Cybernetic transdisciplinarity as pedagogy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review


Cybernetics is often abstract in character, seeking to understand principles that apply in many situations. This abstraction affords cybernetics its extraordinarily broad scope, explanatory power, and transgressive quality, with ideas able to move between contexts. However, this abstraction also brings limitations, focusing attention on explaining general principles at the expense of the specifics of a situation and creating a distanced relation to practice. In this paper, we present a way in which cybernetic analogies may be deployed in a manner which is enacted (rather than abstract) and methodological (rather than explanatory). The example we take is from our own teaching practices, focusing on a curriculum developed in the context of supporting postgraduate architecture and design students in understanding research. This is an area in which cybernetics has theory to offer, notably Ranulph Glanville’s argument that research (including scientific research) is designed. By outlining the approach to teaching and learning developed in this curriculum, we describe how Glanville’s theoretical stance may be reformulated as a pedagogic process, where students reposition their growing expertise in design as expertise in (designing) research. We discuss the advantages of this in the context of education for design research, such as avoiding research being seen as external to design and the opening of research to the sorts of critique that one may apply to other design outcomes. We conclude by speculating on the extent to which the pedagogic approach presented here may be taken up in other practical situations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJournal of the International Society for the Systems Sciences
Number of pages11
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 26 Jun 2022
EventThe 66th Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences: Advances in Systems Sciences and Systems Practice - Online
Duration: 7 Jul 202211 Jul 2022


ConferenceThe 66th Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences
Abbreviated titleISSS
Internet address


  • Cybernetics
  • Transdisciplinarity
  • Design
  • Pedagogy


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