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.



"A strategy by which a conceptual representation of a system… is constructed and from which specified outcomes can be determined" (B. BANATHY, 1973, p.87)

This definition by B. BANATHY shows that model building is not a neutral activity. Any representation is constructed at a specific hierarchic level:

1. on the base of data collected with a specific intention, hoping that they are correct and adequate.

2. from a specific viewpoint depending on the intention, need or goal of the modeler;

3. on the base of the general conceptual frame of reference that dominates the mind of the modeler.

The same point has been made by E. JANTSCH: "Model building is essentially a creative or inductive activity by which we are building a generalized system out of elements of our consciousness – though not just of observations and rational knowledge, as science would have it… Models and myths are inextricably interwoven; what is conceived as a model in one direction becomes a myth in the other, and governs as such the building of new models. So closely interdependent are the two parts of the feedback process that we may call them a short-circuit within man's mind. If this sounds alarming, it is alarming. Of all the traps built into man's cybernetic existence, the model/myth loop is the most difficult vicious circle to break out of" (1975, p.191-92).

Other filters, not always perceived, do limit the modelizer's activity, as shown by St. BEER (1968, p.113-115), M. MARUYAMA (1985, 1994) and other authors:

- perceptions are influenced by mental, psychological, cultural and even sometimes physiological limitations or biases;

- when mathematically formalized, the model also depends on the mathematical tools used;

- dynamic situations cannot be exclusively represented by static models.

More precisely, any model building depends on complex perceptive and mental processes whose principal steps are:

1a) Perception (physiological):

direct: through our senses

We remain perceptually framed within the limits of our physiological capacity to register and assimilate events.

indirect: through some artifact

Our artefacts are supposed to transmit us correctly the structure and processes that we observe, i.e. without (eventually unknown) deformation produced by the artefact.

1b) Perception (psychological):

We perceive, at least up to a point, according to our accumulated former training or recordings, and our beliefs.

1c) Perception (social):

We tend to conform to what is expected from us. This may easily lead us, for example, to give or receive unreliable testimonies.

2) Conceptualization:

Our way to built a mental representation of what we perceived depends on our formerly accumulated knowledge. Any such representation is necessarily constructed in relation to preexisting conceptual frames of reference as for example our personal or specific mathematical knowledge.

3) Modelization proper:

We construct our models "ad hoc"; having in mind some purpose. Thus, we may select a specific model out of various possible ones, because we want to change in some definite way the concrete process or system so modeled.

Surrogate world


  • 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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