The Information Turn in Modelling People and Society: early German Work

Bissell, Christopher (2017). The Information Turn in Modelling People and Society: early German Work. IEEE Technology and Society pp. 80–87.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1109/MTS.2017.2763481

Abstract

The concept of ‘information’ is now so all-pervasive that few turn their attention to the origin and (initially slow) evolution of the concept as a basic element in science, technology, computing and even, these days, the social sciences and humanities. Indeed, anyone who considers the development of the notion of information is likely to be restricted to a few great names such as Claude Shannon and Norbert Wiener, or the famous series of Macy Conferences on cybernetics, systems thinking, and related topics. Yet there is a fascinating, and rarely told, pre-history. This paper considers early attempts by German scholars at viewing individuals and societies from what, in retrospect, can be considered an information point of view. Specific areas examined by such scholars are the dilation of the pupil of the eye, a general ‘proto-cybernetic’ approach to the human body, and feedback in organisms and the state.

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