Stuart Umpleby

Stuart Umpleby
George Washington University | GW · Department of Management

PhD, Communications, University of Illinois

About

97
Publications
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799
Citations
Additional affiliations
May 1975 - May 2014
George Washington University
Position
  • Professor
Description
  • I am now professor emeritus at GW.

Publications

Publications (97)
Presentation
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Interest in cybernetics declined in North America from the mid 1970s to 2010, as measured by the number of journal articles by North American authors, but increased in Europe and Asia. Since 2010 the number of books on cybernetics in English has increased significantly. Whereas the social science disciplines create descriptions based on either idea...
Article
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This article consists of three parts. In the first part we describe a short history of cybernetics and an effort, which has been undertaken by a group of scientists in the United States and Europe in recent years, to expand the conception of science so that it more successfully encompasses the social sciences. The intent is to aid communication amo...
Chapter
For many years people in government and business organizations have urged universities to try to produce T-shaped people who have both technical expertise and an ability to work well with others. In recent years universities have moved strongly in the opposite direction, toward greater specialization. This article will describe why this change has...
Chapter
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In the field of science studies the term "boundary work" is used to describe writings by scientists that distinguish their field from other fields (see also Kline §8). This volume presents the boundary work for second-order cybernetics (SOC) and describes what we believe will be its future scope and dimensions.
Chapter
I shall discuss the commentaries on my target article using three themes. Two of the commentators emphasized the academic and social context of second-order cybernetics. Two commentators were concerned with how to describe the field both to people outside the field and to those inside. And two commentators were interested in the relationship of sec...
Chapter
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The field of cybernetics had its origins in a series of conferences sponsored by the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation from 1946 to 1953. The title of the conferences was "Circular Causal and Feedback Mechanisms in Biological and Social Systems." After Norbert Wiener (1948) published his book, Cybernetics; or, Control and Communication in the Animal and t...
Conference Paper
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Expanded Abstract When the International Academy for Systems and Cybernetic Sciences met in Chengdu, China, in 2015, the theme of the conference was Systemic Solutions for Systemic Problems. It seemed to me that problems could arise on several conceptual levels. Examples of problems at the first level would be finding better ways to build roads and...
Article
The systems sciences and cybernetics emerged in the years after World War II. These fields created many new approaches to engineering and management and contributed new ideas to existing academic fields. The new fields also identified similar concepts across a range of fields and began to create a general theory of systems. In addition the systems...
Article
Full-text available
Interest in cybernetics declined in North America from the mid 1970s to 2010, as measured by the number of journal articles by North American authors, but increased in Europe and Asia. Since 2010 the number of books on cybernetics in English has increased significantly. Whereas the social science disciplines create descriptions based on either idea...
Article
Full-text available
Context The term "second-order cybernetics" was introduced by von Foerster in 1974 as the "cybernetics of observing systems," both the act of observing systems and systems that observe. Since then, the term has been used by many authors in articles and books and has been the subject of many conference panels and symposia. Problem The term is still...
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The management of social and labor systems requires a multidisciplinary perspective. Academic disciplines focus on different aspects of the social change process and use different methods for describing systems. Systems can be described primarily in terms of variables, ideas, groups, or events. All of these methods can be used to create a richer de...
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Context Philosophy of science is the branch of philosophy that deals with methods, foundations, and implications of science. It is a theory of how to create scientific knowledge. Presently, there is widespread agreement on how to do science, namely conjectures, ideally in the form of a mathematical model, and refutations, testing the model using em...
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Heinz von Foerster proposed that the observer should be included in the domain of observation. He suggested that this approach to cybernetics be called second-order cybernetics. Heinz was primarily interested in understanding cognition, based on neurophysiology and mathematics. But there has also been strong interest in cybernetics as a theory of s...
Article
Traditional approaches in measuring cultural difference like AGA and survey are demanding in human efforts and vulnerable to biases in data collection. In this work, we propose that forum data can be a good alternative to AGA data collection and text mining technologies can significantly reduce the human efforts involved in quantifying cultural dis...
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The article describes the process of conducting service learning projects at The George Washington University on a graduate level. The main goal of the article is to explore service learning as a learning methodology and to stress some of the benefits and costs of this approach of teaching. Also this article presents some important lessons learned...
Article
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The Internet and educational reform efforts are creating a global network of universities. The ability of faculty members and students to communicate with each other independent of location has dramatically improved. In terms of administration, universities still function as separate entities. However, efforts to share information and to collaborat...
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In the 1950s and 1960s Ross Ashby created a general theory of adaptive systems. His work is well known among cyberneticians and systems scientists, but not in other fields. This is somewhat surprising, because his theories are more general versions of the theories in many fields. The philosophy of science claims that more general theories are prefe...
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The Adoption of Service Learning in Universities Around The World In the United States, service learning has proven to be an effective means for both education and for community development. It seems logical to assume that service learning would be similarly effective in other countries. However, universities in other countries operate quite differ...
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George Soros's reflexivity theory is quite compatible with second order cybernetics. Indeed his work shows how to apply ideas in second order cybernetics to economics, finance and political science. This paper briefly reviews three theories of reflexivity in cybernetics. It provides an introduction to Soros's version of reflexivity theory and revie...
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General systems theorists often refer to matter, energy and information as fundamental categories. The three concepts—matter, energy and information—are related through scientific laws. Matter and energy relations are more thoroughly understood than relations involving information. At the level of data or signal “difference” is suggested as a more...
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Conference Paper
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A Quality Improvement Priority Matrix (QIPM) may be used for identifying priorities for improving an organization, a product, or a service. This paper reports on the use of the QIPM method by the members of the Department of Management Science at The George Washington University and the Department of Management at Kazan State University in Kazan, R...
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The New Agoras Project is the result of the leadership of Bela H. Banathy in encouraging ideal-seeking conversations in many venues, including the Fuschl conversations held for several years in Fuschl, Austria, under the sponsorship of the International Federation for Systems Research. In April 2002 one of the conversations in Fuschl was devoted to...
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Purpose – To report on an empirical study in psycholinguistics that revealed a difference between European and American patterns of thinking and to provide a brief history of a 30‐year effort to modify the philosophy of science in order to make it more suitable as a guide to doing research in the social sciences. Design/methodology/approach – Asse...
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Key events in the history of cybernetics and the American Society for Cybernetics are discussed: The origin of cybernetics in the Macy Foundation conferences held in the late 1940s and early 1950s; the pursuit of different interpretations of cybernetics by several professional societies; the reasons why the U.S. government supported or did not supp...
Article
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Group process methods for problem solving and planning are now widely used in organizations in the United States. Such methods, which involve active participation by employees, are not often used in Russia. We believe these methods would help Russia move from a centrally planned, authoritarian style of management to a more participatory, informatio...
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The universities around the world constitute a significant resource for social improvement. The end of authoritarian governments has led to greate r freedom for universities to innovate and to learn from each other. The global university system can be thought of as consisting of three parts - universities themselves, their relations with their loca...
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Heinz von Foerster was the founder and director of the Biological Computer Laboratory (BCL) at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. BCL existed from 1957 to 1976. In 1976 Heinz retired and moved to California. One revealing story about Heinz and the Biological Computer Laboratory concerns the Mansfield Amendment, which led to the closing...
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The philosophy of science has traditionally assumed that knowledge should be organized in the form of theories. From theories propositions can be deduced that can be tested in experiments. Most propositions deduced from theories take the form of if-then statements. For example, if variable A increases, what happens to variable B, assuming that all...
Article
In recent years the field of cybernetics has been described as consisting of two bodies of work created in two time periods: first order cybernetics from the late 1940s until about 1975, and second order cybernetics from the mid 1970s to the present. Each period lasted about 25 years. What comes next? I shall describe here what I think comes next a...
Chapter
Although nearly all programmers knew that using two digits to represent years would cause difficulties in the year 2000, repairs in most cases were postponed until the late 1990s. If equipment had not been repaired, world trade and the global economy would have been seriously disrupted. Many people might have died as a result of chemical or nuclear...
Article
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Understanding scientific concepts does not come easily to Americans, who nevertheless enjoy tremendous benefits because of scientific progress. The average citizen has a need to know more about scientific concepts to participate in the ongoing dialogue about everything from the cloning of Dolly (the sheep), to the possible entitlement of prescripti...
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The Policy Forum “The Y2K problem” by Robert F. Bennett ( Science 's Compass, 16 Apr. p. [438][1]), was an excellent follow-up to the special issue of Science on Complex Systems (2 April). Within the next 12 months we shall learn just how interconnected and interdependent the institutions of
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The story of systems theory and cybernetics is a story of several research traditions all of which originated in the mid 20th century. Systems ideas emerged in a variety of locations and for different reasons. As a result the ideas were developed in relative isolation and emerged with different emphases. This paper discusses the books and people, c...
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The story of systems theory and cybernetics is a story of several research traditions all of which originated in the mid 20th century. Systems ideas emerged in a variety of locations and for different reasons. As a result the ideas were developed in relative isolation and emerged with different emphases. This paper discusses the books and people, c...
Article
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How is the field of systems science different from other scientific fields, and how can we distinguish the various traditions within systems science? We propose that there is a set of underlying assumptions which are generally shared within systems science but are less common in other scientific fields. Furthermore, the various traditions within sy...
Article
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Cybernetics in the United States has evolved through three identifiable periods. In the first period of the 1950s and 1960s there was a primary concern with designing control systems and with building machines to emulate human reasoning. In the second period of the 1970s and 1980s the focus of attention was on the biologyof cognition and constructi...
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Two-day planning exercises are one way to meet the demand for management training in the postcommunist countries. These exercises serve as problem-solving meetings, help the people who participate to become more accustomed to open discussions, and provide an opportunity for academics and people from related organizations to learn about the problems...
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Reforming socialist societies requires changes in values and beliefs in addition to institutions and skills. But changes in values should be brought about in a democratic fashion through conversation and the comparison of perceptions. A few quite simple methods exist for comparing conceptual systems and thereby focusing discussion on the cultural f...
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Although at present there is great interest in the reforms now taking place in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China, occasionally one hears that there is no theory of how to transform an authoritarian, centrally planned society into a democratic, free-market society. That may be narrowly true, but much is known about how social systems chang...
Article
Since 1960 a debate has taken place between demographers and natural scientists over projections of world population into the future and the methods appropriate for making projections. Underlying this debate is a disagreement over the factors which influence human population growth. To the usual factors of fertility and mortality the natural scient...
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Recent work in the science of cybernetics has identified four separate strategies for regulating complex systems composed of thinking participants. Using these strategies as a foundation, this article reviews the history of global development, summarizes current concerns, and then identifies several possible courses of action for regulating a globa...
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Recent developments in cybernetics have challenged key tenets in the philosophy of science. The philosophy of science constitutes a theory of knowledge that is often called realism. However, the philosophy of science is not a unified field, there are a variety of points of view. Contemporary cybernetics, meanwhile, is developing a philosophy called...
Article
Since 1981 scientists in the United Slates and the Soviet Union have been meeting to discuss the foundations of cybernetics and general systems theory in their two countries. Several different methods of communication have been tried and a wide range of topics have been covered. Most of the conversations have focused on issues involving epistemolog...
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As defined by W. Ross Ashby, a self-organizing system consists of organisms and their environments. As the system moves toward its stable equilibrial slates, it organizes itself, hence the name. A group of human beings in which each person is adapting to his or her social environment could be regarded as a self-organizing systemScholars from severa...
Chapter
In Robert Trappl’s opening remarks on the first day of this conference he raised the issue of the usefulness of the theories that we debate with each other at these conferences every two years. Stafford Beer in his address made a similar point when he suggested that we confront the way things are. I follow their lead by suggesting that we really kn...
Conference Paper
The key issue in Problem Study 2—the design of a Citizens’ Service Department—is the achievement of consensus and coordination among the individuals in the organization taking part. A group process method called LENS is proposed for developing a plan and implementing it. Using this method the participants conduct a week long planning conference in...
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Illinois, 1975. Microfilm.
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A review of present research suggests that significant alterations in democratic forms of government are possible in coming decades due to new communications technologies. Increasing citizen participation in planning is considered desirable due to the growth of planning in a democratic society, the need to restore a psychological balance between av...
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Several years ago Prof. Charles E. Osgood suggested that it might be possible to develop a program for a computer-based education system which would eventually allow the public, possibly at a world's fair, to "explore the future." Such an "exploration" would be useful both for education and for social science research. This paper is a progress repo...
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The growth of the planning function of government raises the question of how planning can be accomplished by democratic means. A new technological device—the teaching computer—seems to be ideally suited for disscussions between experts and the public on issues of medium and long-range planning. The teaching computer can be thought of as a mass comm...
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From time to time, a small group of people makes an effort to transform society by promoting a set of ideas. Examples include any revolutionary or liberation movement, a new theory within the social sciences, or a new political or social program. This paper argues that in order for an intellectual movement to be successful, both the ideas and the t...
Article
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Abstract In the spring semester of 2007 sixteen visiting scholars, most of them from the Southeast Europe, the Caucuses, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and East Asia conducted a Participatory Strategic Planning (PSP) exercise at The George Washington University. Through the PSP exercise we demonstrated the group facilitation methods called the Techn...
Article
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Service-learning is a new educational method that is expanding the involvement of universities in their neighboring communities. It also tends to promote the civic and moral development of students. This paper explains what service-learning is and how it is consistent with the history of universities in general and particularly universities in the...

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