12.1 Dorien J. DeTombe:
"The contribution of socio-cybernetics to the analysis of complex technical policy problems"
In the search for methods and support tools for analyzing complex technical policy problems, the author developed a method to support the handling process of this kind of problems: the method Compram. The method is based on the principles of interactive group modeling. This method prescribes four main analytical steps in the problem handling process: the first step is analyzing the problem by so-called neutral experts, the second step is analyzing the problem by each party involved in the problem, the third step is combining the knowledge of the problem in regarding the power of the different groups and the fourth step is anticipating the consequences of the changes towards an organization of (a part of) society. This search for methods and tools to support technical policy problems is a new and fast-growing field of research. One of the ways of doing this is looking to other disciplines in order to see whether and to what extent other fields can support analyzing this kind of problems. Already fruitful support has been found in fields like psychology, sociology and computer science. In this paper we look for a support coming from the field of sociocybernetics. We discuss some possible reasons why the influence of sociocybernetics on the field of the social sciences is so small. Then we select one of the main concepts of sociocybernetics: the concept of self-steering, to discuss how this concept can support the problem handling process of technical policy problems. We do this by applying the concept of self-steering to the problem handling process of the Dutch High Speed Rail for trains in the period 1992-1996.
Dorien J. DeTombe, School of Systems Engineering, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology, Jaffalaan 5, 2628 BX Delft, The Netherlands. Email: email@example.com
12.2 Cor van Dijkum and Niek Lam:
"The complexity of educational systems"
In every industrial society there is a strong demand for education. The realisation, or at least the promotion, of popular education is an important common feature of their governments. However, industrial societies differ from each other regarding their educational achievements. Usually, the more developed a country, the higher the level of popular education will be. In addition, over the decades the level of the popular education will rise. Unfortunately, the question of the cause of this phenomenon is not easy to answer.
Optimists, with a bias towards the notion of free will, may argue that all citizens have many good personal reasons to demand education for their children and themselves. To mention just two reasons: education enhances the chances of success on the labour market, and in modern societies there is more room for one's self-development. So, as the optimists will stress, the demand for more education is always the result of many individual choices.
"Forget the individual choices, and face the system dynamics of the educational system", is the pessimists' massage. In their point of view the demand for education is an autonomous phenomenon; even government measures like high fees or numerus clausus willnot work in the long run. To evaluate both points of view, a computer simulation of the educational system has been developed. It mimics the educational system dynamics over time, and the impact of choice behaviour of several sections of the population as well. The power of the simulation lies in the fact that it has behaviour feedback loops: the behaviour of early generations will effect the behaviour of future ones.
Still, it is a simple model. First, it has a plain structure, since it has only four sub-models: 1) a population submodel; 2) an educational submodel; 3) a choice submodel; 4) and a macro submodel (which only contains a set of long term parameters). Second, the model has few feedback loops. The output of the educational submodel feeds the population submodel, which in its turn is connected to the educational submodel. The rate of feedback is determined by the choice submodel. Developing this computer simulation had two objectives. The first one was to reconstruct the consistent rise of the level of popular education. We were able to reconstruct this phenomenon in a plausible way, and figure out that on balance the pessimists' had the best cards.
However, a reconstruction doesn't equal a sound explanation, and if so, it never will be the last one. Therefore, our second object was to experiment with the computer simulation to get a better understanding of the dynamics and the limits of our simulation.
C. van Dijkum, Vakgroep Methodenleer en Statistiek, FSW der RUU, Heidelberglaan 1, 3584 CS Utrecht, The Netherlands. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
12.3 Omer Chouinard:
"The Use of Sociocybernetic Conceopts and theory for Analyzing Complex Societal Problems"
This paper deals with the public participation in the rehabilitation of coastal zones and of the environment in the province of New Brunswick, more specifically in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the East Coast of Canada. The coastal zone management and environmental rehabilitation illustrate the importance of the integration of socioeconomic, political, ethical and technical considerations to achieve successful results. This presentation will be based particularly on the importance of setting up a flexible co-management structure in order to address environmental rehabilitation of coastal zones. In the environmental cases studied, the stakeholders showed a strong concern for environmental issues which were mostly linked with economic impacts of environmental degradation. In an integrated approach of coastal zone management and environmental rehabilitation, the public's participation has to be considered in a broad perspective of networking, and also should provide web-facilitated interaction between members.
Omer Chouinard, Pav. P.-A, Landry, Université de Moncton, Moncton, New Brunswick E1A 3E9, Canada. Email: email@example.com,firstname.lastname@example.org
12.4 Bernard Scott:
"The Role of Higher Education in Understanding and Achieving Sustainable Development: Lessons from Sociocybernetics"
Throughout the world, educational, political and other social systems are in transition under the combined impact of demographic, cultural and technological changes. Arguably, there is a special role for Higher Education Institutions (HEI's), not only to accommodate themselves to these changes, but also to lead the way in understanding them and to help avoid or ameliorate the painful consequences of change and contribute to the practical achievement of sustainable development. In order to move towards these goals, it is worthwhile, if not essential, for there to be a reappraisal of the roles and functioning of HEI's.
This paper addresses these issues by first briefly summarising the developments that have led to the age of global information and the "great debates" concerning ownership, poverty, literacy and sustainable development that have beeen engendered. It goes on to consider the special roles of HEI's in understanding what is happening and in promoting constructive action. Particular concepts examined include: the idea of a university in the 21st century, intellectual elites, reflexivity and responsibility, concepts of "openness" in educational systems, relating concepts of quality and "graduateness" to the social and political goals of sustainable development, problems of performance and measurement. It argues that there are particular problems associated with multidisciplinary working and that there is a particularly constructive role for the transdisciplines (systems theory, first and second order cybernetics). These latter can fruitfully be a source of order and simplicity amidst disorder and complexity, by providing a "lingua franca", conceptual understandings and (hopefully) shared values. The paper ends with examples of this by applying concepts from first and second order cybernetics (information, requisite variety, self-organisation) to the problems outlined in the body of the paper.
Bernard C.E. Scott, Centre for Educational Technology and Development, Portland Building, De Monfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH, United Kingdom. Email: email@example.com
12.5 Mike Byron:
"Characteristics of Societal Learning Systems"
Assesses societal learning systems. Specifically evaluates the hypothesis that the contemporary world system constitutes such a system. After discussing the topic of societal learning systems, emphasis turns to how the hypothesis that the contemporary world system constitutes such a societal learning system can be empirically tested. Here methodological issues involved in testing this hypothesis via computer modeling are evaluated. These issues include sensitivity of model system variables to initially pre-specified values, as well as why a particular set of variables were selected for analysis to begin with. Also, how model generated results can be meaningfully compared with corresponding aspects of phenomenological reality. To illustrate this process of comparison, data generated from successively more "refined" versions of the model is presented in the context of discussion concerning the relationship(s) between these changes in the basic model and its "fit" with phenomenological reality. A discussion of philosophical differences between theory-predicated modeling (and model refinement) and empirically-predicated model alteration leads to a summation and conclusion.
Michael P. Byron, 1807 South Myers, Apt. #5, Oceanside, 92054. CA, USA. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
12.6 Nicolae Bulz:
"The Decisional (Meta)equilibrium and the Sociocybernetics of the Operative Actions"
The sociocybernetics of the operative actions (as a specialized variety of sociocybernetics) implies some constraints,and perhaps many relations between these constraints and their possible couplings. A relation of comprehension (not explanation) upon sociocybernetics of the operative actions is possible. To note (as a "start" of that possible relation of comprehension) that the social world becomes itself a real (social) world only through the existence-reflection connection. This state draws out more than two types of mental constructs, i.e., the operational "visible" peaks connected to mental concepts: a real (hypothetical) system, a model (related to the real system), ideal system/norms, a rational subject, profound zones (temporarily more unpenetrable to the rational subject's competences), responsability zones, i.e., the narrow path between security and evolution of the cycle: real system <=> model <=> ideal system <=> rational subject <=> real system), etc. All these types of mental constructs, connected to mental concepts, belong to a general epistemic base (GEB).
The sociocybernetics of operative actions (SCOA) is dedicated to represent and solve operative problems, from local accidents/events till global problems of mankind. The comprehension of SCOA is related to GEB. One aim of SCOA is elicitation of knowledge across specific constraints. The elicitation of knowledge exists if a rational subject (according to GEB) produces statements, and "reduces" these to operative messages. An analysis of any statement sets up a specific string. This communication unfolds the mental construct of decisional (meta)equilibrium as a turning point of this specific string.
Nicolae Bulz, Ministy of National Defense, Defense Policy Dept.; home: Str. Dionisie Lupu 50, et. 4, ap. 9, home: O.P. 22, C.P. 70184, Bucuresti, home: Bucuresti, sector 1, o.p. 22, c.p. 70184, Romania. Email: email@example.com
12.7 Vyacheslav Navrotsky:
"Basic characteristics of social systems"
The concept of system has been used in sociology for a long time, but so far there is no clarity as to which characteristics of social systems should be considered as basic. In this paper the expediency of social system definition is grounded, and includes five parameters: content, structure, the character of relationships between elements, homeostatic mechanisms and economic mechanisms. Such an approach allows more clear and strict definition of the concepts of democratic and totalitarian types of society. It is shown that from the point of view of cybernetics the democratic system is more viable, because the existence of a feedback loop in the homeostatic mechanism of such a system makes it more stable. The proposed approach makes a formal description possible of the most important features of different historically formed societies. The analysis shows that in most cases economic and political changes occur in the course of the evolution of one single system: the death of an old system and the birth of a new one are rather rare events. The alternation of smooth development and leaps is characteristic of the evolution of any open system, including social systems. However, human history shows that some nations experienced rapid radical changes much more often than others. As a concrete example Russian history is considered. The difference between the collapse of Tsarism in 1917 and crash of the communism in 1991 in Russia is analysed.
Vyacheslav Navrotsky, Leninsky Prospekt 85, kv. 2, 236 039 Kaliningrad, Russia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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created: June 10,1998