The recent exponential increase in the use of the internet and other “media” to influence and shape dominant cultural experiences via “virtual reality” exploits a core facility of human psychology – that of being able to accept “substitutions” for the “Real Thing.” In this paper, I want to raise some basic questions and dilemmas for our living in the space of a third-order contextualization that uses “virtuality” in an ever-increasing manner for the configuring and homogenization of human experiences. In doing so, I also raise the question of the need for us to develop an adequate model of a “third-order cybernetics” for dealing with the ways in which human experience is contextualized and configured by phenomena that constitute the third-order system.


Purpose: To argue for the need to generate a third-order cybernetics to deal with the problematics of second-order cybernetics.

Problem: The recent exponential increase in the use of the internet and other “media” to influence and shape dominant cultural expe- riences via “virtual reality” exploits a core facility of human psychology – that of being able to accept “substitutions” for the “Real Thing.” In this paper, I want to raise some basic questions and dilemmas for our living in the space of a third-order contextualisation that uses “virtuality” in an ever-increasing manner for the configuring and homogenisation of human experiences. In doing so, I also raise the question of the need for us to develop an adequate model of a “third-order cybernetics” for dealing with the ways in which human experience is contextualised and configured by phenomena that constitute the third-order system.

Solution: Ernst von Glasersfeld's work makes it clear that psychologists and others enter into a great deal of confusion when they use terms like “self,” “conscious- ness,” “emotions,” “memory,” “the environment,” and even “experience,” because, as he points out, there is no convincing model for any of these commonly taken-for-granted phenomena of human living. His writings are taken as a unique source for the generation of an effective third-order cybernetics where the need for constant self-critical monitoring in regard to psychological praxis and third-order phenomena may take place. “Self-critical monitoring” means, in the first place, monitoring in a critical manner our tendencies to take for granted the notion of “self.” One of the main problematics to deal with in second- order cybernetics is the way that “subjectivity” is taken for granted.

Benefits: The temptation to collapse back down from a second-order cybernetics to first-order cybernetics will be resolved by creating an effective platform for third-order cybernetics that problematises the issue of “subjectivity” of the observer in the second- order cybernetics framework. This involves putting into question many of the common assumptions held about “who” it is that makes the observations at the second-order cyber- netics. In other words, I attempt to highlight what is problematic regarding the observer's subjectivity and how this analysis of what is taken for granted by the second-order cyber- netics framework creates the basis of a framework for a third-order cybernetics.

Source: Revisiting the Need for a Third-Order Cybernetics