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AL AKHAWAYN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES COMMUNICATIONS STUDIES. 3. System Theory. Lecture by Prof. Dr. Mohammed Ibahrine based on Littlejohn ’s Theories of Human Communication. Structure of the Lecture. 1. Fundamental System Principles 1.1 What is a System?

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AL AKHAWAYN UNIVERSITY

SCHOOL OF HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES

COMMUNICATIONS STUDIES

3. System Theory

Lecture by Prof. Dr. Mohammed Ibahrine

based on

Littlejohn’s Theories of Human Communication


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Structure of the Lecture

  • 1. Fundamental System Principles

    • 1.1 What is a System?

    • 1.2 System Qualities

    • 1.2.1 Wholeness and Interdependence

    • 1.2.2 Hierarchy

    • 1.2.3 Self-Regulation and Control

    • 1.2.4 Interchange with the Environment

    • 1.2.5 Balance

    • 1.2.6 Change and Adaptability

    • 1.2.7 Equifinality

  • 2. Information Theory

    • 2.1 Basic Concepts

    • 2.2 Language and Information

    • 2.3 Information Transmission


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    Structure of the Lecture

    • 3. Cybernetics

      • 3.1 Feedback Process

      • 3.2 Complex Network

      • 3.3 Second-Order Cybernetics

    • 4. Dynamic Social Impact Theory

    • 5. Commentary and Critique


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    1. Fundamental System Principles

    • What is a system?

    • Any system can be said to consist of four things:

    • 1. Objects:

      • The Parts

      • Elements

      • Variables

  • Within the system

  • These may be physical or abstract or both, depending on the nature of the system


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    1. Fundamental System Principles

    • 2. Attributes:

      • The qualities and proprieties of the system and its objects


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    1. Fundamental System Principles

    • 3. Internal Relationship:

      • A system has internal relationship among its objects

      • This characteristics is a crucial aspect


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    1. Fundamental System Principles

    • 4. Environment:

      • Systems exist in an environment


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    1. Fundamental System Principles

    • Definition of a system

      • “A system, then, is a set of things that affect one another within an environment and form a larger pattern that is different from any of he parts”


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    1. Fundamental System Principles

    • Closed and open systems are essentially Different

      • A closed system has no interchange with its environment

      • The closed system model often apples to physical systems like stars

      • An open system receives matter and energy from its environment and passes matter and energy to its environment

      • The open system is oriented toward life and growth

    (Please read the example in P.37)


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    1. Fundamental System Principles

    • 1.2 System Qualities

      • Systems (biological, psychological and socio-cultural) have certain common characteristics

        • Wholeness and Interdependence

        • A system is a unique whole

        • It involves a pattern of relationships that is different from any other system


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    1. Fundamental System Principles

    • 1.2 System Qualities

      • Wholeness and Interdependence

        • A system is a unique whole

        • It involves a pattern of relationships that is different from any other system

        • The whole is more than the sum of is parts

        • A system is a the product of the interactions among the parts

    (Please read the example in P.38)


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    1. Fundamental System Principles

    • 1.2 System Qualities

      • 1.2.1 Wholeness and Interdependence

        • The interdependence among the variable of a system can be expressed as a series of associations, or correlations

        • Some correlations are very strong and others are quite weak

        • In a complex system, many variables interrelate with one another in a web of influence that vary in strength


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    1. Fundamental System Principles

    • 1.2 System Qualities

      • 1.2.2 Hierarchy

        • A system is a series of levels of increasing complexity

        • The larger system of which a system is a part is called the suprasystem

        • The smaller system contained within a system is called the subsystem

    (Please see figure 3.1 in P.40)


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    1. Fundamental System Principles

    • 1.2 System Qualities

      • 1.2.3 Self-Regulation and Control

        • Many systems are goal-oriented and regulate their behavior to achieve certain aims


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    1. Fundamental System Principles

    • 1.2 System Qualities

      • 1.2.4 Interchange with the Environment

        • Open systems interact with their environment

        • They have inputs and outputs


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    1. Fundamental System Principles

    • 1.2 System Qualities

      • 1.2.5 Balance

        • Balance (homeostasis) is a form of self-maintenance


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    1. Fundamental System Principles

    • 1.2 System Qualities

      • 1.2.6 Change and adaptability

        • Because it exist in a dynamic environment, a system must be adaptable

        • To survive a system must need/have a balance

        • Complex systems have to change structurally to adapt to the environment

        • The technical term for system change is morphogenesis


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    1. Fundamental System Principles

    • 1.2 System Qualities

      • 1.2.7 Equifinality

        • Finality is the goal achievement or task accomplishment of a system

        • Equifinality means that a particular final state may be accomplished in different ways and from different starting points

        • The system is capable of processing inputs in different ways to produce its output


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    2. Information Theory

    • Information theory is the area of study most concerned with communication in systems

    • Information theory involves the quantitative study of signals

    • It has practical applications in the electronic sciences that design transmitters, receivers, and codes to facilitate efficient handling of information

    • Information theory developed from investigations in physics, mathematics

    • Claude Shannon synthesized the early work in information theory

    • The Mathematical Theory of Communication is now a classic


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    2. Information Theory

    • 2.1 Basic Concepts

    • Entropy is randomness, or lack of organization in a situation

    • A totally entropic situation is unpredictable

    • Information is a measure of the uncertainty, or entropy, in a situation


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    2. Information Theory

    • 2.2 Language and Information

    • These patterns make decoding easier because there is less information, or greater predictability


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    2. Information Theory

    • 2.3 Information Transmission

      • Information theory is not concerned with the meaning of messages, only their transmission and reception

      • The producers, directors, and announcers are the source:

      • The message is transmitted by airwaves (channel) to the TV set (receiver), which converts electromagnetic waves back into a visual impression for the viewer


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    3. Cybernetics

    • Cybernetics is the study of regulation and control in systems

    • System are regulated, seek goals, and are purposeful


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    3. Cybernetics

    • 3.2 Complex Network

    • Cybernetics deals with the ways a system gauges its effects and makes necessary adjustment

    • Feedback mechanism vary in complexity

      • Active behavior

      • Passive behavior

      • Purposeful behavior

      • Random behavior

      • Predictive behavior


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    3. Cybernetics

    • 3.2 Complex Network

    • As a series of hierarchally ordered subsystems, advanced systems are more complex

    • In a complex system, a series of feedback loops exist within and among subsystems


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    3. Cybernetics

    • 3.2 Complex Network

    • Cybernetics is a central process in systems, for it explains such qualities as wholeness (a portion of a system cannot be understood apart from its loops among subsystems), interdependence (subsystems are constrained by mutual feedback), self-regulation (a system maintains balance and changes by responding appropriately to positive and negative feedback), and interchange with the environment (inputs and outputs create feedback loops)

    (Please read the summary in P.47)


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    3. Cybernetics

    • 3.4 Second-Order Cybernetics

    • Whenever you observe a system, you affect and are affected by the system

    • The “cybernetics of the observing system” or “the cybernetics of knowing” because it shows that knowledge is a product of feedback loops between the knower and the known

    • What we observe in the system is determined in part by the categories and methods of observation, which in turn are affected by what is seen


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    3. Cybernetics

    • 3.4 Second-Order Cybernetics

    • Second-order cybernetics is revolutionary in system theory because it says that objective observation amd knowledge are not possible

    • Traditional system theory and cybernetics treat systems as objectively observable

    • In second-order cybernetics, the observed system both affects and is affected by the observer


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    3. Cybernetics

    • 3.4 Second-Order Cybernetics

    • This theory seems strange at first because we human beings feel separate from what we observe

    • This impression is a result of autopoiesis, or the tendency of a living system to distinguish itself from other systems and to act in ways that maintain a sense of autonomy or separateness

    • Structural coupling occurs when we observe another system and when we are affected by the structure and history of that system


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    4. Dynamic Social Impact Theory

    • System theory has had a major influence on the study of human communication

    • In the following, we will look at a very general theory that illustrates how system theory can be applied to communication


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    4. Dynamic Social Impact Theory

    • Dynamic social impact theory (DSIT) has been developed by Bibb Latané

    • The theory imagines society as a giant communication system consisting of numerous cultural subsystem, which include individuals interacting with one another


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    4. Dynamic Social Impact Theory

    • Individuals are not isolated

    • They interact with one another in social spaces

    • Social spaces are the areas in which people meet, communicate, and influence one another

    • Another factor influencing social space are various media of communication that enable people to communicate at a distance, including telephone, email and mass media


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    4. Dynamic Social Impact Theory

    • You all occupy a common social space and are likely to influence one another in various ways

    (Please read the example in P.51)


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    5. Commentary and Critique

    • System theory have been criticized on several fronts

    • Six major issues have emerged:

      • 1. Does the generality of system theory provide the advantage of integration or the disadvantage of ambiguity

      • 2. Does the theory’s openness provide flexibility in application or confusing equivocality?

      • 3. Is system theory merely a philosophical perspective, or does it provide useful explanations?

      • 4. Has system theory generated useful research?

      • 5. Is the system paradigm an arbitrary convention, or does it refeclect reality in nature?

      • 6. Does system theory help to simplify, or does it make thins more complicated than they really are


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    5. Commentary and Critique

    • 1. Does the generality of system theory provide the advantage of integration or the disadvantage of ambiguity

    • Critics point out that system theory either it must remain a general framework without explaining real-world events

    • or it must abandon general integration in favor of making substantive claims


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    5. Commentary and Critique

    • 2. Does the theory’s openness provide flexibility in application or confusing equivocality?

    • Chang-Gen Bahg points out that system theory as label is confusing

    • There are a variety of system theories with different names

    • System theory means different things in different parts of the world


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    5. Commentary and Critique

    • 3. Is system theory merely a philosophical perspective, or does it provide useful explanations?

    • Some critics question whether the system theory is a theory at all, claiming that it has no explanatory power


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    5. Commentary and Critique

    • 4. Has system theory generated useful research?

    • The fourth critical issue questions system theory’s heuristic value of its ability to generate research

    • They claim that the theory does not suggest substantive questions for investigation


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    5. Commentary and Critique

    • 5. Is the system paradigm an arbitrary convention, or does it reflect reality in nature?

    • The fifth issue relates to the validity of system theory

    • Critics question whether system theory was developed to reflect what really happens in nature or to represent a useful convention for conceptualizing complex processes


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    5. Commentary and Critique

    • 6. Does system theory help to simplify, or does it make things more complicated than they really are?

    • The final issue of system theory is parsimony

    • Adherents claim the world is so complex that a sensible framework such as system theory is necessary to sort out the elements of the world process

    • Critics generally doubt that events are that complex