Designing Our World:
Cybernetics as Conversation for Action


To “design our world” has been the goal of every human generation since the first conversations for design occurred “between mind and hand” at the dawn of our species.

This goal has enticed generations of cyberneticians from Heinz von Foerster, to Gordon Pask, Stafford Beer, and Humberto Maturana, to Ranulph Glanville and Edith Ackermann. They showed how the processes and epistemology of cybernetics impelled “actions for designing” that are ethical as well as effective. Their work charts a course toward a methodology of design practice that is grounded in formalisms of variety and feedback, language and conversation, intention with action.

From their foundations, this lecture expounds cybernetics as design — that is, learning by constructing together. This comprises design as conversation and design for conversation — that is, cybernetics as conversation for action.

Lecture Materials

DownloadPLecture Slides

ViewLecture Video – follow slides from link above

DownloadPLecture Audio – follow slides from link above

DownloadWeb Page at University of Vienna

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

DownloadMaterials on Heinz von Foerster

DownloadBlog Posts on Conversation & Design 

DownloadLinks about Designing for Conversation

More by Edith Ackermann

ViewVideo on Tinkering and Making

DownloadEdith Ackermann on Wikipedia

More by Michael C. Geoghegan

DownloadPDesign for a Self-regenerating Organization—Paper on Requisite Variety and Organizations, co-authored with Paul Pangaro

DownloadPThe Island of Macromol—The Birth, Life and Decay of Innovation – PDF or Kindle version


Thanks to Albert Müller, Hugh Dubberly, Ranulph Glanville, Marianne Ertl, Allenna Leonard, 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.