Cybernetics is a branch of mathematics that is concerned with information flow in complex systems (e.g. in computers). Processes in such systems are self-maintaining; they swing around a center. Like a biclycist, the process is in equilibrium because the wheels keep turning around. Feedback is the preferred term for this phenomenon. Feedback takes place when the result of a series of actions affect the preconditions for theses actions, so similar processes keep repeating themselves again and again. If feedback is positive, the preconditions are affected in such a way that certain processes are consistently either strengthened or weakened (examples are population growth, progress, depression, war). With negative feedback, "dynamic equilibrium" is maintained in the system - the system stays in place by keeping in motion. Cybernetics has may applications in sciences such as biology, economy, statistics, ecology, psychology, astronomy and meterology. Bateson, who had been close to the American group that originally developed cybernetics in the 1940's, brought cybernetics to anthropology at an early stage. The influence of cybernetics is also clearly visible in as diverse authors as Lévi-Strauss, Giddens and Barth. (See also aggregate.)
To see texts concerned with cybernetics on AnthroBase,
For a more comprehensive definition of cybernetics,
Among the many web-based resources on cybernetics, we recommend:
Web Dictionary of Cybernetics and Systems -
an unusually valuable resource.
Cybernetics, Systems Theory and Complexity
- a collection of texts and readings.