STV 205 Cybernetics and Society

Norbert Wiener coined the term “cybernetics” in the 1940s to denote the “scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine.” The key principle of cybernetics is feedback. Wiener’s research into feedback began with the problem of a guidance system for anti-aircraft guns during World War II. This course presents an overview of thinkers who contributed to cybernetics as a program of interdisciplinary studies that later became known as systems theory. The first half of the course focuses on human agency as feedback in the use of technological devices. Issues include the appropriate use of prosthetics and robotics. The Second half of the course focuses on politics as feedback in the development and governance of technological systems. Issues include the social construction of automation, surveillance, democracy, health care and big data. Course work includes weekly online surveys that provide feedback to the instructor as well as two essays on topics provided and two in-class tests.


STV 205 is taught by Mark Morley.