Design of Conversations for Resilience


This talk construes ‘resilience’ as the continuous regulation of variety. ‘Designing-for-conversation’ is proposed as a mechanism for increasing resilience, wherein social systems may achieve responsive, proactive internal change as a means of maintaining stability in the face of continuous external change.

{In addition to a cybernetic framing of resilience, this keynote offers an extension of 'Design Thinking' that subsumes its typical processes (researching, brainstorming, prototyping) in a larger structure of conversations that are necessary for designing effectively as well as necessary for innovation.}

Resilience demands processes that go beyond basic regulation; a simple closed loop of goal, vigilance (sensing), and appropriate response is not enough. Resilience also demands more than a basic assessment of a system’s variety, normally a measure of its capabilities and capacities. Resilience instead requires vigilance to continuously attend to variety under evolving conditions; simultaneously it requires responses that evolve the system’s variety in ways derived from its vigilance.

Construing resilience in this cybernetic frame affords models and methods from cybernetics, which enriches the process of ‘designing-for-resilience’ in complex systems. When collaboration is involved — as it must be, in today’s ‘wicked’ design challenges — human intentions and values are also involved. In such cases resilience can only be achieved through designing-for-conversation, that is, designing a cadence of interactions about goals and means, a modulated flow where each successive conversation is planned from a focus on its required variety. Furthermore, when intentions and values are involved, deciding what to conserve, and therefore what may change, invites reflection on the ethical implications of our values.

Lecture Materials

DownloadPKeynote Slides

DownloadPKeynote Audio

ViewKeynote Video — To Follow

DownloadASC Conference Web Page

Related Materials

DownloadPCybernetics and Design: Conversations for Action

DownloadDesigning for Socially-Conscious Design

DownloadNotes on the Role of Leadership and Language in Regenerating Organizations

DownloadA Systems Literacy Manifesto (prose paper) or (PDF of slidedeck) by Hugh Dubberly

DownloadBlog Posts on Conversation & Design 

ViewCybernetics, machines and human emotions

DownloadLinks about Designing for Conversation


Thanks to Michael Lissack, Hugh Dubberly, Ranulph Glanville, Jocelyn Chapman, Lisa Fay, Jeff Glassman, Mark Sullivan, Jude Lombardi, and Pooja Upadhyay.

Speaker Biography

Paul Pangaro’s career spans research, consulting, startups, and education. He relocated to Detroit in 2015 to become Chair of the MFA Interaction Design at the College for Creative Studies. He has taught systems and cybernetics for design at School for Visual Arts, New York, and at Stanford University in Terry Winograd’s Human-Computer Interface program. His most recent startup is General Cybernetics, dedicated to new ways of reading and writing in digital media based on Gordon Pask’s Conversation Theory. He has worked with and within startups in New York and Silicon Valley, in product and technology roles. His consulting clients include Du Pont, Nokia, Samsung, Instituto Itaú Cultural (São Paulo), Ogilvy & Mather, Intellectual Ventures, and He has lectured in São Paulo, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Linz, and in cities in the US. His writing explicates “designing for conversation” from his research and his implementations of software and organizational processes. He was awarded a B.S. in Computer Science/Humanities from MIT and was hired by Nicholas Negroponte onto the research staff of the MIT Architecture Machine Group, which morphed into the MIT Media Lab.

© Copyright Paul Pangaro, 2017.