Systems and Blogs

I backed into writing this blog. My guess is that most bloggers began with a point of view they wanted to express and then figured out that a blog was a quick and easy way to do it.

I came to this differently …

A couple of years I became interested in Systems Theory, not so much the scientific/mathematical aspect, but how systems theory could be applied to social/organizational settings. One of the major tenants of systems theory is the necessity of feedback in order for a system to work. I have spent a lot of time playing with models trying to describe how feedback loops operate in organizations. 

About a year ago I first discovered the existence of blogs.I thought to myself that blogs are a type of feedback system. As  I studies blogs I found them interesting and compelling, but nothing cathartic. I even started writing one. As it turns out , I did not yet get the joke. I posted a few times, no links, just my own musings. As you might expect, not much happened. I did not post with any regularity, no hits, nothing interesting…

In the early part of this year, I learned a little more, discovered RSS and aggregators … hey now this is getting a little more interesting. Startied reading blogs more regularly. In August, I decided it was time to get off of the sidelines and join the fun; I started this blog, I started commenting on other blogs. Now I am starting to get the joke.

And I finally had my big catharsis … blogs represent the most visible instance of social systems theory currently in existence.

Let’s look at a definition of systems, taken from Jamshid Gharajedaghi’s book "Systems Thinking". The primary principles of systems are:

  • Openness – That behavior of living (open) systems [that] can be understood only in the context of their environment
  • Purposefulness – Arises from choice and is the product of the interactions among three dimensions: rational, emotional and cultural
  • Multidimensionality – The ability to see complementary relations in opposing tendencies and to create feasible wholes from infeasible parts
  • Emergence – Properties of the whole that cannot be deduced from properties of the parts
  • Counterintuitiveness – Actions intended to produce a desired outcome may, in fact, generate opposite results

Sound a lot like the blogoshere to me …

…anyway , back to my opening point, I got into blogging because I found the phenomenon academically interesting and you know what, I found a point of view I wanted to share.

If anyone is interested, I am attending the Pegasus Communications Systems Conference in San Francisco in two weeks (Nov 14-16). My sense is that most Systems practitioners are not focused on blogs and that most bloggers don’t spend a lot of time studying systems theory. I am going to see if I can find anyone at the conference interested in starting this conversation.


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