International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics

2nd Edition, as published by Charles François 2004 Presented by the Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science Vienna for public access.


The International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics was first edited and published by the system scientist Charles François in 1997. The online version that is provided here was based on the 2nd edition in 2004. It was uploaded and gifted to the center by ASC president Michael Lissack in 2019; the BCSSS purchased the rights for the re-publication of this volume in 200?. In 2018, the original editor expressed his wish to pass on the stewardship over the maintenance and further development of the encyclopedia to the Bertalanffy Center. In the future, the BCSSS seeks to further develop the encyclopedia by open collaboration within the systems sciences. Until the center has found and been able to implement an adequate technical solution for this, the static website is made accessible for the benefit of public scholarship and education.



As stated by F. ROBB: "Communications are interactions involving the use of previously formed meanings to initiate actions, including further conversations" (1993, p.1). Meanings are socially formed through conversation and consensus.

ROBB explains how a human group or organization forms and stabilizes meanings by : "… the aggregation and "packaging" of bundles of concepts under pantechnicon labels and burying them along with all the other taken-for-granted assumptions in the meaning set. This having been done, these topics become forbidden for discussion and become part of the reflex communication system"…

A once for all bounded social and/or cultural communication space becomes thus defined.

"This shift from the discussion of issues to the embodiment of concepts in automatic communication systems is very familiar to managers" (p.2). They may however lead to clanthink (J. WARFIELD).

D. MacKAY writes:"Claude SHANNON'S measure of selective information content was framed explicitly to require no reference to the meaning of the information selected in response to a communication signal. The communication process was viewed as a transaction between terminals whose task was confined to the generation and reproduction of symbols.

"The understanding of these symbols was declared to be the concern of the communication engineers and the saying went abroad that Information Theory had no place for the concept of meaning" (1969, p.19)

Of course, the discrepancy is unavoidable when one speaks of "symbols" in this context, since "symbols" is understood either as computable logical signs or as something strictly from the realm of human knowledge. It would be better to use here the word "input", which is semantically neutral.

To make this point still clearer let us use an example. The atmosphere around us is presently densely crowded with a flow of radio and TV waves, beamed by appropriate material transmitters as outputs, but previously coded by men to be transmitted.

Most of these waves are lost, because no material receiver collects them. Those which are picked up, become decoded as sounds and images only as the receiver is switched on. However, still, if nobody stays in the room to listen and to view, sounds and images disperse without transmitting any meaning. Thus, we must include that the meaning is potential and becomes actualized only by the human receiver. Moreover, she or he must know the corresponding semantic code or codes without which the message, even correctly received, remains senseless.

Of course, SHANNON'S theory remains perfectly valid within its own limits, when referring to the transmission of signals and their measure as related to the quantity of information to be transmitted.


  • 1) General information
  • 2) Methodology or model
  • 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
  • 4) Human sciences
  • 5) Discipline oriented


Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science(2020).

To cite this page, please use the following information:

Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]

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