Research & Other Downloads
The following is a list of papers (with abstracts below the list) in the form of pdfs that are available for download without charge but you will need to complete the short form at the bottom of the page:
The Transmediale.08 Conference took place in Berlin during the week of the 28th of January 2008(www.transmediale.de). This is an annual cultural event in the German capital, which in 2008 was focused on the intersection of the digital technology and our contemporary communications’ culture. One of the sessions was “The Chilean Network Experiment”, or the CyberSyn project of the early 1970s. The Conference overall theme was CONSPIRING, alluding to the potentials of Internet to support all kind of communications, which can be highly creative but also deceptive and the source of mal practices. One of the key technical developments of the Chilean project was a network of telex machines –Cybernet- that in October 1972 helped workers and managers alike to experience the difference between communications and information. Cybernet was a technology at hand that helped the government to respond to a damaging strike of retailers and truck owners. At the time it dawned that CyberNet could be a tool to increase their capabilities for decision making; with it their decisions could flow and reach each other in almost real time.
Cybersyn by Raul Espejo
We are constantly reconstructing the world’s essential characteristics. This is the outcome of the on-going evolution of our relationships in a world full of surprises and challenges. The world changes as society absorbs new developments and we develop new cognitive capabilities. Our recurrent interactions construct new relationships, which provide the foundations for new organisational forms. The invention and deployment of technologies play a key role in this evolution. My purpose in this contribution is exploring this evolution. I want to explore the constitution of information and communication technologies in social relationships that re-construct the world’s nature. A wide range of threats and opportunities require of all our ingenuity, inventiveness and stamina to maintain viability. Technologies, considered as tools and machines that may be used to solve real-world problems problem, have helped us in these endeavours from immemorial times. I argue here that learning to use them requires understanding their constitution in communication processes. The key conceptual construct I use for this understanding is that of complexity and more specifically the Law of Requisite Variety (Ashby 1964). The specific application domain for these reflections is the CyberSyn project during the Allende’s government in Chile (Beer 1981).
The viable system model and
the Viplan Learning System by
Raul Espejo, Diane Bowling and Patrick Hoverstadt
The Viplan learning system is an aid to learn about Beer's viable system model (VSM) and its application. This is done with the support of the Viplan method. The five activities of this method are explained with examples. First, it offers an approach to understand and discuss organisational identity through analysis of stakeholders. Second, it describes structural modelling of activities, which is followed by the crucial idea in the method of unfolding the organisation's complexity. Fourth, it shows a tool for studying the distribution of resources and discretion in an organisation. Fifth, and finally, it offers a form of relating these resources to the VSM, thus allowing the development of diagnostic points. The paper ends with a short description of the software itself.
Keywords: Cybernetics, Viable system model, Structures, Autonomy, Organization
“Viplan Toolbox” is a Flash based tool developed by Syncho to support
the application of the Viplan Method. The purpose of this tool is not a detailed
modelling of the enterprise but its diagnosis using the five steps of the Viplan
Method in combination with identity and structural archetypes of
organisational problems. Precise diagrammatic conventions have been
developed for this purpose, which guide representing the diagnostic points
emerging from a user’s studies. The modelling of an organisation can be done
from multiple viewpoints and makes extensive use of structural recursion. It is used as part of our training programme in Syncho’s Online Learning Centre. Toolbox makes use of colours, changes lines to red to highlight particular aspects of interest and permits adding notes in the diagrams.
See examples of the screens of this application.
EXPLORING COMPUTER SUPPORTED CO-OPERATIVE WORK IN A RETAIL BANK by
Bowling DP and Espejo R
At the end of the 20th century advances in information technology have brought about revolutionary changes in Retail Banking. Banking has moved from branch-based operations to national or regional centres of expertise such as security and lending centres. A full service for a customer will usually involve more than one of these centres. But customers require this service to appear seamless. This paper studies the issue of overcoming structural fragmentation for the small business lending process of a high street bank during the mid 90’s. It illustrates the use of a problem solving methodology (Viplan) in the effort of integrating fragmented functions into "virtual" teams. This effort was supported by information technology.
Ashby's work has had a deep impact in modern systems thinking. In particular, in the management sciences, Stafford Beer has recognised in Ashby's law of requisite variety a corner stone for his work. We shall argue in this paper that Ashby's law, as stated by him, is of limited value. These two laws are the "law of potential simplification" and the "law of insufficient variety".
Information Management, Organization and Managerial Effectiveness by Raul Espejo and John Watt
In this paper we argue that information management is not only about managing the information resources of an organization as an economic activity; it is also about the use that individuals make of their information inputs and outputs. The discussion centres on individual managers, particularly on how successful they are in converting information into effective action. The management of complexity is seen as the cornerstone of managerial activities: managers are faced with the problem of matching their limited information-processing capacity to the much larger information space implied by their responsibilities and commitments. It is argued that managers can employ at least three possible strategies to achieve an adequate matching: they can make adjustments to the organization structure; the can design their organizational conversations; and they can aim at a good manager-to-task fit.
Key words: complexity, conversations, information, information systems, management, organization structure
Virtual Teams and Performance
CSCW in the National Westminster Bank by Raul Espejo, Antonia Gill and Anthony Gill
This paper (1996) describes a CSCW research project that is currently taking place in a major UK high street bank from the perspective of managerial cybernetics. Within this framework a number of exiting methods and techniques have been refined while new ones have been developed and are still under development. In this paper we report on progress made with some of these methods: those used to diagnose the operational structure of the bank and to design a set of ‘virtual organizations’ to overcome certain communication barriers arising from the bank’s formal structure. These virtual organizations represent a successful ‘experiment’ in establishing a crossfunctional, geographically dispersed work community; and providing appropriate forms of technological and non-technological support to enable that community to work effectively towards meeting corporate performance objectives.
7. Giving Requisite Variety to Strategic and Implementation Processes: Theory and Practice by Raul Espejo
Fundamental disagreements are inherent in the variety of viewpoints, and often coercive nature of relationships, contained within an organisation. In this paper I explain how differences in purpose can be handled successfully using approaches to complexity which take forward ideas developed since the 1950s in organisational cybernetics. These methods complement the powerful complexity ideas derived from work focused on more unitary biological systems. In Part 1, I work the requirements for individual and organisational survival and for participation leading to effective performance. I explain why managing differences in purposes in an increasingly interdependent world depends on finding organisational structures which balance the interests of autonomous individuals with those of the global social systems in which they participate. Design criteria are identified for optimising strategic and implementation processes and forging cohesive and effective organisational operations. Part 2 introduces through examples a methodology for undertaking related organisational transformations. This methodology has resulted in new strategic and implementation
processes through the design of organisational structures which establish novel forms of co-operative relationships based on trust and self-organising autonomy.
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