AIRS: Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sui Sistemi (Italian Assoc. for Resea …

IFSR Newsletter 1996 Vol. 15 No. 4 December
Gianfranco Minati
10, Vle Jenner 20159 –
Milan – Italy
Tel. & Fax +39 2 608 11 22
AIRS acts in the context of the international systemic movement and collaborates with the most important research institutes in this field. AIRS is a non-profit, cultural association. AIRS strictly collaborates with the Fondazione Barbarini e Centoni per la Correlazione to design, to carry out, and to use methodologies and tools based on Systemics (for Education, Management, Ethics, Computer Science, Psychology, as well as Linguistics and Medicine). AIRS plans to activate and to support the research and the interaction between people with different disciplinary knowledge, also at different levels, and aims to explore, to identify and to induce inter- and trans-disciplinary views.
In the history of human activity there have been different moments and stages during which interest has moved from objects to the relationships between them, also to their interdependence as a fundamental source for explaining behavior and for increasing the effectiveness of our actions. Human knowledge moved from focussing on the concept of Set to focussing on the concept of System. In the scientific and technological domain we are able to realize and to recognize the following steps:

  • from the classic monodisciplinary research have emerged the topics of self-regulation, at the beginning materialized in mechanical apparatuses (Watt’s automatic engine) and later in electrical and electronic ones (feed-back and black-box concepts, belonging to control theory);
  • the concept of “field” has emerged as well as the interest for the study of interactions;
  • thanks to cybernetics, the concept of regulation has been expanded, for example to the physiology, and to problems such as the ones dealing with learning and perception;
  • information theory has studied the interaction as an exchange of information among objects, particularly because, there being they more and more computer-based, the ability to process data, to communicate, and to store (text, sound, picture) is increasing;
  • biology requires theoretical frameworks compatible and consistent with organicism and complexity. In psychology the Gestalt concept has been introduced: Sets and Systems emerge as different constructs, not to be confused, because in this case a lack of effectiveness results as a consequence;
  • the General System Theory or Systemics rises with peculiar finality to identify and to study interactions and analogies (isomorphisms) between disciplines independent of their particular applications: the theoretical centrality of the human being, as a crucial and active part of logical devices, is outlined (from randomness to arbitrariness).
  • the formalization processes gives birth to mathematical tools such as the ones of the mathematics of complexity, fuzzy sets, neural networks, …);
  • in physics the topics of complexity emerge. They call for concepts based on Systemics: openness, self-organization, and attractors in the logical sense, not only in the thermodynamic sense.

The distance between the Monodisciplinary, Multidisciplinary, Interdisciplinary, and Transdisciplinary approaches illustrates the emergence process of the Systemic view:

  • the monodisciplinary vision constitutes the most primitive approach to problems. It is based on separation, isolation and specialization. The ideal framework is based on the focus on a single object, and on the focus on single separate components. The cultural and scientific world is based on objectivism. The need to overcome specialization doesn’t mean to deny or to reject them but it concerns both their utilization and the form of their generation. We could say that a new discipline, “a discipline of the disciplines”, emerges (a kind of “hosting connective tissue”). The process of changing from the classic and linear disciplinary vision to the systemic one has various steps:
  • the multidisciplinary vision is based on disciplines, each one close to the other, managed by a director with an objective (i.e. a manager). For example, in a project focusing on telecommunication, according to the classic managerial approach, a set of disciplines such as engineering, jurisprudence, economics and physics has to be managed. But disciplines communicate with one another only by referring to each single problem;
  • the interdisciplinary vision is based on interacting disciplines, engaged in a mutual dialogue, one’s own problems becoming also the problems of one other with the same happening for relevant solutions. There is, at least, a communication of methodologies between them. Interdisciplinarity is often a cultural view enabling the design based on a synthesis of single disciplines, thus going beyond multidisciplinarity;
  • the transdisciplinary vision doesn’t focus on a kind of objectivistic “cognitive anxiety”, but is based on the theoretical centrality of the human being. The shift is from an “aware physics” to the “awareness of the physics”, as from randomness to arbitrariness. The focus of an integrated cognitive activity is not anymore on the search for a kind of Mephistophelean and objectivistic knowledge. The poor effectiveness of this cognitive strategy and of the produced knowledge has been realized. The uniqueness of the human being has been recognized as generating theories and reality more than just discovering them. The human being is not anymore just a passive, silent, and “noise-generating” observer but a producer of reality. In this framework achievements, unimaginable when using the classical disciplinary approach, are designable and achievable, such as in education, computer science, psychology, management, medicine and semantics processing.
  • The systemic view is often not made explicit in the field of humanistic and artistic activities. First of all, because of a reduced hegemony will of the single disciplines, and secondly, because of their lack of explanatory and theoretical will. However organicism, holism, and systemic view are at least recognizable, even if they are not explicit, in such disciplines as arts, philosophy, history, anthropology, archeology, jurisprudence. Ways of thinking, not emerging from the classical scientific view, may be considered within the framework suggested by the comparison of “cognitive arts” vs. sciences.

The focus on the centrality of the human being, viewed at least as the unique “device” able to produce knowledge and to design usage for it, is due to theoretical and not only practical reasons. The shattering of the whole into disciplines is strongly related to reducing the mind to brain activity. We can recognize an analogy between the distance from brain to mind, and the distance between sets and systems: set of words and literature; set of musical notes and music; set of single players and team; set of workers and firm…

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