Managing the Difference Engine: A Cybernetic Analysis of Discrimination

Monday, July 14, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: Booth 47
Oral Presentation
Bob HODGE , Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney, Parramatta, Australia
This paper will propose, as a model, a cybernetic device, deeply embedded in human language and social processes, which produces both separation – of groups and meanings – and unity and convergence. Drawing on evidence from linguistics and sociology it will argue that both movements, of separation and convergence, must be managed by the same device. This has important implications for efforts to manage discrimination of all kinds (e.g. racism, sexism, class divisions), if these opposite outcomes are produced by altering the settings on a single system, rather than by the clash between opposing systems, one of which might exist without the other.

From cybernetics, Bateson’s models for schismogenesis and for schizogenesis will provide a starting point. From linguistics especially relevant will be the work of Chomsky,  Labov and the Comparative Philology tradition stemming from Sir William Jones and Saussure, and empirical studies of language change and multi-culturalism will provide concepts and materials. Theories and studies of evolution and development, as in the work of Edelman. From theories of chaos and complexity, the basic framework will come from Prigogine’s account of catalytic and auto-catalytic loops in biological and social life. Mandelbrot’s theory of fractals will be drawn on, as will theories of artificial life.