T. Fischer and C.M. Herr, "Design Cybernetics: Navigating the New" (Springer, 2019)


Those who have followed this podcast in the past, and those who follow developments in cybernetics in the present, will be no strangers to the name Ranulph Glanville. This brilliant, multiple-PhD holding polymath who co-mingled cybernetics with ethics, pedagogy, and, above all, design, has, through his voluminous body of ground-breaking papers, had a greater influence upon the field than, arguably, any scholar since Heinz von Foerster.

At the 2015 Conference of the International Society for the Systems Sciences in Berlin, a group of self-proclaimed “Glanvillians” made up largely of former students and collaborators of Glanville, and a few interlopers like myself, met over a breakfast table at the Scandic Hotel, Potzdammer Platz, Berlin and, at the prompting of Thomas Fischer and Candy Herr, committed themselves to consolidating Glanville’s legacy and pointing the way to future extensions and investigations of his central claim that design is the practice of cybernetics and cybernetics is theory for design.

The result is Design Cybernetics: Navigating the New (Springer) edited by Fischer and Herr. Featuring an eclectic blend of mid-career and senior scholars, the assembled chapters probe the vital relationship between conversation and design, the commitments of a radical constructivist epistemology, the virtues of being “out of control”, the embracing of error, and the seemingly paradoxical notion of getting “lost with rigour” across a wide array of artistic and scientific domains.

As both the interviewer and a contributor to the book, I have, in the sprit of “walking our talk”, eschewed the erasure of error by editing and left, in full view, the meandering trail of a wandering and, at times, stumbling conversational journey featuring prolonged gaps in thinking, confusion between different articles by the same author, technical miscues, and even a pitched battle between my two cats, in order to model our commitment to process over perfection and personify Glanville’s favourite Samuel Beckett quote: “Try again, fail again, fail better.” I hope you find the stops along the way of this meandering journey as stimulating as I did.

Thomas Fischer is a design researcher, epistemologist and cybernetician. He is a Professor and Director of Research at the Department of Architecture at XJTLU in Suzhou, China. Thomas is also a Visiting Associate Professor at the School of Design at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Christiane M. Herr is an architectural researcher and educator focusing on the areas of structural design, digitally supported design, radical constructivism, design pedagogy and traditional Chinese approaches to creative thinking. Christiane is a Senior Associate Professor at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in China, where she directs the Master of Architectural Design as well as the Bachelor of Architectural Engineering programmes.

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Tom Scholte

Tom Scholte is a Professor of Directing and Acting in the Department of Theatre and Film at the University of British Columbia located on the unceded, ancestral, and traditional territory of the Musqueam people

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