Models and Theories in Human-Computer Interaction/Wiener's Cybernetics and an Ecological-Materialist Approach in Anthropology

Wiener's Cybernetics and an Ecological-Materialist Approach in Anthropology edit

The science of cybernetics, the study of control and communication in complex systems, has a wide range of applications in numerous fields. Concerned with input, output, and feedback, cybernetics is flexible enough to be used in technological, biological and social studies.

In the field of anthropology, a particular local population would be one example of a complex social system. If the desired output was to make sure everyone was properly nourished, an appropriate amount of control over resources and production would be needed to maintain a predictable input. The example becomes even more complex when considering the environment is a non-human actor in the system.

If the input, or amount of food per person, changed due to reduced control, such as a poor growing season, overfishing an area, or increased population, the negative feedback of failing to nourish the group would loop back and necessitate a change to achieve homeostasis. Gathering more information, such as researching enhanced fishing methods or pest management, and improving control through implementing these researched topics at the input stage would hopefully afford better odds at achieving the desired output.

Through the lens of some anthropological theories, such as the ecological-materialist approach, the concept of cybernetics may help explain topics such as why certain technologies emerged within a population or why a group migrated. With the simple framework of input, output, and feedback, cybernetics will continue to be applicable in existing and emerging fields.

McGee, J., & Warms, R. (2012). Anthropological Theory: An Introduction History.