« Is It True, JetBlue? | Main | Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's »

September 05, 2006



Reading List and Situated Bibliography

Here's my current reading list (won't necessarily get to all of it). Basic or even retro cybernetics, with a few prolongations:

--Norbert Wiener: Cybernetics + The Human Use of Human Beings
--Shannon and Weaver: Mathematical Theory of Communication
--Ross Ashby: Introduction to Cybernetics
--Steve Joshua Heims: The Cybernetics Group + John von Neumann and Norbert Weiner (the double biography)
--Ludwig Von Bertalanffy: General System Theory
--J.W. Forrester: Industrial Dynamics + Urban Dynamics
--Paul Edwards: The Closed World
--Gregory Bateson: Steps to an Ecology of Mind
--Heinz von Foerster: Understanding Understanding
--H. Maturana & F. Varela: Tree of Knowledge
--Felix Guattari: Chaosmosis + Cartographies Schizoanalytiques --N. Katherine Hayles: How We Became Posthuman --Tiziana Terranova: Network Culture

Three questions:

1. What happens when I make a plane reservation, then go through security?
2. How did cybernetics become THE applied social science of the postwar period?
3. Were the most interesting 60s-70s cultural experiments a series of second-order revolts against cybernetic systems? If so, what were the consequences on those systems?

All this, to write a text on Guattari's notion of overcoding. But also, to develop a more general theory of collective art practice at grips with the control society.

best, Brian (holmes) [posted on iDC]



I too have been working with many of the texts you cite. Do you know the following which I found to be incredibly informative especially regards to your question 2: Dupuy, Jean-Pierre. The Mechanization of the Mind: On the Origins of Cognitive Science, Princeton University Press.

Omar Khan


Hello Omar,

No I don't that book, thanks for the tip. I'm actually an ignoramus in this area, just got very curious as my attention came to focus on that peculiar post-WWII atmosphere that Bush, Cheney and their administration seem to hark back to with such horrid insistence. I will check it out, sounds good. Basically I think there have been 2 main phases, a "closed world" electrical engineering based period where the primary issue is identifying, tracking and targetting (that's the history I am trying to catch up on) and from the 70s onward a second phase, somewhat more familiar, corresponding to "second-order cybernetics" and complexity theory, which became the operative ideology of the globalization decades (80s and 90s, Nigel Thrift makes the operative side of it very clear in is book Knowing Capitalism). Really interesting people like Bateson and Guattari are at the hinge between these two periods, it seems. But such figures contributed to the worst of globalization (eg Mandelbrot with his work on finance) and at the same time, they helped us forget that the logistics (ex: air travel) that runs the whole show is still from the first military-dominated period. So the present really does look like a return of the repressed! The figure that interests me most in the first period is Jay Wright Forrester, inventor of the Whirlwind computer and developer of the SAGE radar-defence perimeter in the 50s, who after his military years became a kind of prophet of cyberneticized industrial management. I am waiting to get his Urban Dynamics, where he applies his cybernetic management principles to cities, and discovers, among other things, that welfare is a bad policy and ought to be scrapped....

best, Brian (Holmes)


Hi all

Perplexed to find myself on this list in the first place, but have been delighted by its range and quality of debate. Was thrilled by Brian Holmes invocation of Schiller and the 'play drive' - researched that for my Play Ethic book (www.theplayethic.typepad.com). I'd like to respond to the play-mobility-triviality debate soon.

But reading list is a nice idea:

Claire Colebrook - Deleuze: A guide for the Perplexed
Wendy Wheeler - the Whole Creature: Complexity, Biosemiotics and the Evolution of Culture Geoff Mulgan - Good and Bad Power Yochai Benkler - The Wealth of Networks James Carse - Finite and Infinite Games Paulo Virno - A Grammar for the Multitude Brian Sutton-Smith - The Ambiguity of Play Edward Castronova - Synthetic Worlds Ivan Illich - Tools for Conviviality

Amassed in order that I can try to explore the notion of a 'ground of play'
- ie, is there any other institutional (perhaps constitutional) arrangement, apart from Lessig's 'innovation commons', that could support a society of player-citizens. Felix Stalder's book on Manuel Castells is on order, and awaited eagerly.

Play well, psychonauts

PK (Pat Kane)


Thinking to Saul, Charles S. Pierce, notoriously the writings concerning the sign (but Mathematics)... [I do not know the US editions], contemporary of Saussure, is a major source of the actual researches on semiotic machines. But I'm sure that as American researchers you could not ignore his existence.

Paolo Fabbri, Fedrico Montanari
Per una semiotica della comunicazione strategica http://www.associazionesemiotica.it/ec/pdf/fabbri_montanari_30_07_04.pdf

Bruno Latour, Peter Weibel
Making Things Public - Atmospheres of Democracy
2005 MIT Press and ZKM Karlsruhe (Germany)

Both members of the French Academy, Jean-Pierre Dupuy et Michel Serres who teach at Stanford University, the USA, have large fields of knowledge, but mostly well-known for their philosophy of Sciences; it happens that both were strongly inspired and supported by René Girard, thinker of "the mimetic desire" and of the christianization of Sciences who himself has taught at Stanford university, ( himself French academician ): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Girard. But I do not see which book could be quote in this current review.



Situated Bibiliography

For my students I started a bibliography of new media: it is grouped by topical orientation and books appear alongside related art projects.


A short list of readings:

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., Snyder, W. (2002) Cultivating Communities of Practice. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Ellul, J. (1964) The Technological Society. New York: Vintage Books. Ellul's deterministic classic warns of the social implications of technology, in fact arguing that technology's internal logic and efficiency may not meet real human needs.

Willinsky, J. (2006) The Access Principle. The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship. Cambridge: MIT Press. Willinsky makes the case for open access, arguing that the fruits of scholarship should be shared with a widest possible audience.

Standage, T. (1998) The Victorian Internet. The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's Online Pioneers. New York: Berkley Books. Going beyond the Internet hype, this book examines the way in which people have communicated across distances for centuries.

Keeble, L., Loader, B. eds. (2001) Community Informatics. Shaping Computer-Mediated Social Relations. London: Routledge. This book addresses issues such as the rise of networked individualism, computer-mediated self-help, and participation in the information society.

Tenner, E. (2003) Our Own Devices. How Technology Remakes Humanity. New York: Vintage Books. From reclining chairs, keyboards, and eyeglasses to helmets, Tenner investigates the history of invention of everyday objects. He examines our relationship to these objects: the way we are shaped by them and how we, in turn, shape them.

Winner, L. (1977) Autonomous Technology. Technics-out-of-Control as a Theme of Political Thought. This book deals with uncontrolled technological development, the relationship between society and technology.

Sterling, B. (2005) Shaping Things. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Gilmore, D. (2004) We the Media. Grassroots journalism by the people, for the people. Cambridge: O'Reilly. The book on effective citizen journalism.

Warschauer, M. (2003) Technology and Social Inclusion. Rethinking the Digital Divide. Cambridge: MIT Press. Mark Warschauer's insightful book outlines the preconditions for participation in Internet cultures, a detailed look at the gap between the information have and have-nots, updating our understanding of the digital divide.

Gitelman, L. (1999) Scripts, Grooves, and Writing Machines. Representing Technology in the Edison Era. Stanford: Stanford University Press. This study of machines for writing at the end of the 19th century in America explores the relationship between textuality and technology.

Feenberg, A. (2002) Transforming Technology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Feenberg addresses the question of neutrality of technology and renders the influence that technology has on our daily lives.

Ferre, F. (1995) Philosophy of Technology. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.

Ihde, D. (1993) Philosophy of Technology. An Introduction. New York: Paragon House.

Brown, J. S., Duguid, P. (2002) The Social Life of Information. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. Examining the social implications of technology, this book is described as an antidote to all digital silliness.

Wegner, E. (1998) Communities of Practice. Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wegners argues for the term "community of practice" in the context of knowledge production.

Hardin, R. (1982) Collective Action. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press.

There are also links to several readings specific to mobile devices at: http://del.icio.us/Trebor/Mobile_Devices

Trebor Scholz [posted on iDC]


This is a really interesting social networking exercise and should happen more often on lists! I think it's important to either briefly annotate the books as Trebor did so we see why we might want to go to them or else to list the problems we are dealing with as Brian did at the end.

btw Brian, Andrew Murphie (who lurks on this list) put me onto the Dupuy stuff and it's really good! Andrew is doing really interesting stuff about cognition and marketing via cybernetics and actually earlier paradigms -
you would be interested in his stuff.

My list:

Richard Rogers "Why Map? The Techno-epistemological outlook" http://pzwart.wdka.hro.nl/mdr/pubsfolder/whymap/

Philip H. Gouchenour, ‘Distributed Communities and Nodal Subjects’, New Media and Society, vol. 8, no. 1, 2006. pp. 33–51

Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power

Adrian MacKenzie, Transductions

Humberto Maturana and Francesco Varela, The Tree of Knowledge

Brian Holmes, ‘Crisis Cartographies: Stratified Power and the Dynamics of the Swarm http://ut.yt.t0.or.at/site/index.html (follow Meteors link)

James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds

Gustav le Bon, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind

Jordan Crandall, 'Operational Media',CTheory, http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=441

Precarious Labour, the fibreculture journal, issue 5, 2005.

My problems/questions etc:

How can we think about crowds after 'multitude' and in their relations to portable and networked media?

The paucity of thinking crowds in social network theory and theories of collective intelligence.

The paucity of thinking the sociality of new, networked, wireless media and of collective media/aesthetic/cultural practices.

The enduring problem of liberal individualism in new media,social network and mobile/wireless theory.

The technics of mapping crowds.

Towards a social and situated 'energetics' of crowds, media, collective aesthetics and cultural practices.

cheers Anna

Dr. Anna Munster
Senior Lecturer,
Postgraduate Co-ordinator
School of Art History and Theory
College of Fine Arts
University of New South Wales
P.O Box 259
NSW 2021
ph: 612 9385 0741
fx: 612 9385 0615

iDC -- mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity iDC[at]bbs.thing.net http://mailman.thing.net/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/idc

List Archive:

Posted by jo at September 5, 2006 08:36 AM