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.” Ronald Kline’s is the synthetic history the field has been waiting for. William Aspray’s “ The Cybernetics Moment 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substantial French and German literatures on the subject; and it excludes articles and dissertations that have been superseded by books by the same authors.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 July 3, 2022.
The Big Picture
(but mostly Anglo-American)
Michael Apter, “Cybernetics: A Case Study of a Scientific Subject-Complex,” in
, edited by Paul Halmos (University of Keele, 1972). The Sociology of Science Robert Lilienfeld,
(Wiley, 1978). The Rise of Systems Theory: An Ideological Analysis
Geoffrey Bowker, “ How to Be Universal: Some Cybernetic Strategies, 1943–70,” Social Studies of Science 23 (1993).
Katherine Hayles, (University of Chicago Press, 1999). How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics Charles François, “
Systemics and Cybernetics in a Historical Perspective,” Systems Research and Behavioral Science 16 (1999).
Debora Hammond, (University Press of Colorado, 2003). The Science of Synthesis: Exploring the Social Implications of General Systems Theory
Geoffrey Bowker, “The Empty Archive: Cybernetics and the 1960s,” in (MIT Press, 2006). Memory Practices in the Sciences
Bernard Geoghegan, “ The Historiographic Conceptualization of Information: A Critical Survey,” IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 30 (2008).
John Johnston, (MIT Press, 2008). The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI Philipp Aumann, “
The Distinctiveness of a Unifying Science: Cybernetics’ Way to West Germany” IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 33 (2011).
Orit Halpern, “ Cybernetic Sense,” Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 37 (2012).
Orit Halpern, (Duke University Press, 2014). Beautiful Data: A History of Vision and Reason since 1945
Ronald Kline, (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015). The Cybernetics Moment; or, Why We Call Our Age the Information Age
Claus Pias, “The Age of Cybernetics,” in (diaphanes, 2016). Cybernetics: The Macy Conferences, 1946–1954; The Complete Transactions
Thomas Rid, (Norton, 2016). Rise of the Machines: A Cybernetic History
Bernard Geoghegan and Benjamin Peters, “ Cybernetics,” International Encyclopedia of Communication Theory and Philosophy (2016).
Elizabeth Petrick, “ Building the Black Box: Cyberneticians and Complex Systems,” Science, Technology, and Human Values (2019). Origins
(MIT Press, 1970). The Origins of Feedback Control
William Aspray, “ The Scientific Conceptualization of Information: A Survey,” IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 7 (1985).
David Mindell, (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002). Between Human and Machine: Feedback, Control, and Computing before Cybernetics United States
Peter Galison, “ The Americanization of Unity,” Daedalus 127 (1998). Peter Krieg, “
The Human Face of Cybernetics: Heinz von Foerster and the History of a Movement That Failed,” Kybernetes 34 (2005).
Stuart Umpleby, “ A History of the Cybernetics Movement in the United States,” Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 91 (2005). Christopher Johnson, “
Analogue Apollo: Cybernetics and the Space Age,” Paragraph 31 (2008). Norbert Wiener
(MIT Press, 1982). John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener: From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death Pesi Masani,
(Birkhauser, 1990). Norbert Wiener, 1894–1964
Peter Galison, “ The Ontology of the Enemy: Norbert Wiener and the Cybernetic Vision,” Critical Inquiry 21 (1994). Felix Geyer and Johannes van der Zouwen, “ Norbert Wiener and the Social Sciences,” Kybernetes 23 (1994).
David Jerison and Daniel Stroock, “Norbert Wiener,” (1997). The Legacy of Norbert Wiener: A Centennial Symposium
Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, (Basic Books, 2004). Dark Hero of the Information Age: In Search of Norbert Wiener, the Father of Cybernetics
Mara Mills, “ On Disability and Cybernetics: Helen Keller, Norbert Wiener, and the Hearing Glove,” differences 22 (2011).
Benjamin Peters, “ Toward a Genealogy of a Cold War Communication Science: The Strange Loops of Leo and Norbert Wiener,” Russian Journal of Communication 5 (2013).
Henning Schmidgen, “ Cybernetic Times: Norbert Wiener, John Stroud, and the ‘Brain Clock’ Hypothesis,” History of the Human Sciences 33 (2020). Soviet and Comparative Studies
David Holloway, “ Innovation in Science—The Case of Cybernetics in the Soviet Union,” Science Studies 4 (1974). Peter Elias, “The Rise and Fall of Cybernetics in the US and the USSR,”
(1997). The Legacy of Norbert Wiener: A Centennial Symposium
Slava Gerovitch, (MIT Press, 2002). From Newspeak to Cyberspeak: A History of Soviet Cybernetics
David Mindell, Jérôme Segal, and Slava Gerovitch, “From Communications Engineering to Communications Science: Cybernetics and Information Theory in the United States, France, and the Soviet Union,” in , edited by Mark Walker (Routledge, 2003). Science and Ideology: A Comparative History
Benjamin Peters, “ Betrothal and Betrayal: The Soviet Translation of Norbert Wiener’s Early Cybernetics,” International Journal of Communications 2 (2008).
Benjamin Peters, (MIT Press, 2016). How Not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet
Diana Kurkovsky West, “ Cybernetics for the Command Economy: Foregrounding Entropy in Late Soviet Planning,” History of the Human Sciences 33 (2020).
Joshua Sanborn, “ Cybernetics and Surveillance: The Secret Police Enter the Computer Age,” Kritika 23 (2022). France and “French Theory”
Céline Lafontaine, “ The Cybernetic Matrix of ‘French Theory,’” Theory, Culture & Society 24 (2007).
Lydia Liu, “ The Cybernetic Unconscious: Rethinking Lacan, Poe, and French Theory,” Critical Inquiry 36 (2010).
Bernard Geoghegan, “ From Information Theory to French Theory: Jakobson, Lévi-Strauss, and the Cybernetic Apparatus,” Critical Inquiry 38 (2011). Christopher Johnson, “
‘French’ Cybernetics,” French Studies 69 (2015).
Bernard Geoghegan, “ Textocracy; Or, the Cybernetic Logic of French Theory,” History of the Human Sciences 33 (2020).
Jacob Krell, “ What is the ‘Cybernetic’ in the ‘History of Cybernetics’? A French Case, 1968 to the Present,” History of the Human Sciences 33 (2020).
Vincent August, “ Network Concepts in Social Theory: Foucault and Cybernetics,” European Journal of Social Theory 24 (2021). Chile
Eden Medina, (MIT Press, 2011). Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende’s Chile
Martin Collins, introduction to forum on , Cybernetic Revolutionaries History and Technology 28 (2012).
Michael Dennis, “ Scientific and Technical Knowledge and the Making of Political Order,” History and Technology 28 (2012).
Ronald Kline, “ Beyond the Closed World,” History and Technology 28 (2012).
Tiago Saraiva, “ The History of Cybernetics in McOndo,” History and Technology 28 (2012).
Eden Medina, author response to forum on , Cybernetic Revolutionaries History and Technology 28 (2012). Biology
Donna Haraway, “ The Biological Enterprise: Sex, Mind, and Profit from Human Engineering to Sociobiology,” Radical History Review no. 20 (1979).
Donna Haraway, “The High Cost of Information in Post World War II Evolutionary Biology: Ergonomics, Semiotics, and the Sociobiology of Communications Systems,” 13 (1981–2). Philosophical Forum
Donna Haraway, “Signs of Dominance: From a Physiology to a Cybernetics of Primate Society, C.R. Carpenter, 1930–1970,” in 6, edited by William Coleman and Camille Limoges (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983). Studies in History of Biology
Donna Haraway, “A Semiotics of the Naturalistic Field, from C.R. Carpenter to S.A. Altmann, 1930–55,” in (Routledge, 1989). Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science
Evelyn Fox Keller, “The Body of a New Machine: Situating the Organism between Telegraphs and Computers,” in (Columbia University Press, 1995). Refiguring Life: Metaphors of Twentieth-Century Biology Lily Kay,
(Stanford University Press, 2000). Who Wrote the Book of Life? A History of the Genetic Code
Evelyn Fox Keller, “Taming the Cybernetic Metaphor” in (Harvard University Press, 2002). Making Sense of Life: Explaining Biological Development with Models, Metaphors, and Machines
Warwick Anderson and Ian MacKay, “The Science of Self,” in (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014). Intolerant Bodies: A Short History of Autoimmunity Ecology
Peter Taylor, “ Technocratic Optimism, H.T. Odum, and the Partial Transformation of Ecological Metaphor after World War II,” Journal of the History of Biology 21 (1988).
Sharon Kingsland, “Defining the Ecosystem,” in (John Hopkins University Press, 2005). The Evolution of American Ecology, 1890–2000 William Bryant,
(doctoral dissertation, University of Iowa, 2006). Whole System, Whole Earth: The Convergence of Technology and Ecology in Twentieth-Century American Culture
Bruce Clarke, “Neocybernetics of Gaia: The Emergence of Second-Order Gaia Theory,” in , edited by Eileen Crist and H. Bruce Rinker (MIT Press, 2010). Gaia in Turmoil: Climate Change, Biodepletion, and Earth Ethics in an Age of Crisis Nancy Slack, “Good Friends: Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson” in
(Yale University Press, 2010). G. Evelyn Hutchinson and the Invention of Modern Ecology Social Sciences
(MIT Press, 1991). Constructing a Social Science for Postwar America: The Cybernetics Group, 1946–1953
George Richardson, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991). Feedback Thought in Social Science and Systems Theory
Esther-Mirjam Sent, “ Herbert A. Simon as a Cyborg Scientist,” Perspectives on Science 8 (2000).
Philip Mirowski, (Cambridge University Press, 2001). Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science
Hunter Crowther-Heyck, (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005). Herbert A. Simon: The Bounds of Reason in Modern America
Hunter Heyck, (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015). Age of System: Understanding the Development of Modern Social Science
Stefanos Geroulanos and Leif Weatherby, “Cybernetics and the Human Sciences” special issue introduction, History of the Human Sciences 33 (2020).
Ronald Kline, “ How Disunity Matters to the History of Cybernetics in the Human Sciences in the United States, 1940–80,” History of the Human Sciences 33 (2020). Poornima Paidipaty, “
‘Tortoises All the Way Down’: Geertz, Cybernetics and ‘Culture’ at the End of the Cold War,” Anthropological Theory 20 (2020). Gregory Bateson
David Lipset, (Prentice Hall, 1980). Gregory Bateson: The Legacy of a Scientist
John Tresch, “ Heredity is an Open System: Gregory Bateson as Descendant and Ancestor,” Anthropology Today 14 (1998).
Leone Montagnini, “ Looking for ‘Scientific’ Social Science: The Macy Conferences on Cybernetics in Bateson’s Itinerary,” Kybernetes 36 (2007).
William Kaizen, “ Steps to an Ecology of Communication: ,” Radical Software, Dan Graham, and the Legacy of Gregory Bateson Art Journal 67 (2008).
Erik Peterson, (doctoral dissertation, University of Notre Dame, 2010). Finding Mind, Form, Organism, and Person in a Reductionist Age: The Challenge of Gregory Bateson and C. H. Waddington to Biological and Anthropological Orthodoxy, 1924–1980
Orit Halpern, “ Schizophrenic Techniques: Cybernetics, the Human Sciences, and the Double Bind,” S&F Online 10 (2012).
Peter Harries-Jones, (Fordham University Press, 2016). Upside-Down Gods: Gregory Bateson’s World of Difference
Anthony Chaney, (University of North Carolina Press, 2017). Runaway: Gregory Bateson, the Double Bind, and the Rise of Ecological Consciousness Sciences of Mind
Geir Kirkebøen, “ From a Naked Emperor to Just Clothes: The Rise and Fall of Cybernetic Family Therapy,” Social Science Information 34 (1995).
James Anderson and Edward Rosenfeld, (MIT Press, 1998). Talking Nets: An Oral History of Neural Networks
Jean-Pierre Dupuy, , translated by M. B. DeBevoise (Princeton University Press, 2000). The Mechanization of the Mind: The Origins of Cognitive Science Roberto Cordeschi,
(Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002). The Discovery of the Artificial: Behavior, Mind and Machines Before and Beyond Cybernetics
Tara Abraham, “ From Theory to Data: Representing Neurons in the 1940s,” Biology and Philosophy 18 (2003).
Tara Abraham, “ Cybernetics and Theoretical Approaches in 20th-Century Brain and Behavior Sciences,” Biological Theory 1 (2006).
Andrew Pickering, (University of Chicago Press, 2010). The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future
Rebecca Lemov, “ Running Amok in Labyrinthine Systems: The Cyber-Behaviorist Origins of Soft Torture,” Limn 1 (2011).
Deborah Weinstein, “‘Systems Everywhere’: Schizophrenia, Cybernetics, and the Double Bind,” in (Cornell University Press, 2013). The Pathological Family: Postwar America and the Rise of Family Therapy
John Shiga, “ Of Other Networks: Closed-World and Green-World Networks in the Work of John C. Lilly,” Amodern 2 (2013).
Chen-Pang Yeang, “ From Modernizing the Chinese Language to Information Science: Chao Yuen Ren’s Route to Cybernetics,” Isis 108 (2017).
Danielle Judith Zola Carr, “ ‘Ghastly Marionettes’ and the Political Metaphysics of Cognitive Literalism: Anti-Behaviourism, Language, and the Origins of Totalitarianism,” History of the Human Sciences 33 (2020).
Christina Vagt, “ Design as Aesthetic Education: On the Politics and Aesthetics of Learning Environments,” History of the Human Sciences 33 (2020). Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts
Michael Arbib, “ Warren McCulloch’s Search for the Logic of the Nervous System,” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 43 (2000).
Neil Smalheiser, “ Walter Pitts,” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 43 (2000). Lily Kay, “
From Logical Neurons to Poetic Embodiments of Mind: Warren S. McCulloch’s Project in Neuroscience,” Science in Context 14 (2001).
Tara Abraham, “ Integrating Mind and Brain: Warren S. McCulloch, Cerebral Localization, and Experimental Epistemology,” Endeavour 27 (2003).
Kenneth Aizawa, “ Warren McCulloch’s Turn to Cybernetics: What Walter Pitts Contributed,” Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 37 (2012).
Phil Husbands and Owen Holland, “ Warren McCulloch and the British Cyberneticians,” Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 37 (2012).
Alan Collins, “ An Asymmetric Relationship: The Spirit of Kenneth Craik and the Work of Warren McCulloch,” Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 37 (2012).
Tara Abraham, (MIT Press, 2016). Rebel Genius: Warren S. McCulloch’s Transdisciplinary Life in Science Politics and Planning
Paul Edwards, (MIT Press, 1996). The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America
Jennifer Light, (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003). From Warfare to Welfare: Defense Intellectuals and Urban Problems in Cold War America
Jennifer Light, “ Taking Games Seriously,” Technology and Culture 49 (2008).
Antoine Bousquet, “ Cyberneticizing the American War Machine: Science and Computers in the Cold War,” Cold War History 8 (2008).
Brian Holmes, (Van Abbemuseum, 2009). Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society
Matthew Ferish, “The Cybernetic Continent: North America as Defense Laboratory,” in (University of Minnesota Press, 2010). The Contours of America’s Cold War
Bernard Geoghegan, (doctoral dissertation, Northwestern University, 2012). The Cybernetic Apparatus: Media, Liberalism, and the Reform of the Human Sciences
John Duda, “ Cybernetics, Anarchism and Self-Organisation,” Anarchist Studies 21 (2013).
David Bates, “ The Political Theology of Entropy: A Katechon for the Cybernetic Age,” History of the Human Sciences 33 (2020).
Nicolas Guilhot, “ Automatic Leviathan: Cybernetics and Politics in Carl Schmitt’s Postwar Writings,” History of the Human Sciences 33 (2020). Joakim Parslow, “ The Mechanical Atatürk: Cybernetics and State Violence in the Second Turkish Republic,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 53 (2021).
Popular Culture and Counterculture
Ron Eglash, “ Cybernetics in American Youth Subculture,” Cultural Studies 12 (1998).
Fred Turner, (University of Chicago Press, 2006). From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism
Bruce Clarke, “ From Information to Cognition: The Systems Counterculture, Heinz von Foerster’s Pedagogy, and Second-Order Cybernetics,” Constructivist Foundations 7 (2012).
Hugh Dubberly and Paul Pangaro, “ How Cybernetics Connects Computing, Counterculture, and Design,” in Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia, edited by Andrew Blauvelt (2015). Art
Mary Louise Lobsinger, “Cybernetic Theory and the Architecture of Performance: Cedric Price’s Fun Palace,” in (Canadian Center for Architecture, 2000). Anxious Modernisms: Experimentation in Postwar Architectural Culture
Edward Shanken, “ Cybernetics and Art: Cultural Convergence in the 1960s,” in , edited by Bruce Clarke and Linda Henderson (Stanford University Press, 2002). From Energy to Information
Maria Fernandez, “ Gordon Pask: Cybernetic Polymath,” Leonardo 41 (2008).
Maria Fernandez, “ Detached from HiStory: Jasia Reichardt and Cybernetic Serendipity,” Art Journal 67 (2008). Etan J. Ilfeld, “
Contemporary Art and Cybernetics: Waves of Cybernetic Discourse within Conceptual, Video and New Media Art,” Leonardo 45 (2012).
Etienne Benson, “ Environment between System and Nature: Alan Sonfist and the Art of the Cybernetic Environment,” communication +1 3 (2014). Film and Video
David Joselit, (MIT Press, 2007). Feedback: Television against Democracy
Zabet Patterson, “ From the Gun Controller to the Mandala: The Cybernetic Cinema of John and James Whitney,” Grey Room no. 36 (2009).
Andrew Syder, (doctoral dissertation, University of Southern California, 2009). “Shaken Out of the Ruts of Ordinary Perception”: Vision, Culture and Technology in the Psychedelic Sixties
Kris Paulsen, “ Half Inch Revolution: The Guerilla Video Tape Network,” Amodern 2 (2013).
Carolyn Kane, “ The Tragedy of Radical Subjectivity: From Radical Software to Proprietary Subjects,” Leonardo 47, no. 5 (2014).
Peter Sachs Collopy, (doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 2015). The Revolution Will Be Videotaped: Making a Technology of Consciousness in the Long 1960s
Bernard Geoghegan, “ The Family as Machine: Film, Infrastructure, and Cybernetic Kinship in Suburban America,” Grey Room 66 (2017). Ute Holl, (Amsterdam University Press, 2017).
Cinema, Trance and Cybernetics Sound and Music
Christina Dunbar-Hester, “ Listening to Cybernetics: Music, Machines, and Nervous Systems, 1950–1980,” Science, Technology, & Human Values 35 (2010).
Jonathan Sterne, “Nature Builds No Telephones” and “Perceptual Coding and the Domestication of Noise,” in (2013). MP3: The Meaning of a Format
Christopher Haworth, “ Music and Cybernetics in Historical Perspective: Introduction to the Special Issue,” Resonance 2 (2021).
Deirdre Loughridge, “ Daphne Oram: Cyberneticist?” Resonance 2 (2021).
Eamonn Bell, “ Cybernetics, Listening, and Sound-Studio Phenomenotechnique in Abraham Moles’s ,” Théorie de l’information et perception esthétique (1958) Resonance 2 (2021).
Clara Latham, “ The Sound Machine in the Body: Cybernetics and the Theremin,” Resonance 2 (2021).
Eric Drott, “ Music and the Cybernetic Mundane,” Resonance 2 (2021).
Theodore Gordon, “ ‘Androgynous Music’: Pauline Oliveros’s Early Cybernetic Improvisation,” Contemporary Music Review 40 (2022).