Abstracts from 16th International Conference of Sociocybernetics

Abstracts for Day 1 – Introducing sociocybernetics: widening systemic perspectives

How COVID-19 is making us all think sociocybernetically

Andrew Mitchell (mitchell.andrew.neil@gmail.com)

Kumamoto University, Japan

In normal times the social subsystems and organisations which form the backbone of our society go about their operations unnoticed. Governments legislate, payments flow through the economy, and people rarely pay attention to the medical sphere unless they are ill. Society had sufficient complexity to deal with most of the problems that arose and without causing too much perturbation. Even when society suffers crises the damage was usually contained primarily within one social subsystem and often arose from that subsystem’s own operations (for example the Lehmann shock arose due to a breakdown in payments and was solved through making payments possible once more). Yet with COVID-19 we face, as world society, the emergence of a pathogen which has led to crises emerging across multiple social subsystems simultaneously. The perturbations that COVID-19 is causing are both huge and fundamentally unknowable, both due to its ongoing nature and due to the fact that no such crisis has struck the world under such hyper-globalised (or highly destratified) conditions before. This has affected the way that people discuss society in the pandemic era. Sociocybernetic principals such as the system/environment distinction, second-order observation, contingency and double contingency, are now finding themselves being inadvertently used throughout the world when trying to make sense of COVID-19. For example, Friedman (2020), a geopolitical analyst, describes the interaction of the medical, economic, social and military “modules”, how these modules are trying to manage COVID-19 while interacting with each other, and how they are managed by the political sphere from the local level to the international. The methodological nationalism underpinning geopolitical analysis has had to be modified to take account for the effects social subsystems are having on each other simultaneously, both within the nation state and within the international order. News organisations seem unable to reduce the complexity to a single social subsystem and are instead forced to describe the complexity of the situation through reference to the multiple communications that are emerging from various organisations (WHO, White House etc.). Reporting now also seems to avoid observing such communications on the first-order, i.e. uncritically. They are now observed at the second order, as communications emerging from a certain subsystem – subsystems with their own observational coding and their own agenda. There seems to be an implicit acknowledgement of a world based on communicative social subsystems, where observation is always system specific and their communications are finding themselves rejected more and more. This presentation will discuss this phenomenon and consider whether sociocybernetics principals are being used more broadly in the world when analysing the pandemic, just how superficial or deep such uses are, and whether any broadening in their use will have a lasting effect on other areas.

Why sociocybernetics is a useful and relevant analytical framework in time of pandemics?

Patricia Eugenia, Almaguer Kalixto (almaguer@unizar.es)

Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain

The concept of sociocybernetics has been shaped over the past forty years at the intersection between first- and second-order cybernetics, constructive epistemology and systems science. This has produced a common language to bridge these different disciplines and a common basis for research analyzing complex social problems. Why sociocybernetics is a useful and relevant analytical framework in time of pandemics? Sociocybernetics perspective is able to explain interconnections between emerging elements in a systemic way, recognizing the importance of the observer in the definition and analysis of the system and promoting second-order observation of the social systems that need improvement. Sociocybernetics addresses social complexity in a conceptual and methodological way, seeking to theorize beyond the old lineal, monocausal, and multicausal scientific views via a more holistic approach including circular causality and emergence. What is the difference between sociocybernetics and other new systems theory approaches? Bailey (2006) emphasizes that sociocybernetics seeks to show how changes in systems come about. It analyzes, among others, negative feedback that returns the system to the status quo, but most importantly it observes feedforward processes that enable steering, adaptation, change, and movement. Through this paper we will present key sociocybernetics concepts that can contribute as an analytical framework in time of COVID-19 such as complex systems, positive and negative feedback, observer-observation and reflexivity, among others.

Sextant, Compass and Rudder: Pillars for 21st century Sociocybernetics

Chaime Marcuello-Servos (chaime@unizar.es),

Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain

“During the last few months we have experienced an unexpected and planetary event. The so-called Wuhan virus has broken the routines of globalization and everyday life in most countries. It is yet another element to the global challenges that requires an approach capable of addressing complexity. In this paper we propose three metaphors to underpin 21st century Sociocybernetics. Metaphors are the pillar of knowledge. They are a fundamental tool for understanding what is human even for abstract matters such as mathematics This paper focus on Sociocybernetics as a paradigm to face global challenges connecting fields and perspectives. We want to go beyond the consensus and need to promote a ‘prescriptive’ notion open to deal with complex issues and emergent social problems. This paper develops three pillars Sociocybernetics: Sextant, Compass and Steering Wheel. These three metaphors allow us to build a conceptual structure to support the background and feed-forward. And we will also need to map the system, knowing that the map is not the territory, just as a declaration of intent is not only what you want to do, but also what you want to be.

What kind of pathogen have we been infected with?: A second-order assessment of the immune mechanisms of society

Saburo Akahori (saburoakahori@gmail.com),

Tokyo Woman’s Christian University, Japan

This presentation does not question how to overcome the new coronavirus crisis. Instead, from a sociocybernetic point of view, we are going to ask how society as an observer (world society as a social system) has developed cognitive frameworks to cope with the unknown thereat. At the same time, we also explore what have remained unobservable. The theoretical tools used here are: (1) The theory of communication media which “”transforms the impossible into the possible and the improbable into the probable (Luhmann 1990). (2) The theory of second-order observation to social systems, in other words, the theory of observation to social system’s meaning construction. The findings are as follows: (1) We can indicate “terror” or “fear” as a kind of “symbolic generalized communication media”. (2) We are rapidly experiencing a societal evolution in the strict sense of the word (here evolution means transformation the improbable into the probable), but it seems to be a kind of blind spot for society itself.

Functional Theory of Social Systems

Mark Belitsky (mark_belitsky@yahoo.com)

We exist within the confines of an information system called human culture which has evolved over tens of thousands of years alongside humanity itself. Human culture functions not unlike an operating system in a computer, providing basic definitions and life essential tools such as language, as well as regulating social processes and behavior. The aim of this theory is to identify the building blocks, or “bits and bytes”, of this system, as well as to understand the principles of how these components fit together and function. Evolution is a dual process comprised of the evolution of the biological systems along with the evolution of the information systems, both of which affect and support each other. The ability to process information is the defining quality of all the living organisms. Language is not simply a communication tool but also the source of the value system, reward and punishment mechanisms and many other social functions. So it is logical to look for the basic building blocks within language. Functional Idea (FI) – this is that smallest “piece of software”, an evolutionary product, a concept developed to perform a function in society, may be identified as the basic building block. The first words a baby learns, like “mama”, “milk”, “bye-bye” are FIs that fit into other FIs forming more complex FIs. Soft Force (SF) – this is a psychological force, a vector that has magnitude and “direction”. There is a direct correlation between FI and SF, with a SF vector being formed in the subconscious based on the FI. There are two kinds of SFs: connective and directional, which interact with each other on a level playing field, so this division could be quite superficial. This theory focuses on the connective SFs since they are instrumental in forming social structures. Idearchy – this is a collection of all the FIs comprising human culture. This term facilitates discussion concerning the evolution and health of the Idearchy and the way a society develops means to maintain it, not unlike the antivirus software, ranging from ridicule to execution of heretics and dissidents. The diagram below shows how a friendship between two individuals is formed by SFs. The same mechanism applies to any social structure, be it marriage, work, social clubs, etc. Also, it applies to relationships formed between individuals and material or conceptual things like houses, cars, the stock market and others. Positive or attracting SF vectors are formed in the subconscious for each FI such as, for example: the individual is a good athlete, popular with peers, likes music, etc. Also, the negative or repelling SF vectors are formed: the person is selfish, impolite or ill-informed. The SF vectors are summed up into two resulting vectors, one positive and one negative. These vectors are dynamic and constantly being reevaluated. All decisions, including the decision whether to stay as part of a social structure, are made on the Soft Force level, not on a logical level. With insignificant decisions, the SF vectors are so weak that they are barely noticeable, creating an appearance that the decision was made on a logical level. Also, only the resulting vectors are at play in the final decision process. The brain, like any other organ, communicates with our consciousness through a set of signals or symptoms. Emotions are only symptoms of the SF vector interaction. When positive SFs are prevailing, we experience positive emotions, with negative SFs causing negative emotions. There are two major reasons why the system of Soft Forces has evolved. First, social motives must interact and compete on a level playing field against basic instincts like hunger, fear and the urge to procreate. Second, the multitude of SFs comprising one resulting vector force creates stability in the fabric of social structures. This stability is very important in accomplishing resilience and viability in the real world where biological systems have to perform like any other physical systems, only the biological systems operate with greater degrees of freedom. Historically, philosophy has not been a science in the true sense of the word but performed as a generator of Functional Ideas in the society. Progressive and conservative segments of the population play an important role in the evolution of the FIs assuring that the process of change is properly paced and that new FIs are vetted before they become part of human culture. Social groups compete not only for land, resources and power but also to prove the viability and superiority of their Functional Ideas.

Observing Danger and Risk Managing: COVID-19 as Case Study

Jorge Cardiel (mfcardiels@gmail.com),

UNAM, Mexico

In 1991, Niklas Luhmann published his book “Sociology of Risk”. By proposing the distinction between danger and risk, he analyzed how society makes a calculus of attribution, by applying this code. Unmanageable events that could potentially affect society (e.g. earthquakes, solar explosions, asteroids, etc.) are understood as dangers. Whereas events that can be foreseen, and might be affected by our behaviors, decisions and actions, are conceptualized by Luhmann as risk. Before its moment of irruption, the probability of emergence of a new and strongly contagious virus was pointed out by some observers. The risk was in a latent state; but society could not yet verify that, among a myriad of other possible dangers (still present), this particular one was going to be actualized. When the danger known as SARS-CoV-2 suddenly appeared in the horizon, the first reaction by numerous governments was the implementation of a state of exception, applying extreme measures for people to stay at home and reduce physical contacts. At this first stage, the objective was to prevent the formation of a pandemic and the state apparatus directly assumed the managing of risk. Today, we have a pandemic. But, instead of enforcing and prolonging the state of exception, we experience the attempt to redistribute risk management towards organizations, families and individuals with the proclamation of “The New Normal”. With this global turn towards a society of risk, also a wide space for diverse public policies emerges. At the time Luhmann wrote his “Sociology of Risk”, he focused mainly on technology and ecology. This proposal discusses some of his thesis in the light of the global crisis of COVID-19.

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC – A Bifurcation Point in the Evolution of Modern Society

Bernd Hornung (HornungRC51@aol.com),

Marburg University (retired), Germany

“The COVID-19 pandemic has silenced climate and ecological protest, but the lockdown of large parts of the economies has also led to some improvement, like cleaner air, less use of non-renewable resources like fossil fuels, etc. Moreover it has shown that, in principle, life can go on under conditions of lockdown and with a reduced functioning of the modern economy. This involved inconveniences and problems and made evident an urgent need for restructuring not only the economy but also the way of life of the citizens to overcome these problems. But after the pandemic? Industry has already been lobbying with all forces for a big economic boost, for resuming business as usual, and even better and especially much more business than before – to “”make up”” for the losses due to the pandemic. A strategy speeding up even more the ecological destruction of our planet. Others aspire to learn from the period of the pandemic and take this crisis and experience as a chance to restructure society in a way that it will be more ecologically sustainable. In other words, they consider a new society as necessary. This requires the vicious circles driving the planet into ecological destruction to be broken up. Such vicious circles are: – The circle of financial production – The circle of consumerism – The circle of identifying human well-being with the GDP and material affluence. – The circle of waste production -… To analyze these vicious circles and to identify possible points of intervention a systemic and cybernetic, i.e. a sociocybernetic, approach is indispensable. This could complement and strengthen the scientific branch of the activist DEGROWTH movement which is pushing in such a direction. With regard to sociology It would also be in line with the quest of Michael Burawoy for a public sociology.

Noise as acoustemological device

Martina Raponi (martina.raponi@gmail.com),

Noiserr, Netherlands

I will present artistic research from the point of view of acoustemology (a word merging “acoustics” and “epistemology”). When thinking and knowing the world through the sonic, and when processing this knowledge in order to produce artworks, texts, performances, events, it is possible to expand the possibility of understanding reality in a way that doesn’t ignore the systemic complexity that characterizes it. Specifically, the use of “noise” as a theoretical and practical tool to decode and disrupt reality, allows for entanglements to emerge at the forefront, and individuate all the relations among elements and actants of a system. I will mention briefly as a study case an ongoing research in my artistic practice on Deafness and Voice, analyzed through the lens of Noise as an acoustemological device. As an artist working with Noise, and a CODA (child of Deaf adults), I started a circular analysis of noise from the entry point of Deafness and un-cultured voices, while positioning Deaf cultures within systems using Noise as an acoustemological device. In ableist societies, the voice is a cultural product, and certain voices, perceived as “other”, flawed, “noisy”, can lead to the discussion and the negotiation of shared spaces, disruption, and inclusivity. The sonic space becomes then a social and political environment, where noise is easily detectable, especially in relation to rules dictated by normative sensorial capacities and regulations developed within the thresholds of audibility. The soundscape within the thresholds of audibility is a space which expels and rejects communities that carry the stigma of “handicap”, such as Deaf communties.

Abstracts for Day 2 – COVID-19: A Second order observation

La emergencia de la pandemia del COVID-19 en personas adultas mayores y propuesta desde la sociocibernética para la etapa de post-pandemia

Elisa Margarita Maass Moreno (margarita_maass@yahoo.com.mx),


“Problema: Para finales de junio del 2020, cumplíamos en México 3 meses y medio de “reclusión” por el COVID-19. En el mes de marzo se decretó en nuestro país, como se había hecho en el resto del mundo, el cierre de escuelas, empresas, espacios públicos, centros comerciales, cines, iglesias, todo. La razón central era que los hospitales, centros de salud e infraestructura sanitaria en general estaba saturada y si nos contagiábamos de coronavirus y llegábamos a necesitar hospitalización no habría lugar para recibirnos. Un porcentaje de los pacientes graves en hospitalización, que se contagiaron de Coronavirus, tenían padecimientos previos de obesidad, diabetes o hipertensión y sistemas inmunes débiles, que agravaron la situación. Particularmente los adultos mayores y personas que tienen enfermedades crónico-degenerativas corren mayor riesgo no solamente de contraer el COVID-19, sino de tener complicaciones, ser hospitalizadas e incluso morir. ¿Cómo ha afectado a las personas adultas mayores la emergencia de la pandemia del COVID-19 y qué se propone para la etapa de post-pandemia?, ¿cómo reflexionar colectivamente, para re-configurar nuestro concepto de envejecimiento y vejez, y nuestras prácticas preventivas para una calidad de vida en las próximas décadas? Objetivo: Presentar, primeramente, una revisión de la situación que están viviendo las personas adultas mayores durante la pandemia y, posteriormente, una reflexión sobre lo que se propone para la etapa de post-pandemia desde el trabajo colectivo y reflexivo que propone la Cibercultur@ y la Sociocibernética. Metodología: Este trabajo está basado en entrevistas realizadas durante el covid-19, referentes a la relación abuelos y nietos durante la pandemia y el efecto de la tecnología en este proceso intergeneracional. Resultados: Las personas adultas mayores presentan síntomas y signos de soledad, depresión, aislamiento y olvido de sus familiares. Han tenido hasta el momento un mayor nivel de dificultad para valerse de la oportunidad que brinda esta tecnología digital para la comunicación con los más cercanos. La tecnología no se ha democratizado. Proponemos la formación de CECL desde el marco referencial de la Cibercultur@, las tecnologías de información y comuicación y la sociocibernética.

Covid19 and imaginary differentiation in Ecuador

Katiuska King & Philip Altmann (philippaltmann@gmx.de)

Universidad Central del Ecuador, Ecuador

Covid19 hit Ecuador hard – dead people lying in the streets were shown in international news, the official case numbers are much lower than the surplus death rates published by international organizations, hospitals in Quito are right now near a complete collapse. However, this case has been hardly studied. Based on an ongoing research on socio-economic impacts of Covid19 and the associated measures in Ecuador, this presentation will try for an interpretation of what has been happening in luhmannian terms. The actions of the government and other relevant actors and their unclear relationship to observable reality (like a softening of restrictions while case numbers are rising or actions based on data without any empirical foundation) will be understood as product of imaginary differentiation. The specific form of functional differentiation in Latin America has been described as informality (Mascareño) or alopoiesis (Neves). While both concepts have their strengths, they cannot explain the game of “as if” that seems to define politics at the moment. Using our data on credibility of political actors, economic effects of the crisis, and means of information on Covid19, we will explore this game of “as if” in the reality of a part of the population.


Sara Castiglioni (scastiglioni@itba.edu.ar),

Universidad Tecnologica Nacional Regional Buenos Aires – ITBA, Argentina

For several years, the use of technology, open data and customer focus as innovation engines has been imposed worldwide. The Judiciary Power as a key player in the system of administration of justice of the Argentine Republic does not escape this trend. As a consequence of this, it has implemented innovative processes in order to reduce their management times, improve the user-citizen experience and bring transparency to the process. Nevertheless, in Argentina these innovations are rare exceptions and the modernization processes take years to show results. The Judiciary Power is known by its hierarchical structure, bureaucracy and taste for the status quo. In 2020 the pandemic obliged the Judiciary Powers to implement many changes in no time in order to keep delivering the justice service and protecting people’s rights. As a result, changes that were resisted for years by members of the Judiciary Power and lawyers could be implemented. By observing this process, some questions emerge related to the innovativeness of the system: How does the pandemic impact on the learning capabilities regarding innovation of the Judiciary Power? Was it a game changer? Does it reflect a deutero-learning at a systemic level? In order to answer these questions 33 interviews and 27 participatory observations (Hernández Sampieri et al., 2014) were conducted, to analyze the mayor innovations produced from 2008 to 2020 (included those implemented during the pandemic).

As a result, members of the Judiciary Power were divided into groups: decision-policy makers (mainly the State Court Ministers), the implementation crew (teams dedicated to design and implement the changes), pioneers (innovators and early adopters) and other members of the judiciary system that adopts innovations and changes. The main finding was that although all the system got benefits from innovations only the implementation crew and the pioneers had experienced deutero-learning.

A chance to rediscover respect for nature in the field of education – Finnish experiences of COVID-19 spring

Raija Koskinen (raija.koskinen@helsinki.fi),

HAMK Häme University of Applied Sciences

There are many aspects to reflect upon COVID-19. This is the situation in Finland as in all regions of the world. I have chos en to share observations of how the pandemic has awaken many Finns, including myself to rediscover nature, and its intrinsic value. These troubled times can be therefore seen as an opportunity to profound reflection in terms of human-nature relationship and the challenges in the age of ecological crisis. Finns do have a close relationship with nature to begin with. Finland is sparsely populated: 18,2 people per square kilometer of land area. Around 75 per cent of Finland’s total land area is covered in forest. We have lots of lakes. We have nature very close even in our cities. However, during this spring, when living under new kind of restrictions due to pandemic, many of us Finns have found nature in a new way. There is even new kind of thirst for knowledge of nature, of ecosystems and how everything is connected. In this paper, I scrutinize my observations and discussion shared with other Finns, especially with colleagues working in the field of education. Literature concerning nature, ecosystems and education is utilized in this scrutiny. The most crucial source is the latest monograph of a Finnish philosopher Veli-Matti Värri. His title Education in the Age of Ecological Crisis published in 2018, focuses on re-conceptualizing the ontological, socio-cultural and ethical reference points for constituting ecological education in the sphere of global capitalism. The pandemic is currently affecting our lives and there is a lot of uncertainty of the future around the globe. Our destiny as human beings is inevitably interwoven with nature. As conclusions, I describe some concrete ways how to encourage individuals and communities to take actions for sustainable development, to discover respect for nature.

Complexity, ignorance and the Covid-19 pandemic as a social construct in Information Society

Czeslaw Mesjasz (mesjaszc@uek.krakow.pl)

Cracow University of Economics, Cracow, Poland

“The outbreak of the wave of cases of illness caused by the virus Covid19, which was later declared as a pandemic, constitutes a new phenomenon in social life. Since we are now in the middle of the process, it isn’t easy to make any long-term predictions. However, looking from multiple points of view, beginning from microbiological through medical and ending with economic, political, financial, and security, the Covid19 pandemic constitutes a new and to a large extent, unprecedented phenomenon. The first question which must be answered is – what is unprecedented with the Covid19 pandemic in comparison with other pandemics, e.g., the so-called “Spanish Flu,” bubonic plagues, typhoid, etc. There are many factors making it different, e.g., the intensity of sickness, the speed, and scope of spreading, etc. Looking from the vantage point of sociocybernetics and/or from the most profound ontological, epistemological and methodological point of view, the Covid19 pandemic is the first example when virus treated as a biological information carrier is affecting society, in which information is treated as one of most important fundamental elements. Obviously, a deepened study would require a more extended multi- and interdisciplinary analysis, but at present, some preliminary assumptions, descriptions, conclusions, and recommendations can be discussed.

Discussing infodemic in USA using critical sociocybernetics’ tools

Juan Carlos Barron Pastor (jbarronp@unam.mx),


In this presentation it will be explored how critical sociocybernetics can explain infodemic, using USA as an example. This notion was proposed by the World Health Organization to refer “an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it (WHO 13, 2020:2)”. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, infodemic has been part of it globally, and United States is not the exception. Critical sociocybernetics seek to offer an explanation about how certain social groups or populations are steered in specific territories, specifically by the means of functioning of the media system in the cyberspace. In USA the social and political reaction to the pandemic was maybe the worst worldwide, what was the role of infodemic in such dreadful response? The hypothesis to be explored is infodemic is crucial for the rise of digital and surveillance capitalism, because it impulses the enhancement and control of cyberspace and netizens. Digital capitalism for this presentation is “the collection of processes, sites, and moments in which digital technology mediates the structural tendencies of capitalism (Pace, 2018:262).” Surveillance capitalism will be understood as a management practice that unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data for commercial practices of extraction, prediction, and sales (Zuboff, 2019: 13).” The reflection can deliver us a second order observation about this complex phenomenon within the society of this country, but the rest of the world would do well to take note


Jose A Amozurrutia (j.antonio.amoz@gmail.com)

Centro de Investigacines interdisciplnaria enCiencias y Humanidades de la UNAM, Mexico,

Veronica Espinoza , Seminario de Epistemologia y pensamiento sistemcico enel CEIICH-UNAM MIchoacán, México

This document establishes an approach to investigate how people live through the difficult situation in the pandemic COVID19., and we analyze Twitter conversations in Mexicans. We userd the methodology and the analysis with the “Adaptive System for the Social Analysis of Cognitive Trajectories” (SIAST). Some of the most relevant topics analysed were: recklessness, politics, uncertainty, economy, solidarity, statistics and

health measures.

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