Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics
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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 [email protected] .

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Language (reconstructing its origins) and Accountability reconsidering its Cybernetics

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Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Language(reconstructing its origins)and Accountabilityreconsidering its Cybernetics

Klaus Krippendorff

Gregory Bateson Professor for Cybernetics, Language and Culture

The Annenberg School for Communication

University of Pennsylvania

[email protected]

Workshop on Language 2007.11.19 in Vienna


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Plan

  • Questioning some assumptions of second-order cybernetics

  • Coordination

  • Bootstrapping conceptions

  • Accountability

  • Discourse

  • Discourse of (second-order) cybernetics


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Questioning some assumptions

  • Cognitivism

  • The role of the observer

  • Abstractions

  • Fundamentalizing any one discourse

  • Theories of language

  • Reconsidering (second-order) cybernetics


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

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?


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

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

If language performs constructed or created reality, descriptions and explanations become problematic accounts

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?


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

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)

Experiments in category theory suggests super-ordinate categories are not imaginable Rosch (1978)

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


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

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 3rd Heinz von Foerster conference”


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

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


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Coordination

  • Coordination vs. subordination

  • Con-sensual coordination

  • Coordination theory

  • Coordination and conversation

  • Language games


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Coordination

  • Coordination vs. subordination

  • Coordination = co-ordination = jointly worked out dynamics, relation R

  • Subordination according to a principle R or authority


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Coordination

  • Coordination vs. subordination

  • Con-sensual coordination

Language is the consensual coordination of consensual coordination of actionMaturana (1988)

Consensual = jointly sensed (not by consensus = con-sensual

Implicit aboutness from representational notions of language ?


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Coordination

  • Coordination vs. subordination

  • Con-sensual coordination

  • Coordination theoryNewcomb(1953)

Minimally two individuals A, B and a jointly seen object X

I obs [A-B-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


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Coordination

  • Coordination vs. subordination

  • Con-sensual coordination

  • Coordination theory

  • Coordination and conversation

InA-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 languagingR between A and B


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Coordination

  • Coordination vs. subordination

  • Con-sensual coordination

  • Coordination theory

  • Coordination and conversation

  • Language gamesWittgenstein (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)


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Bootstrapping conceptions

  • A theory of metaphor

  • From kinesthetic metaphors to interpersonal metaphors

  • Social constructions and metaphor use


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

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


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

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


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

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)


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Accountability

  • Agency vs. determinism

  • Responsibility – assumed, assigned, declared

  • Languaging, performative language, speech acts

  • Accounts

  • Ethics embodied in interactions or a proposed universal?


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Accountability

  • Agency vs. determinism

Determinism is the proposition that events, including human cognition and behavior, decision and action, are determined by prior occurrences

Structural determinism is the proposition that events within organisms are determined by the structure of that organism, not by the structure of its environment

There are many determinisms: causal, logical, cognitive, environmental

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

Determinism and agency offer incompatible explanations


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Accountability

  • Agency vs. determinism

  • 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

Responsibility is often entangled with authority (authorship)


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Accountability

  • Agency vs. determinism

  • Responsibility – assumed, assigned, declared

  • Languaging, performative language, speech acts

Languaging entails choices

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

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


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Accountability

  • Agency vs. determinism

  • Responsibility – assumed, assigned, declared

  • Languaging, performative language, speech acts

  • Accounts

Accounts are • requested

• given or denied. If denied: or acquiesced

• accepted or rejected. If rejected:

Kinds of accounts: Mills (1940), Scott (1968), Buttny (1993)

  • Explanations – coordination of understanding

  • Excuses – denying agency (invoking acceptable reasons to)

  • Justifications – appealing to virtues


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Accountability

  • Agency vs. determinism

  • Responsibility – assumed, assigned, declared

  • Languaging, performative language, speech acts

  • Accounts

  • Explanations

  • Excuses

  • Justifications

  • Ethics embodied in interactions or a proposed universal system?

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


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Discourse

Conversation recap:

  • Is embodied in the languaging by its constituents – presentness

  • Constituents create spaces for each other – practice agency – assure dialogical equality

  • Is self-organizing – creates its own con-sensual history and a continuously evolving identity

  • Preserves the possibility of its continuation – assures belongingness

Conversations degenerate into discourses when any one or more of the above are violated


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Discourse

Conversations degenerate into discourses when

  • Constituents are less important than what they are expected to produce

  • Agency is confined to institutionalized spaces – rational, functional

  • Organization is confined by assigned purposes

  • Participants claim unequal powers and access to reality (hierarchies)

  • Certainties and conclusions are valued


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Discourse

A discourse is a constrained conversation It

  • surfaces in texts, the objects it constructs

  • is kept alive by a discourse community

  • institutes its recurrent practices

  • maintains its boundary

  • justifies itself to outsiders of the discourse


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Discourse

A discourse is a constrained conversation It

  • surfaces in texts, the objects it constructs

What does the discourse of physics construct?

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

What does the discourse of medicine construct?

Bodily injuries and illnesses that are treatable by medical professionals

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)


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Discourse

A discourse is a constrained conversation It

  • surfaces in texts, the objects it constructs

What does the discourse of sociology construct?

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)

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


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Discourse

A discourse is a constrained conversation It

  • surfaces in texts, the objects it constructs

  • is kept alive by a discourse community

  • institutes its recurrent practices

  • maintains its boundary

  • justifies itself to outsiders of the discourse


Language reconstructing its origins and accountability reconsidering its cybernetics

Discourse of (second-order) cybernetics

  • Cybernetics is a discourse, an organized way of languaging

  • Cyberneticians constitute a discourse community, dedicated to advancing its core ideas – circularity, process, information, participation (involvement) in the world

  • Cyberneticians construct artifacts – linguistic, computational or material – that open new possibilities for their users

  • As an interdiscipline, cybernetics is not privileging materiality, it can work with disciplines compatible with its core ideas

  • Cyberneticians consider themselves accountable to those affected by what they bring forth – knowingly or not

(Second-order) cybernetics is the discourse of participation in systems under continuous construction by its constituents


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