Thursday, March 01, 2012

Systems conferences in California in July

I am hoping to attend the ASC conference being organised at Asilomar (9-13th July) in conjunction with the Bateson Idea Group.  The ISSS then starts its conference at San Jose on the 15th.  I hope to take in the first few days.  The incoming ISSS President has posted a powerpoint that has much - perhaps too much? - interesting material.

New book series

CRC Press, an imprint of Taylor and Francis, has just launched a new book series, entitled “Communications in Cybernetics, Systems Science and Engineering”.

A fine mess of human invention

This paper 'How economic theory came to ignore the role of debt’, by Michael Hudson and the subsequent discussion provide fascinating insights into contestations of ideas with profound implications for how we govern what humans do.   

Tellingly Hudson notes that: ‘Increasingly, the discussion of finance and debt has been limited to monetarists with an anti-government ax to grind and vested interests to defend and indeed, promote with regard to financial deregulation.’

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Avaatz's message seems good to me

From Avaatz:

'In the last 30 days, our community has grown by 2.5 million people. We were already the largest political web movement ever, and yet we're growing faster than anyone has seen before! We're taking more actions, winning more victories, donating more and generating thousands more media hits in one month than we used to in a year. It's thrilling, even a little scary, especially when we see that the pace is still accelerating...

Just to give a snapshot of the last few weeks --
  • 5 million of us stood up to the ACTA and SOPA internet censorship bills, helping to put SOPA on ice, and putting ACTA under threat, with the President of the European Parliament and Germany, Poland and many other countries reconsidering their positions.
  • we smuggled $1.8 million worth of medical supplies into Syria when no one else could, and raised $1.5 million more in donations, while our citizen journalists provided much of the world media's information and images.
  • we generated thousands of news articles on 20 different campaigns.
  • our sex trafficking hotline generated information that will result in a major set of arrests this week (can't say which country yet).
  • we raised over 4 million dollars/euros/yen online to supercharge our work, and are growing our staff team like mad to keep up with the need.
  • we ran over 40 campaigns, took over 10 million actions and told 25 million friends about campaigns we care about, on everything from deforestation in Brazil to the Murdoch scandal in the UK -- and made a serious impact on many of these.
If all that wasn't enough, we're about to launch a couple of big projects (stay tuned) that will take our community to a whole NEW level!

It's a thrilling privilege to serve this amazing community, and while the challenges we face are growing, the surge of spirited people rising to meet these challenges is growing even faster and stronger. We've come together and built something special, and it's taking off. Let's shoot for the stars.'

Get Up's top 10 issues for 2012

The results of Get Up's poll of members is out is a very user-friendly fashion. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 all concerned environmental issues.  As the Get Up folk say:

'It’s pretty amazing to be able to ask hundreds of thousands of Australians not only what they think will make this year the best year yet, but what they're prepared to do and to know that together, we actually have the power to do it. 
GetUp was created on the promise of a bold idea: that a great many people were ready to have a new kind of voice in our democracy, on the heartfelt belief that people cared more than pundits gave them credit for, and would change the country for the better if provided with meaningful opportunities to do so.'

Toward a Batesonian Cybernetic Concept of Culture

Guest lecture at the Department of
International Culture and Communication Studies

29 February, 2012
15.00 – 16.30

Copenhagen Business School

  Phillip Guddemi

Toward a Batesonian Cybernetic Concept of Culture

What would a cybernetic concept of culture look like if it were based on the mature epistemology of Gregory Bateson?  In some ways Bateson should be the best source of such a culture concept, as he was one of the pioneering anthropologists in New Guinea in the 1930s prior to his involvement in the Macy Conferences.  His interest in intercultural communication was catalyzed by the Second World War as well as by his prewar ethnographic experiences.  But after this period he ostensibly left anthropology and work on these issues.  I will show that his later cybernetic epistemology does have clear implications for culture and the concept of culture., concepts which in a second-order cybernetic epistemology have a distinct relationship to the Wittgensteinian idea of forms of life.

PHILLIP V. GUDDEMI: President, Bateson Idea Group, Sacramento, California USA; Managing Editor, Cybernetics and Human Knowing
Education: The University of Michigan, Ph.D., Anthropology, 1992; University of San Francisco, M.S., Environmental Management, 1982; The University of Michigan, M.A., Anthropology, 1979; University of California, Santa Cruz, B.A. (Honors), Anthropology, 1977.      
I was an undergraduate student of Gregory Bateson and I took four courses from him including an independent study on animal and human communication.  My graduate work at Michigan was with Roy Rappaport who included Batesonian and cybernetic ideas in his own research.  I did anthropological fieldwork in the far western East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea, spending 20 months in 1986-87 and then 6 months in 1995.  In 1990-91 I held the Andrew Mellon Predoctoral Fellowship at the Metropolitan Museum, New York, researching the relation of Papua New Guinea art to ritual and social life.  My dissertation on Papua New Guinea art and ritual was completed in 1992.  Since that time I have revisited the field of cybernetics, presenting papers and publishing on Bateson’s work and on topics such as autopoiesis and semeiosis. I have specifically looked at a cybernetic reinterpretation of the concept of power, and I am also very interested in biosemiotics as an emerging paradigm for many of the issues Bateson worked on.  I have held the title of Managing Editor at C&HK since 2006 and I was Vice President for Membership for the American Society for Cybernetics between 2008 and 2011. 

Selected Cybernetics and Bateson Publications
“Conscious Purpose in 2010: Bateson’s Prescient Warning.”  Systems Research and Behavioral Science 28:5, 2011, pages 465-475.
“A Multi-Party Imaginary Dialogue about Power and Cybernetics.”  Integral Review 6:1, 2010, pages 197-207.
“You are adapting more to me than I am adapting to you (but what does more mean?): Cybernetic and Foucaultian explorations of the domain of power.  Proceedings of the 52nd Annual Meeting of the ISSS, 2008.
“Toward Batesonian sociocybernetics: from Naven to the mind beyond the skin.”  Kybernetes 36:7/8, 2007, pages 905-914.
“Breaking the Concept of Power (and Redescribing its Domain): Batesonian and Autopoietic Perspectives.”  Cybernetics and Human Knowing 13:3-4, 2006, pages 58-73.
Autopoiesis, Semeiosis, and Co-Coupling: A Relational Language for Describing Communication and Adaptation.”  Cybernetics and Human Knowing 7:2, 2000, pages 127-145.

Fire in the street - a call to action

A few weeks ago I missed one of my pilates classes for very good reasons.  It had been a day when the temperature here in Melbourne had risen to 35 degrees. Just before 6pm, upon walking out my front gate, I found the electric cable and light pole on the opposite side of the street blazing like one of the sparklers we  played with as children on bonfire nights.  It was a shock.  I immediately went back inside and dialled 000 - the first time I have had to do this.  Then I walked down and cautiously knocked on the front door of the house  under the pole.  Despite an open front door those inside knew nothing of the blaze - but could 'smell some burning'.  Shifting the car from below the pole, by now dripping molten pastic, was a good idea - and fortunately done early enough to prevent any damage.  The fire brigade arrived soon enough and before long had the blaze out.   We had a short power outage, but within several hours all seemed fine again.

Disturbing though this incident was in inner city Melbourne, it is the wider implications that ring bells of alarm. It was a very hot day - but by no means one of the hottest we have had nor will continue to have.  Yet here was a spontaineous ignition of the sort that triggered major bushfires in rural Victoria in February 2009 with significant loss of life.

The subsequent Royal Commission concluded that: ' Faulty power lines are believed to have caused five of the 11 major fires on Black Saturday and the commission said the solution was the replacement of single-wire earth return power lines with aerial bundled cable or underground cables.'   Depite these findings the state government has deferred implemetation of these recommendations on cost grounds.

A few weeks earlier, on an even hotter day when my family and I were returning from Adelaide, the implications of power line failure in contexts of weather extremes became even more apparent.  As explained in this opinion piece published in the Adelaide Advertiser, based on an article written by my daughter on that very trip, electricity authorities are being forced to close down whole grid systems in periods of extremes, particularly where bushfires might ensue.  The end result is a community potentially subjected to life threatening heat stress.  As pointed out there is a need for institutional and technological innovation to break out of this trap.  It need not be expensive, but it does involve challenging the thinking and corporate interests that dismiss arguements for investing in more locally resilient power/energy systems.