Systems and their Discontents

Counter-Signals 5

Beginning in the 1990s, the efflorescence of a technology-driven, ostensibly post-industrial “new economy” brought with it a revival of interest in an array of concepts and discourses relating systems and systems thinking that had animated both progressive utopian projects of the 1960s and 70s and the totalizing global geopolitical schemas of the Cold War. The theme for this issue of Counter-Signals began as an attempt to assemble a reappraisal of this reappraisal of cybernetics and systems theory that, it was hoped, would offer critical perspectives to counter the uncritical affirmation that characterized much of architecture and design discourse. However, as the call propagated outwards through a world still very much in the grip of capitalism’s grim cycle of expansion, crisis, and consolidation, which Gramsci observed in the 1930s, much of the optimism and exuberance hardened and darkened in ways strikingly similar to the trajectory of the original discourses of the 70s and then 80s. The theme therefore expanded into wider fields of systematicity and a more complex, though no less urgent and acute, constellation of discontents. Paradoxically, and perhaps now optimistically, these many points of protest and critique appear to offer hope for a future, however difficult, of continuing intransigence, refusal, and resistance. The structures are hard, the systems are total, the abstractions are real but so too is the struggle.


  1. Systems and Their Discontents
    Alan Smart
  2. Assemblage Poetics
    Brian Ang
  3. The Deschool primer and The Portola Network: Avant-garde Art and the Education of the Cybernetic Body
    Robby Herbst
  4. Act Natural
    Michael Robinson Cohen
  5. No Future for Bad Crips!
    Kaiya Waerea
  6. (Dis-)organized Leaves
    Martin Beck
  7. The Environmental WitchHunt
    Statement by the French Group, 1970
  8. A Manifesto for Destructionist Film
    Andrew Culp and Thomas Dekeyser
  9. Computation: A Counter-History
    Andrew Culp and Thomas Dekeyser
  10. CLODO Communiqué 1
  11. CLODO Communiqué 2
  12. Le CLODO Speaks
  13. Notes from Inside [Invisible Systems]
    Maddy Routon
  14. Collateral Writing: Digital Collaboration in the Age of Crowdworking and Algotaylorism
    Annette Gilbert
  15. Cambridge Analytica, SCL, Cross-Atlantic Ruling Class Interlocks & Cybernetic Control Systems
    Crisis Editions
  16. Publish/Perish
    L Vinebaum
  17. Rationed Expression
    Jim Brown
  18. C/S
    Lincoln Cushing
  19. Really Green — A Speculatively Criminal and Green Ecology: Farming on the Spectrum of Idealism, Revolution, and Greed
    Marc Herbst and Scott Holmquist
  20. Metabolic Rift Appears at Aspen 1970
    Jack Henrie Fisher
  21. The Oikos of the Earth, the Nomos of the Black Hole
    Antonia Majaca
  22. A Conversation with Theo Botschuijver of Spatial Effects and Eventstructure Research Group, January 27, 2011
    Interview by Alan Smart

6.5 x 9.25 inches
304 pages
designed by Jack Henrie Fisher and Alan Smart
printed by Kopa
edition of 500