Norbert and Gregory: Two strands of cybernetics

Ramage, Magnus (2009). Norbert and Gregory: Two strands of cybernetics. Information, Communication and Society, 12(5) pp. 735–749.



In this article, I shall examine the way in which information was central to the development of cybernetics. I particularly contrast the different uses of the concept by two key participants in that development – Norbert Wiener, who argued that information was a quasi-physical concept related to the degree of organisation in a system; and Gregory Bateson, who considered information to be a process of human meaning formation. I suggest that these two authors exemplify a hard and a soft strand of cybernetics, present from the start of the field. I trace through these two different interpretations of information as they developed in the cybernetics movement, and on the way they have fed into more recent understandings of information within cybernetics and related fields, especially in family therapy and sociology. I also relate these ideas to the cyborg theory of Donna Haraway and others.

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