CfP: Margins of Cybernetics / Marges de la cybernétique

A special issue of the /Canadian Journal of Communication/ ( <>)

Guest Editors: Philippe Theophanidis, Ghislain Thibault and Dominique Trudel

Following the Second World War the project of cybernetics attracted unprecedented worldwide interest and led to several crucial technological and intellectual developments. The institutionalization of communication studies in particular is inseparable from the growing interest in the cybernetics concepts of information and communication as well as from a preoccupation for the technological advancements in the post-war era. Several scholars and historians have explored the relationship between the emergence of cybernetics and communication studies as a field while others have shed light on the genesis of cybernetics and the major intellectual figures of the movement (Breton & Proulx, 2006; Hayles 1999; Heims, 1991; Pickering, 2010; Winkin 1981).

If communication studies succeeded in its institutionalization during the second half of the 20th century, the story is quite different for cybernetics. By the late 1950s, the enthusiasm for cybernetic projects fizzles out in both North America and Europe (Breton, 1984; Le Roux, 2009). Nevertheless, the central concepts developed by cyberneticists (communication, mechanization, control, information, feedback) will remain at the heart of the preoccupation with new information and communication technologies. The cybernetics concepts, metaphors, and media largely transcended the boundaries of the initial project and were mobilized in a plurality of fields of study, theories, discourses, and artistic practices whose relationship with cybernetics often remain implicit.

Situating itself at “the margins of cybernetics,“ this special issue of the /Canadian Journal of Communication/ is an invitation to revisit and extend the common genealogy of cybernetics and communication studies. In particular, contributors are invited to pursue the exploration of minor, forgotten, discarded or experimental intellectual or artistic projects that developed at the “margins” of cybernetics. Possible topics to be addressed in the issue include:

+ The institutional and historical relationship between cybernetics and communication studies;

+ The development and history of cybernetic media;

+ The history of „intellectual adventurers“ (Breton and Proulx, 2006) whose work appropriated the cybernetic concepts, technology or theories in innovative ways;

+ The history and reception of cybernetics in geographical areas neglected by the existing historiography (including Canada);

+ The proximity between theories about machines and media theories;

+ The transnational and transdisciplinary history of cybernetics;

+ The remediation of the cybernetic metaphors, models, and concepts by other disciplines.

Contributors should send a 500 word abstract to Dominique Trudel

(dominique[dot]trudel[at]umontreal[dot]ca) before January 15, 2016.

Authors are requested to include a summary of the proposed article, a working title for their article, and a short bio-note.

The guest editors will review the abstracts and invite submission of full-length papers (7,000 – 9,000 words) for blind peer-review.

Manuscripts must be submitted no later than May 31, 2016. The publication of the special issue is planned for Spring 2017.


Breton, Philippe. (1984). La cybernétique et les ingénieurs, dans les années cinquante. Culture technique, 12, 155-161.

Breton, Philippe & Proulx, Serge. (2006). L’explosion de la communication à l’aube du XXIe siècle. Paris, FR: La Découverte.

Hayles, N. Katherine. (1999). How we Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press.

Heims, Steve Joshua. (1991). The Cybernetics Group. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Le Roux, Ronan. (2009). L’impossible constitution d’une théorie générale des machines? La cybernétique dans la France des années 1950. Revue de Synthèse, 130(1), 5-36.

Pickering, Andrew. (2010). The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press.

Winkin, Yves. (1981). La nouvelle communication. Paris, FR: Seuil.

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