Peter Sachs Collopy

History of Cybernetics Bibliography

This is a bibliography of historical and sociological works on cybernetics, a science of “control and communication in the animal and the machine” which flourished from World War II into the 1970s.

If you’ve come here after asking yourself (or Google) what cybernetics is, I recommend starting with Bernard Geoghegan and Benjamin Peters’ entry “Cybernetics,” from the International Encyclopedia of Communication Theory and Philosophy, and Geoffrey Bowker’s “How to Be Universal: Some Cybernetic Strategies, 1943–70.” William Aspray’s “The Scientific Conceptualization of Information: A Survey” places cybernetics in the context of developments in computing and information theory, while Peter Galison’s “The Ontology of the Enemy: Norbert Wiener and the Cybernetic Vision” is a classic account of the field’s military origins. The texts listed below survey the many forms cybernetics took in the decades that followed.

This bibliography is limited in three ways: It includes only books and articles which focus on cybernetics rather than the related histories of cyborgs and information theory; it includes only texts in English, though there are also substantial French and German literatures on the subject; and it excludes articles and dissertations that have been superseded by books by the same authors. Within these limitations, I welcome references to additional books and articles. I last updated this list on May 13, 2017.

The Big Picture (but mostly Anglo-American)

Origins

Norbert Wiener

Soviet and Comparative Studies

Biology

Ecology

Social Sciences

Gregory Bateson

Sciences of Mind

Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts

Politics and Planning

Art, Sound, and Popular Culture

Film and Video

French Theory