Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)

The State of Cybernetics. The digitization of cities, bodies and communities

22Mar2018 23Mar2018


What do cities, robots, corporations, political organizations, human bodies, and ecosystems have in common? For the scientists involved in the development of cybernetics from the 1940s to the 1960s, this was all but an awkward question.

In their intellectual and hands-on experimentations, cyberneticians called forth a world in which machines, bodies and nature are entangled as complex and dynamic systems. They theorized that information would and should flow ever more effortlessly within and between these systems.

The purpose of the seminar is to revisit the legacy of cybernetics to shed light on contemporary digital politics. Many of the fundamental questions asked by cyberneticians regain salience today. What remains of liberal individualism when the boundaries between humans, machines and nature are blurred? What are the systemic properties and operating routines of democracy in a world in which machines and humans are increasingly entangled?


Scholars from fields as diverse as Philosophy, Anthropology, and Artificial Intelligence will give presentations. The speakers include Simon Marvin, Noortje Marres, Andrew Pickering, Willem Schinkel and Tsjalling Swierstra.   


There is limited seating. Are you interested in taking part? Please inquire with Anne Hovingh: After you register you will receive a more detailed program with abstracts, locations and times.

Public event

The seminar will be concluded by a public event ,The Politics of a Cybernetic World, on Friday March 23 at 4PM at Crea with lectures by Luc Steels and Katherine Hayles, a theatrical performance prepared by Ricarda Franzen and concluding reflections by Andrew Pickering.

Funded by

The event is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) as part of the research project Safeguarding long-term equal stakeholdership in the Smart City & the Center for Urban Studies of the University of Amsterdam as part of a collaboration with the Sheffield Urban Automation Institute.

Published by  AISSR