consensual coordination of action Maturana (1988) Implicit aboutness from representational notions of language ? Consensual = jointly sensed (not by consensus = con-sensual

12 Coordination Coordination vs. subordination Con-sensual coordination Coordination theory Newcomb(1953) Minimally two individuals A, B and a jointly seen object X I obs [A obs (B-X) and B obs (A-X)] I obs [A coordinates with B re X] I obs [A obs (B obs (A-X)-X) with B obs (A obs (B-X) re X] coordination = acquiescence on not conflict I obs [A-B-X]

13 Coordination Coordination vs. subordination Con-sensual coordination Coordination theory Coordination and conversation In A-B-X, The co-sensed object X migrates to the topic X Bateson’s distinction Watzlawick et al. (1967) Content = co-sensed object X or topic X jointly attended to Relationship = tacit languaging R between A and B

14 Coordination Coordination vs. subordination Con-sensual coordination Coordination theory Coordination and conversation Language games Wittgenstein (1953) Categorizing coordinations R Constitutive rules assign meanings to (speech) acts also Searle (1969) Regulative rules specify when to use which (speech ) acts Conversations do not require rules Rules are created when tacit participation breaks down (see accountability below)

15 Bootstrapping conceptions A theory of metaphor From kinesthetic metaphors to interpersonal metaphors Social constructions and metaphor use

16 Bootstrapping conceptions A theory of metaphor Lakoff and Johnson (1980) Analogy: A is to B as C is to D Metaphor: Vocabulary from a familiar domain and a present domain Superficial resemblance between the two domains Entailments from the familiar domain change the perception of the present domain

17 Bootstrapping conceptions A theory of metaphor From kinesthetic metaphors to interpersonal metaphors Johnson (1987) Examples of early coordinations of vocabularies with experiences up – down in(side) – outside (not inside) push – pull can – cannot doings – happenings objects – actions Examples of later uses of metaphors head of the household collecting data (facts) war on drugs diseased neighborhood road rage

18 Bootstrapping conceptions A theory of metaphor From kinesthetic metaphors to interpersonal metaphors Social constructions and metaphor use Coordination of the entailments of metaphors (vocabulary use)

19 Accountability Agency vs. determinism Responsibility – assumed, assigned, declared Ethics embodied in interactions or a proposed universal? Accounts Languaging, performative language, speech acts

20 Accountability Agency vs. determinism There are many determinisms: causal, logical, cognitive, environmental Determinism is the proposition that events, including human cognition and behavior, decision and action, are determined by prior occurrences Determinism and agency offer incompatible explanations Structural determinism is the proposition that events within organisms are determined by the structure of that organism, not by the structure of its environment Agency is the capacity of human beings to choose among actions that have consequences for self and others in the world It presupposes a space of possibility and entails accountability

21 Accountability Agency vs. determinism Responsibility is often entangled with authority (authorship) Responsibility – assumed, assigned, declared Responsibility can be assumed for the well-being of others (in need of protection) (assuming leadership or authority) Responsibility can be assigned by an authority to someone to do something (accepting the assigning authority) Responsibility can be declared for a valuable contribution or failure

22 Accountability Agency vs. determinism Four theories of language: Medium of representation – determined by truths Medium of expression – determined by internal states Medium of interpretation – determined by social norms Medium of being in language = performing speech acts Languaging, performative language, speech acts Speech acts Searle (1969) (too simple) Assertives – commit a speaker to the truth of a proposition Commissives – commit a speaker to future acts Expressives – express a speaker’s attitude toward an X Directives – command a hearer to perform an act Declaratives – change reality in accord with a declaration Languaging entails choices Responsibility – assumed, assigned, declared

23 Accountability Agency vs. determinism Kinds of accounts: Mills (1940), Scott (1968), Buttny (1993) Explanations – coordination of understanding Accounts are requested given or denied. If denied: or acquiesced accepted or rejected. If rejected: Excuses – denying agency (invoking acceptable reasons to) Justifications – appealing to virtues Accounts Responsibility – assumed, assigned, declared Languaging, performative language, speech acts

24 Accountability Agency vs. determinism Explanations Excuses Justifications Ethics embodied in interactions or a proposed universal system? Accounts Responsibility – assumed, assigned, declared Languaging, performative language, speech acts Accounts invoke a radically distributed ethics, one whose propositions emerge when acts are perceived as incomprehensible, irresponsible or immoral. Practicing accountability makes universal systems of ethics dispensable

25 Discourse Conversation recap: Is self-organizing – creates its own con-sensual history and a continuously evolving identity Is embodied in the languaging by its constituents – presentness Constituents create spaces for each other – practice agency – assure dialogical equality Preserves the possibility of its continuation – assures belongingness Conversations degenerate into discourses when any one or more of the above are violated

26 Discourse Conversations degenerate into discourses when Agency is confined to institutionalized spaces – rational, functional Organization is confined by assigned purposes Participants claim unequal powers and access to reality (hierarchies) Constituents are less important than what they are expected to produce Certainties and conclusions are valued

27 Discourse A discourse is a constrained conversation It institutes its recurrent practices surfaces in texts, the objects it constructs is kept alive by a discourse community maintains its boundary justifies itself to outsiders of the discourse

28 Discourse A discourse is a constrained conversation It A consistent universe that is observable and theorizable by trained physicists in causal terms. It excludes observing physicists and cannot understand how it is being studied surfaces in texts, the objects it constructs What does the discourse of physics construct? Bodily injuries and illnesses that are treatable by medical professionals What does the discourse of medicine construct? What does the discourse of biology construct? Living organisms that can be described as structure determined systems (using functional explanations that generalize observations which are incomprehensible by these organisms)

29 Discourse A discourse is a constrained conversation It There are two schools Objectivists construct disembodied social systems as determined within their own variables e.g., Luhmann. Individual constituents do not play a role in such systems – except in the aggregate (statistics) surfaces in texts, the objects it constructs What does the discourse of sociology construct? Constructivists construct social systems that constitute themselves in descriptions of them, either by their own constituents or by their theorists. What does a design discourse construct? Proposals for artifacts (devices, practices, texts) that enable stakeholders to realize something that would not come about naturally

30 Discourse A discourse is a constrained conversation It institutes its recurrent practices surfaces in texts, the objects it constructs is kept alive by a discourse community maintains its boundary justifies itself to outsiders of the discourse

31 Discourse of (second-order) cybernetics Cybernetics is a discourse, an organized way of languaging As an interdiscipline, cybernetics is not privileging materiality, it can work with disciplines compatible with its core ideas Cyberneticians constitute a discourse community, dedicated to advancing its core ideas – circularity, process, information, participation (involvement) in the world Cyberneticians consider themselves accountable to those affected by what they bring forth – knowingly or not Cyberneticians construct artifacts – linguistic, computational or material – that open new possibilities for their users (Second-order) cybernetics is the discourse of participation in systems under continuous construction by its constituents


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