Cybernetic Musings on Open Form(s): Learning to float (RSD11)

Claudia Westermann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book or Report/Conference proceedingConference Proceedingpeer-review

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Second-order cybernetics conceives of human beings as agents and participants in the making of worlds, embedded in the design process. This conception of designing as a practice of living with and in a world grants it both urgency and hope.

The paper proposes that design practitioners, in the widest sense, can learn from design cybernetics when conceiving new methodologies for the post-Anthropocene era. Further, it proposes that these methodologies’ development can take advantage of comparative studies of design cybernetics and design strategies found in traditional Chinese culture. Significantly, Chinese landscape poetry and landscape painting, and, in relation to this, Chinese classical garden design, emphasise elements that are also present in cybernetics discourse: circularity, a floating observer, and the continuity of observer and environment. The paper proposes that these ideas create the necessary conditions for the development of design approaches that reconnect human beings to their environments and permit future agents to initiate change from within. It concludes with an example of a public art installation that implements these ideas.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD11)
Subtitle of host publicationPossibilities and Practices of Systemic Design
EditorsCheryl May
PublisherSystemic Design Association
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2023
EventPossibilities and Practices of Systemic Design, 11th annual symposium of the System Design Association - University of Brighton, Brighton, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Oct 202216 Oct 2022

Publication series

NameProceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
PublisherSystemic Design Association
ISSN (Electronic)2371-8404


ConferencePossibilities and Practices of Systemic Design, 11th annual symposium of the System Design Association
Abbreviated titleRSD11
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • design cybernetics
  • design ecologies
  • more-than-human
  • post-Anthropocene
  • cross-cultural discourse
  • Chinese gardens


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