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Which clippings match 'Systems Theory' keyword pg.1 of 2
26 JULY 2016

The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom?

"Individual freedom is the dream of our age. It's what our leaders promise to give us, it defines how we think of ourselves and, repeatedly, we have gone to war to impose freedom around the world. But if you step back and look at what freedom actually means for us today, it's a strange and limited kind of freedom.

Politicians promised to liberate us from the old dead hand of bureaucracy, but they have created an evermore controlling system of social management, driven by targets and numbers. Governments committed to freedom of choice have presided over a rise in inequality and a dramatic collapse in social mobility. And abroad, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the attempt to enforce freedom has led to bloody mayhem and the rise of an authoritarian anti-democratic Islamism. This, in turn, has helped inspire terrorist attacks in Britain. In response, the Government has dismantled long-standing laws designed to protect our freedom.

The Trap is a series of three films by Bafta-winning producer Adam Curtis that explains the origins of our contemporary, narrow idea of freedom. It shows how a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures led to today's idea of freedom. This model was derived from ideas and techniques developed by nuclear strategists during the Cold War to control the behavior of the Soviet enemy."



2007 • A Beautiful Mind (2001) • Adam CurtisAfghanistan • anti-democratic • authoritarianismBBC Two • bloody mayhem • cold war • contemporary idea of freedom • controlling system • deterministic logicdocumentary seriesexplicit objectivesfreedom of choicegame theory • goal-oriented agenda • government policygrand political dreamhuman behaviourindividual freedomindividualismIraqIslamism • John Nash • limited kind of freedom • mathematical modelmetricisation • narrow idea of freedom • neoliberalism • nuclear strategists • operational criteriaoversimplificationpersonal freedom • point of equilibrium • rational self-interest • Ronald David Laing • self-monitoring • simplistic model • social inequality • social management • social mobility • Soviet Union • state control • systems theory • target-oriented agenda • targets and numbers • the dream of our age


Simon Perkins
18 APRIL 2014

Design conceptualisation through reverse engineering abstraction

"2.1 Abstraction Levels: An abstraction for a software artifact is a succinct description that suppresses the details that are unimportant to software developer and emphasizes the information that is important. For example, the abstraction provided by high level programming language allows a programmer to construct the algorithms without having to worry about the details of hardware register allocation. Software typically consists of several layers of abstraction built on top of raw hardware; the lowest–level software abstraction is object code, or machine code. Implementation is a common terminology for the lowest level of detail in an abstraction. When abstraction is applied to computer programming, program behavior is emphasized and implementation details are suppressed. The knowledge of a software product at various levels of abstraction undoubtedly underlies operations regarding the maintenance and reuses the existing software components. It is, therefore natural that there is a steadying growing interest in reverse engineering, as a capable of extracting information and documents from a software product to present in higher levels of abstraction than that of code. The abstraction as the process of ignoring certain details in order to simplify the problem and so facilitates the specification, design and implementation of a system to proceed in step–wise fashion. In the context of software maintenance [3], four levels of reverse engineering abstraction are defined: implementation abstraction, structural abstraction, functional abstraction and domain abstraction.

Implementation abstraction is a lowest level of abstraction and at this level the abstraction of the knowledge of the language in which the system is written, the syntax and semantics of language and the hierarchy of system components (program or module tree) rather then data structures and algorithms is abstracted. Structural abstraction level is a further abstraction of system components (program or modules) to extract the program structures, how the components are related and control to each other. Functional abstraction level is a higher abstraction level, it usually achieve by further abstraction of components or sub–components (programs or modules or class) to reveal the relations and logic, which perform certain tasks. Domain Abstraction further abstracts the functions by replacing its algorithmic nature with concepts and specific to the application domain."

(Nadim Asif, 2003)

Nadim Asif (2003). "Reverse Engineering Methodology to Recover the Design Artifacts: A Case Study". International Conference on Software Engineering Research and Practice, SERP '03 Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Volume 2.


2003abstract representation • abstraction layers • abstractions for problem solving • application domain • appropriately complex representation • conceptual hierarchy • conceptual organisation • conceptualisationdesign abstractiondesign conceptualisationdesign methodologydesign modeldesign problem • domain abstraction • functional abstractionhigh-level design • implementation abstraction • layers of abstraction • problem abstractionproblem-solvingrequirements engineeringreverse engineeringreverse engineering abstraction • Reverse Engineering Abstraction Methodology (REAM) • software abstraction • software artefact • software designsoftware engineeringsoftware modellingstructural abstraction • system components • system processes • systems theory


Simon Perkins
06 OCTOBER 2013

Modern medicine evokes a Cartesian mind-body dualism

"If we look at the history of medicine, we can see that it became what it is today because of a sweeping social transformation that modernized Europe centuries ago. Urbanization and commerce, along with Protestantism and the Catholic Counter–Reformation, encouraged new ways of conceiving and interacting with nature. It was within this context that 'scientific medicine' was invented and elaborated. The particular scientific model that became predominant in Europe in the seventeenth century accepted the mind–body dualism of René Descartes, for whom the human body is a self–contained, entirely material machine. His contemporary, Baruch Spinoza, on the other hand, elaborated a more relational view, stemming from a Jewish tradition that regards the body as essential to a complex and ultimately spiritual being, and all beings as mutually dependent.

Spinoza's perspective is no less compatible with scientific medicine than the Cartesian view. For science has two complementary ways of explaining: by taking apart–as atomic physics mainly does–and by bringing into relation–as Einstein's relativity theory does. Spinoza was quite aware of the power of the first approach, as elaborated by Descartes and advanced by technologies such as the newly invented microscope. Spinoza acknowledges that the human body is composed of parts, and those parts of smaller parts still. But he recognizes also that bodies are encompassed by, and can be adequately understood only in relation to, unities larger than themselves, until we reach the widest system of all, which is 'the whole of nature.' Spinoza was an early exponent of what is known today as 'systems theory.'

Medicine in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries could have taken a more integrative path, in keeping with Spinoza's insight that we are guardians not only of our bodies, taken individually, but of the entire domain of nature with which they are continuous. Instead–for reasons that this essay will explore – mainstream medicine adopted the Cartesian machine model."

(Raymond Barglow, Tikkun Magazine, March 2002)



16th century17th centuryAlbert Einstein • atomic physics • atomisticBaruch Spinozabodybringing into relation • Cartesian machine model • Cartesian view • Catholiccomplexitycomposed of partscontingencydualismhealth carehistory of medicinehuman bodyintegrative practices • Jewish tradition • Judaism • mainstream medicine • man and nature • material machine • medicinemicroscopemind-body dualismnatureProtestantismrelational aestheticsrelational viewRene Descartessciencescientific medicine • scientific model • self-contained • social transformation • spiritual being • systems theorytaking apart • theory of relativity • urbansation


Simon Perkins
04 OCTOBER 2013

Meredith Davis: A Call to Action for Design Educators

"I believe that design education, at the most fundamental level, views complexity as a problem to be overcome through reductivist artifacts, not as an inevitable and pervasive attribute of life in the post–industrial community. So if the future is about an ever–expanding web of connectedness, how are we preparing students for meaningful work in this complex world? I'd like to suggest that we're not. Despite the obvious emotional impact of Glaser's poster, he belongs to a generation in which the goal of design was to make things simple. Negroponte, on the other hand, is a technologist for whom the design goal is to render the complex manageable and to make complicated things meaningful.

Almost everything about today's graphic design education is matched to Glaser's worldview. We structure both curricula and projects in craft–based progressions from simple to complex, from the abstract to the contextualized. In typography classes, for example, we begin with the letter, and then advance to the word, sentence, paragraph, and page. Sequences of typography courses are built on this simple to complex progression, when opening InDesign demands that students address the formal and interpretive issues of publication design simultaneously; how do you defer a discussion of leading, of column width, of the modernist preconceptions of software, of language? The only option is default, and what kind of typographic lesson is that?

The reality is that our strategy for teaching typography is residue from how students could comp type in predigital times; by drawing. It is the organizational structure for every type book since James Craig's 1970 Designing with Type, but it holds less relevance for what students need to know about communication in a digital world. Typography today is a complex relational system that depends on the interplay of formal, technological, linguistic, and cultural variables. Yet we persist in teaching this progression of scale, isolating such variables within their own distinct conceptual frameworks and rules.

The same strategy exists for how students progress in other studies of form. Foundation lessons begin with abstraction: point, line, and plane; color wheels; and paper–folding exercises. We defer discussions of meaning and context until later levels of the curriculum and beginning students learn these abstraction principles only through patterns in what makes their teachers smile. Nothing about these studies resembles what students know about in the real world, and as a colleague recently suggested, what the clients of design see in our work. So what if we begin with the familiar and complex?"

(Meredith Davis, 4 April 2008, AIGA Boston Presentation)

Presentation made at W/Here: Contesting Knowledge in the 21st Century, Emily Carr University of Art+Design, Vancouver, Canada, 7–9 December 2011.



Simon Perkins
06 JANUARY 2013

Science depends on interpretation, community and tradition

"The beacons of the philosophy of science include Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, and Bruno Latour who refute scientism from various angles: arguing that scientific observations are theory and value laden, science takes place within communities, science can be anarchic, etc, all suggesting that science is as dependent on processes of interpretation, community, and tradition as any aspect of the humanities."

(Richard Coyne, 2011)

Excerpted from a letter to the editor, first published in ARQ: Richard Coyne (2011). What's science got to do with it?. Architectural Research Quarterly, 15 , pp 205–206, doi:10.1017/S135913551100073X



2011anarchic • Architectural Research Quarterly • ARQ • Baruch SpinozaBruno Latour • Chris Argyris • codify • Donald Schon • encyclopaedism • externality • General Systems Theory • GST • Herbert SimonJohn DeweyKarl Popper • letter to the editor • logical positivism • Ludwig von Bertalanffy • optimistic scientism • Paul Feyerabend • Peter Ramus • philosophy of sciencerationalityresearch culturesRichard Coynescience • science communities • science interpretation • scientific knowledgescientific observationsscientific traditionscientismsystematisationsystems theorytechnology as neutralThomas Kuhnvalue ladenVienna Circle


Simon Perkins

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