ASC 2020 Global Conversation – Session ASC08

Theme 8: #NewMacyMeetings #1 Why Can’t Cybernetics Tame Pandemics?

Sunday September 13 2020

Duration: 1 hour

Starting at: Sydney 2am+1day, Shanghai 12midnight, Moscow 7pm, London 5pm, Frankfurt 6pm, Sao Paulo 1pm, New York 12noon, Chicago 11am, Vancouver 9am

We live in the unprecedented era of multiple global pandemics. While the COVID-19 pandemic of biology has forced an immediate response, other pandemics have existed for some time: rapacious technology, uncontrolled climate change, inequitable healthcare systems, racist socio-economic structures, food and water insecurity… the list is long. In design circles such ‘wicked challenges’ are construed to encompass but also to require more than viewpoints of first-order complexity; they require articulation of worldview(s) in which purpose, human values, and humility are most prominent. This second-order rhetorical step emphasizes the need for the dynamics of conversation, sufficient for shared understanding and coordinated action in the face of wicked challenges. Cybernetics purports to offer both a first- and second-order praxis. Can it help here? To stimulate debate, the prompt for the panel is: Why can’t cybernetics tame the wicked pandemics of today? The purpose is not simply to identify what is outside of cybernetics but to point out the limitations of cybernetics as a praxis for today’s pandemics. This panel is the first event in the revival of the Macy Meetings for the global challenges of the 21st-century.


  • Paul Pangaro, Carnegie Mellon University


  • Larry Richards, Indiana University East
  • Ben Sweeting, University of Brighton
  • Patricia Ticineto Clough, City University of New York
  • Delfina Fantini van Ditmar, Tutor, Royal College of Art, London

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