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Neocybernetics and Narrative

2014
Author:

Bruce Clarke

Neocybernetics and Narrative

An innovative application of systems theory to narrative and media

Neocybernetics and Narrative opens a new chapter in Bruce Clarke’s project of rethinking narrative and media through systems theory as he declares the era of the cyborg to have ended. Reconceiving interrelations among subjects, media, significations, and the social, this study demonstrates second-order systems theory’s potential to provide fresh insights into the familiar topics of media studies and narrative theory.

Bruce Clarke ranges widely, from cybernetics to actor-network theory, narratology to autopoiesis, and Gregory Bateson to Jimi Hendrix, in this provocative study of the implications of second-order systems theory. His study offers a scaleable communications theory for a planetary metabiotic system.

Susan Squier, Penn State University

Neocybernetics and Narrative opens a new chapter in Bruce Clarke’s project of rethinking narrative and media through systems theory. Reconceiving interrelations among subjects, media, significations, and the social, this study demonstrates second-order systems theory’s potential to provide fresh insights into the familiar topics of media studies and narrative theory.

A pioneer of systems narratology, Clarke offers readers a synthesis of the neocybernetic theories of cognition formulated by biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, incubated by cyberneticist Heinz von Foerster, and cultivated in Niklas Luhmann’s social systems theory. From this foundation, he interrogates media theory and narrative theory through a critique of information theory in favor of autopoietic conceptions of cognition. Clarke’s purview includes examinations of novels (Mrs. Dalloway and Mind of My Mind), movies (Avatar, Memento, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), and even Aramis, Bruno Latour’s idiosyncratic meditation on a failed plan for an automated subway.

Clarke declares the era of the cyborg to have ended, laid to rest as the ontology of technical objects is brought into differential coordination with operations of living, psychic, and social systems. The second-order discourse of cognition destabilizes the usual sense of cognition as conscious awareness, revealing the possibility of nonconscious and nonhuman forms of sentience.

Neocybernetics and Narrative

Bruce Clarke is chair in the Department of English and the Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of Literature and Science at Texas Tech University.

Neocybernetics and Narrative

Bruce Clarke ranges widely, from cybernetics to actor-network theory, narratology to autopoiesis, and Gregory Bateson to Jimi Hendrix, in this provocative study of the implications of second-order systems theory. His study offers a scaleable communications theory for a planetary metabiotic system.

Susan Squier, Penn State University

Bruce Clarke takes us—like no one else—beyond cognitive information science and into the second order realm of knowing. He moves us eloquently into the post-informational knowledge society, integrating our self-understanding as enacted neocybernetics experiential bodies with the humanities narrative form of understanding. It is done through a superb mastery of the enacted new cybernetics and system theory. This book will open a new world for you.

Søren Brier, author of Cybersemiotics: Why Information is Not Enough

An inventive and fearless integration of second-order cybernetics.

Constructivist Foundation

If one is looking for a coherent, rigorous, and persuasive argument for the virtues of systems theory, this is the book.

American Literature

Clarke’s critiques raise useful questions for articulating posthumanist theoretical priorities in reading texts.

Science Fiction Studies

Neocybernetics and Narrative

Contents

Introduction: Mysteries of Cognition

1. Systems, Media, Narrative: From the Trace to the Telepathic Imaginary
2. Communication and Information: Noise and Form in Michel Serres and Niklas Luhmann
3. Feedback Loops: Media Embedding and Narrative Time from Jimi Hendrix to Eternal Sunshine and Memento
4. Observing Aramis, or the Love of Technology: Objects and Projects in Gilbert Simondon and Bruno Latour
5. Mediations of Gaia: Ecology and Epistemology from Gregory Bateson and Félix Guattari to Avatar

Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index