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.



Interaction between two or more participants.

This concept has been introduced by G. PASK, who states: "A conversation takes place within a contractual framework; and this rather than a stimulus/response system, is argued to be the least meaningful experimental situation. In a conversation it is possible to observe psychological events; in other situations it is not. Observation consists in recording and interpreting dialogue between the participant individuals. Experimental regulation, parameter change, etc., is achieved by instructing one participant to execute a prescribed heuristic. It is crucial however, that the participant does so, and not the observer and that he retains the partiality as well as the liberty of a participant. Hence the heuristic is not to be equated with an algorithm" (1972, p.3).

G. McINTYRE BOYD states: "PASK's p-individuals can interact at five levels:

1. – the level of direct action in a shared space

2. – the level of simply naming each action taken (in the protolanguage L)

3. – the level of conveying explanations of these actions

4. – the level of explanations of the explanations – the top level of "teachback" (also in L)

5. – the level of negociation of the engagement to converse and specification of the scope of discourse and other rules (This is the level of the metalanguage L)" (1993, p.121).

By its very nature conversation is thus circular, or better, cyclical, as observed by R. GLANVILLE (1993, p.52).

Conversation generally leads to consensus and the common acceptance of some "truth ", but this may sometimes happen after protracted debate and even conflict.

As stated by F. ROBB: "& agreed meanings are formed by negociation or compulsion… The formation of meanings, in this context, is taken to include making distinctions between objects in experience (or in thought) and their ground, forming mental models and making valuations about situations and objects; so that 'good' is discriminated from 'bad', 'desirable' from 'undesirable', and 'true' from 'false '& Conversations may also negociate what constitute valid ways of making these distinctions and of establishing these values" (1993, p.1).

Finally, in D. GREGORY's words: "Conversation theory is nothing more – and nothing less – than the attempt to model the way in which we manipulate our metaphorical systems to construct shared meaning and thereby, come to agree with one another over what we understand" (1993, p.71).

Thus, as stated by R. GLANVILLE: "Conversation is not a linguistic device: language is a conversational device"(2001, p. 147)

However, behind the mechanisms and the cybernetics of conversation, there is a psychological aspect, thus described by K. BAUSCH: (Conversation implies) "listening without judging, without a predetermined personal agenda, and with a willingness to suspend one's own assumptions. True dialogue is thinking together, in BÖHM's words, so that new meaning may emerge. conversation is the main vehicle for collaborative learning and in design processes, it is the process that makes images of the future shared and public"(pers. comm.)

The relations with constructivism and with mental autopoiesis are obvious.


  • 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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