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Cybernetics of Augmentation

This essay examines the belief that abstract representations of worlds are the world, a process we have named the cybernetics of augmentation.

Published onNov 08, 2017
Cybernetics of Augmentation

Cybernetics of Augmentation

Ulrich Gehmann
Working group “Formatting of Social Spaces” at Department of History, University of Karlsruhe (KIT), Germany and Subformat Research Group Karlsruhe, Berlin
Email: [email protected]
Martin Reiche
Subformat Research Group Karlsruhe, Berlin
Email: [email protected]
Reference this essay: Gehmann, Ulrich and Martin Reich. “Cybernetics of Augmentation.” In Leonardo Electronic Almanac 22, no. 2, edited by Senior Editor Lanfranco Aceti, and Editors Candice Bancheri, Ashley Daugherty, and Michael Spicher. Cambridge, MA: LEA / MIT Press, 2017.
Published Online: January 15, 2018
Published in Print: To Be Announced
ISSN: 1071-4391
ISBN: Forthcoming



To significantly revisit cybernetics, the logics of today’s spatial typologies need to be re-examined. In recent spatial developments, we are challenged by ‘auto-logics,’ a term that refers to the emergence and the development of patterns that interact with one another. This phenomenon is best described through the notion of feedback and feed-forward loops from traditional cybernetics. These loops are assumed to mold and shape the development of spaces and through their interconnection form causal networks, which in turn form new spatial configurations. Placed inside such a context, our contribution aims at a peculiar effect of these auto-logics, namely the destruction of human perception and of world altogether. In a mutually enforcing process of augmenting an ‘old’ reality (the spaces of the world that used to be) and creating ‘augmented’ hybrids of worlds, we not only lose our sense of reality but moreover believe that abstract representations of worlds are the world. We named such a process cybernetics of augmentation. To understand this process, we examine some of its theoretical foundations and recent developments.


Abstraction, augmentation, second-order cybernetics, artificialization, teleology, conditio humana, autology, virtual realities, location-based software



Cybernetics, a term introduced by Norbert Weiner, denotes the science of control in self-regulating systems via information loops. [1] Although its founders started with the objects of investigation, the termed science is not solely about technical or biological entities. It is also not confined to technical issues in the sense of a non-normative and therefore merely ‘technical’ approach to reality. It is about abstraction. More specifically, cybernetics involves notions of purpose-driven behavior, optimization, and finally, teleology. [2] The purpose of constant optimization by increasingly functionalizing a formerly given real can be seen as a teleology of its own kind, as an attempt to augment such a real ad infinitum (in principal), at least in its functional terms. It is enabled thereby to create new realities in a literally endless process, and to even determine new perceptions of the spatial. Moreover, regarding the inherent technicality of such processes, the thesis is that the very optimization of a given or intended functionality can be seen as constitutive for the technical process as such, which in itself then becomes teleological.

Augmented Teleologies

The augmentation discussed in this paper should be understood in its literal, etymological sense, stemming from the Latin word augmentare, meaning to add something in order to enrich it and thus make more out of it than it is by itself. In light of this definition, the very identity of the underlying entity that is augmented will also be subsequently altered according to its particular augmentation. [3]

We are confronted with two different, albeit interwoven, kinds of teleology inherent to ‘augmented’ realities, a circumstance that must be kept in mind when examining the things to come. In its combined impact, it leads to a paradox: although the single processes are technical by their essence, by optimizing functionalities according to certain algorithmic procedures, their overall outcomes are not.

During the course of their application, those processes lead to phenomena that are subsumed in systems and theories under the label of emergence—the unplanned, the unwanted, and the proverbial collateral damage that occurs alongside the implementation and operation of such processes. Enhanced by its constant acceleration, this phenomenon Paul Virilio described as a “dromocratic revolution” and “dromological progress” led to a “dictatorship of movement,”; a dictatorship which was characteristic of modernity until today, [4] and responsible for an encompassing cybernetization and thereby, artificialization of worldly belongings.

Those outcomes are not due to the fact that in being technical, such processes tend to develop distinct auto-logics, their own kind of rationality and hence, justification. Although this is an important factor accounting for the teleological nature of such processes, particularly when combined with dromological progress, this is not the sole factor.  To become teleological, these processes need an additional factor: a mindset. We have to want these processes to occur; we have to deliberately install them in an accelerating, “dromological” manner and keep them running. In other words, we intend to achieve something with them. As in the case discussed in this essay concerning the cybernetics of augmentation, we want to surmount the given by transforming reality into something else, and specifically to something different. This understanding leads us to our thesis: augmentation aims at extending and amplifying the given reality by adding something new.

As understood from Virilio, the dromocratic mind is not headed against peculiar enemies or obstacles to overcome, but against the world as such, and against the condition of man. [5] Against the world as it was, and (thus) against man as he was, both have to not only be meliorated (which would imply that their existence is kept intact) but transformed into something else. This is the reason we investigate this issue.

It is not a normative question, [6] but one of being able to describe a phenomenon and its evolutionary roots in order to make it comprehensible and to trace its further developments. Next to forces of a plain economic or societal nature sustaining such a cybernetic system, what are the final intentions behind it? Why achieve a different conditio humana, with regard to space as well as with regard to man himself? This is an ethical question, which unfortunately cannot be followed further here. If we understand ethos in its literal use as a mode of behavior resulting out of a certain mindset or worldview, [7] then we are confronted with ethical questions—or more precisely with decisions—since in themselves, as cybernetically closed systems, the teleologies considered cannot answer them because they are self-referential.Together with their outcomes, we will trace these teleologies.


On Teleology, Auto-Logical Systems, and New Worlds

In order to understand a peculiar approach to reality and its inherent worldview, it might be useful to investigate the assumptions of its founders. In their statements, they express the basic assumptions underlying the approach in question and the mindset leading to it. Together with their aspirations behind them, aspirations which are of a mythic nature, they told about ‘the world as it is,’ its constituting forces, and the resulting dynamics. [8]

When looking at cybernetics and related approaches, Ludwig von Bertalanffy, pioneer of a general system theory that, inter alia, enabled cybernetics as we know it, spoke of a “concept of teleological mechanisms, however it may be expressed in different terms.” Cybernetics, the science concerned with self-regulating systems, looks at the processes enabling this activity, and aligning to properties of self-orientation and self-directedness. [9] These are properties that imply some telos, or goal to be pursued, even if it just consists of the system in question sustaining itself. He cites Wiener who presupposed that the core of such a science of cybernetics (as is telos, a word of Greek origin stemming from kybernetes, or helmsman), is namely “mechanisms of a feedback nature,” that are “the base of teleological or purposeful behavior in man-made machines as well as in living organisms, and in social systems.” [10] This means that these mechanisms occur nearly everywhere, and hence, in both mythological and scientific terms, can be seen as a constitutive agent of a ‘world as it is.’ With regard to the prevailing scientific worldview, it requires another way of  looking at the world. This way of looking prioritizes causality—the nexus of different forces, which in their combined effects, lead to a ‘world as it is.’ The kind of causality in use so far, Bertalanffy continues, was a mono-causal one, resting upon an essentially atomistic and mechanic understanding of the world, trying to separate clear-cut causes and effects with causes acting unidirectionally. It was a world that had its triumphs in nineteenth-century science and technology, a world constructed by analysis [11] and inhabited by the new social atom—the entrepreneurial individual following the rule of the survival of the fittest. [12]

The new causality—the motor of the newly detected systemic properties—is of a different kind: recursive, multidirectional, and operating in circuits instead of being confined to unidirectional effects. In terms of worldview, it was a causality adapted to the new circumstances of complex societies after World War II, of interwoven networks and so-called autological systems. In these terms, it was the world of the auto-poietical individual unit (in the human realm of such systemics, the ‘user’) that kept depending upon its environment like its nineteenth-century forerunners, but trying to keep dependency to a minimum. At the advent of a post-modernist era with its constructivist mindset and globalized capitalism, a new kind of cybernetics emerged, the one of systems “making themselves” in literal terms—from the Greek auto-poiein. They were systems that relied upon a kind of do-it-yourself cybernetics, permanently constructing their vital productive internal circuits holding them together as an entity. Being largely independent from their environments, they were like little monads in a complex universe. [13]

Without going into detail, the question about the nature of reality and our perception of it regained actuality after having been discussed for centuries in philosophical discourse. In particular, it was about a second-order cybernetics settling upon concepts of autopoiesis and autology. Basically, perception was seen as a process of construction, and hence, there is no ‘real’ environment—i.e., expressed in the mythological terms introduced above, there is no real world ‘as it is’—but we construct our environments, as well as we construct ourselves. This understanding of the role of the human in the world is deeply embedded in Christian heritage, exemplified by Pico della Mirandola, [14] and led to the assumption that reality can be constructed in toto. [15] As one immediate consequence, reality could be conceived as a multiverse, [16] a conception well in line with the socio-economic and socio-cultural context addressed above. There was no universe any longer, not to speak about its nineteenth-century mechanistic version, but multiple realities, all of them constructed—and all of them constructed differently. This draws an interesting parallel to personalization technology that is used nowadays, especially in augmentation scenarios, and will be addressed later. No matter what their concrete shape (ranging from persons to organizations driven by capitalist frame conditions), the individual units inhabiting such a new world as it is construct their worlds in constructing themselves. This is a literally self-centered view that was assisted by newly developed concepts like self-reference, self-organization, systemic closure, and eigen-values. [17]


The Cybernetics of Self-Reliance

Looking at cybernetics of augmentation, the idea of autology is of special interest. It is one of these second-order concepts aligned to the new kind of cybernetics, and touches the issue of teleology. According to Heinz von Foerster, the basic problem is perception’s autological nature meaning we don’t see what we don’t see, and hence, are not aware that we are not seeing. Therefore, something having a purpose omits one central aspect, namely: what is the purpose of the purpose? [18] See above on mindsets and ethics. For a cybernetics of augmenting something given that already exists—because otherwise, the very term augmentation would make no sense [19]—autology is important in several respects. Persons planning, installing, or controlling the respective ‘augmented’ realities are part of the system they plan, control, and operate. The designer of the system is also its participant and its consumer, which makes the system dependent on the designer’s belief of the world. This also lets the system become an instrument of power regarding world conception and belief systems. Thus, the system reacts to the people using it, and is influencing them as much as they are influencing it. In terms of an augmented reality and having in mind the autological nature of perception, it means that they become intrinsic parts of the system they want to mold and to run, and as a consequence, the purpose of the purpose becomes almost self-referential. The augmented reality is not perceived as something original, which has been molded, but as a new real, i.e., as a new kind of reality, and a genuine one—a new ‘original’, so to speak. The original illusion, that which has been superimposed as an augmentation upon the ‘old’ reality, now turns into a new reality, thereby generating a new world.

In general cybernetic terms, there is no longer the question of the purpose of certain purposes—why we are doing what we purposefully do—but the latter are justifying themselves in relating to themselves; and, of course, to their implicit final purpose, their causa finalis (in traditional diction) constitutes them. But this relationship is hidden, not made explicit. When pondering the possibility of augmented realities by a cybernetics of augmentation, nobody asks why those realities should be installed (besides plain economics), or what the purpose of those purposes is. The system that underlies the new reality becomes a “black box” in Stanislaw Lem’s meaning of it. Neither the designer (or engineer) of the system nor anybody else will know the relationship between the “input” and the “output variables.” The black box does not know how it operates, but it operates. Moreover, by combining black boxes we are capable of creating systems where no part of the system’s functionality is in its entirety known by anyone. [20] Speaking in terms of mechanical systems, it becomes obvious that the black boxes create an intrinsic dependency of the more complex system on its lesser complex parts and on the assumptions (and the assumptions of the abstractions) under which these parts have been created. Instead of a purpose, the complex system gains its direction from something different. It is the implicit final telos that directs all the actions and through which the network of explicitly established processes reach certain purposes. [21] These purposes have been derived from it, and are constantly justifying themselves in an autopoietical manner on the base of that system’s daily ‘business as usual.’ Therefore, justifying the system as a whole. By this mode of control, this becomes auto-logic in its totality then. Except for the inputs it needs from its environment (e.g., funding for the construction of augmented realities, which makes the dependence of the system on the economic system even more obvious), it becomes self-organizing and by that, operationally closed. This is one distinctive property of self-organizing systems. They develop what has been called “eigen-behaviors”, defined as follows: “Once the closure of a system is achieved, it automatically takes care of the generation of its internal regularities,” and such an “internal coherence” is called eigen-behaviors. [22] Or in general terms and common language, those systems relate upon themselves, relying upon themselves. Even more simply, that means: they control themselves.

Apart from feedback and autology, the idea of control is central for cybernetic conceptions, especially in the context of an augmenting cybernetics. In more than one respect, such a cybernetics controls itself. It was already recognized in the eighties leading to ‘second order’ cybernetics where control comprises more than just controlling in the sense of monitoring and supervising activities. Control also means guidance—giving direction [23]—and hence, can be understood as a teleological act. For personalized recommendation commonly used in online shops or location-based software, which can be seen as a form of augmentation of a decision process (what to buy, where to go, etc.), the offer of the recommendation itself is the teleological act. Seen in a more encompassing perspective, control relates to the purpose of the purposes, to their causa finalis, and thereby, to the ‘hidden,’ or ‘implicit’ basic assumptions underlying our actions. Related to autological perception, it also guides the perceptions of the actors, serving as a metron against which the properness of activities is judged (are they correct/incorrect). Very often these are based on self-control mechanisms performed automatically, and more or less reflexively, on behalf of the actors (do I behave properly). Finally, this depends on the causa finalis of the system in question, as its reason to be—why we are here: the purpose of the individual purposes in that system’s daily business. Although it depends on it, that daily business does not need to reflect day by day on its reason to be—it autonomizes itself through its very operations. With the effect addressed in the foregoing, namely that the reason for a system’s very existence is its existence; the whole issue becomes tautological and cybernetically closed.


On History, Augmentation, and New Worlds

In connection with control, a final point regards the evolution or ‘history’ of a system: its (controlled) development toward a desired end state and the telos of all its operations. Close to being operationally closed, the history of a system is another distinctive property of self-organizing. Expressed in the technical diction of systems theory, “every operationally closed system changes by natural drift.” [24] What does it mean to say that natural drift, as an idea, has replaced history? It relates to the general mindset portrayed in the foregoing, that of monadic individual units trying to minimize their dependency from their environments. Interestingly though, the closed system itself is an abstracted one, which directly infers that it is dependent upon a (common) understanding of what the abstraction step is; this understanding, for (digital) augmentations is a dependency on the abstraction function (in a mathematical sense). In the need of becoming independent, the closed system first and foremost has to make itself dependent on an abstraction function. And again, it is about survival of the fittest. In the classical perspective or “input type” stance, a system’s survival depends on its environment; it must adapt to it in order to stay viable, and “a system is adaptive because it is optimally fitted to a given world.” [25] Translated into terms of mindset, in former times, the individuals (the respective units subjected to selection) had to be in touch with their environments in order to live. This means inter alia that they could not create and rely upon worlds on their own, using eigen-behaviors independent from the outside worlds they were embedded in. Now, from a “closure type stance,” survival and life are defined differently: “a system is adaptive simply because its organization is maintained invariant through changes of structure which do not violate constraints.” Seen from this point of view, natural drift (the former history) is nothing but a history of loose coupling “of a system with its medium” (the environment). “There will be an uninterrupted synthesis of eigen-behaviors which are specified by the system itself, under the broad constraints of the environment.” [26]

The invariance of the augmentation lies in its neutrality and its nature to override history: the act of augmentation can prevail even if the augmented real world objects are no longer available. The endpoint of an infinite augmentation thus is the destruction of identity of objects after all.

In this respect, the notions of teleology and causality gain additional facets. As Bertalanffy already pointed out, “the directedness of a process towards a final state is not a process differing from causality, but another expression of it.” The final state to be reached is not a force in front attracting the system, but only another expression for causal forces in the system’s back, he says. [27] The system is driven by its own dynamics toward a certain end state, dynamics which are, according to the new worldview above, generated mainly by the system’s eigen-behaviors and self-referentiality. This, in essence, might even lead to the destruction and extinction of the system itself, as is easily visible in technogene spaces that are no longer accessible to the human being, such as the Chernobyl Nuclear Exclusion Zone: A reality was created through the usage of technology that is no longer accessible to the human being if they are not equipped with the necessary technological artifacts to overcome the deadly radiation levels in that area—a very obvious form of a factual destruction of anthropological space. [28]

For cybernetically augmented realities, it means that once they were established as systems in operation, the above issue of an ‘original’ becoming augmented by something else gains an additional facet. Since that ‘something else’ generates a new reality that becomes the new ‘original,’ because it became the new general frame of reference for our actions. For instance, in location-based mobile software (and especially location-based computer games), the original spatiality the software explicitly refers to is not needed any longer. Actually, it is replaced by a new reality that becomes, in its eigen-behaviors, independent from its former substrate. [29]

Location-based software is only one type of example here. Other examples are personalized search and recommendation systems, which in the definition delivered above is a form of augmentation. Personalized algorithms that are the basis of these programs create augmentations based on abstracted data about the user saved in a generalized data structure. Designed by its creator, the system reflects their understanding of the world, especially the relevant world: what is needed for an “entity” (a describable part of the world) to be described as this entity? It addresses the question of identity, object-oriented as well as the human identity and with that, directly interwoven, is the human condition. As addressed earlier, the personalization creates a multiverse by constructing a different reality for every user. However, the fundamental difference is that the construction step and the decision about its construction are taken away from the user. In other words, the user is only a consumer of the information in which they are fed, underlining the power aspect of these kinds of systems once again.

Personalized systems (and therefore augmentations) also have the need to save a “history” of the user interactions to derive data from it and thus to use it as a knowledge base in their decision making process. In this process, the “relevant” parts (and only those) of the information about a real-world object (e.g., the user) are saved in an internal data structure. This internal data structure carries only a subset of the information that makes the real-world object to be what it is; this process of information reduction called feature extraction is essential to ensure computability in the system. [30] The same accounts for the above mentioned location-based software with one addition. Many of these software systems allow the user to check-in to places they visit (i.e., actively communicating to the software that the user is at that specific place or does a specific action) or to leave comments, [31] thus creating a new history of the place. The usage of the term “history” in this case is literal and more powerful than the “original” history of the place. The new history of check-ins and comments is a real history as it is created from real encounters in space and time and it is also manifested, as it will be available for everyone to read for as long as the system exists. It is therefore a powerful history, even as it lacks the ephemeral nature that historical processes usually imply. By that means, the “new” history is a very comfortable point of reference for the user: All the information about the place is centralized, archived, and always available (while unwanted, i.e., non-relevant, information is filtered out [32]), which closes the cybernetic system once again.

As a general process and in literal terms, a new world with its own history has been created. But even more, it thereby changes also the history and very understanding of the ‘original’ it settles upon. In this way, a peculiar and emergent kind of history (or natural drift) builds up, a history of a third order, next to the one of the ‘old’ original, that of the space superseded which nevertheless continues to exist (the history of first order); and next to the history of the newly created reality which of course, now starts to unfold a history of its own (history of second order). Like any cybernetic system self-controlled, it builds up what Erich Jantsch called “process teleology, denoting a system that unfolds itself into consecutive higher states of order. [33] As a basic process, this kind of teleology relates to what Bertalanffy said about teleology in general; but now, it adopts a peculiar drive. In technical terms, it leads to “self-transcendent systemsby combining the central aspects of evolution, emergence, and purpose. [34] Seen in this perspective, the third-order history is one of transcendence. (A) it emerged out of a first and second order, through the latter’s feedback and feed-forward interactions, and (B) it is driven by its genuine process teleology (‘purpose’) resulting out of (A).

What does this mean for a concrete cybernetics of augmentation still bound to space and place as the human beings’ genuine topos to live? At least for the time being and despite all attempts to overcome it by the respective virtualizations and augmenting measures, we are still bound to physical space and to the concrete places therein. These places do not only serve as physical substrates, they also generate a feeling of identity, and hence, define what was formerly called ‘home,’ before second-order cybernetics came to re-mold the given. And this third-order history, that of transcendence, does not only unfold a history on its own, but in the process of doing so, it too redefines the space and the places it (officially) settles upon and refers to. Paris, for instance, becomes an abstract systemic network of interconnected virtual topoi which stand for (the old meaning of the symbolic) the former ‘old,’ real Paris, thereby becoming the Paris that actually counts, for the user. [35] Thus, Paris is not just a city any longer but can be used, serving purposes of consumption by the self-referential individual. Through that, the old (first-order) history of Paris is changed into a new history; as said, its ‘old’ first-order history still remains since Paris is still a physical substrate, but in its anthropological relevance it has been replaced by a new (and therefore ‘real’) history of Paris as a cybernetically constructed and sustained network.

The same phenomenon can also be seen in a lot of metropolitan areas by the public transportation network map becoming the de facto standard for orientation in the city. The point is that the anthropological relevance itself is shifting now: from concrete places to literally abstract ones, since they are abstracted from a former being. [36] Then in order to describe these new abstract spaces we have built, we utilize design languages of abstraction that again feed the cybernetic cycle by offering us a more abstracted view of the world than the one that we had before. [37]



Both deliberately creating and generating (via emergence) a reality and history by its own is the anthropologically relevant core of a cybernetics of augmentation. The thesis is that the very uniqueness of a place is the anthropological precondition for orienting in space and time and that this uniqueness gets lost when a place as a concrete representation of a topos gets augmented. This is caused by the necessity to spatially represent the augmentation in an abstract space to be utilizable (for example by a software system) and later incorporate the information into the actual space (which is the actual act of augmentation). It is important to note that the spatial representation of the augmentation and the spatial conditions of the real space diverge; the augmentation is not necessarily bound to the place it augments, but is by its nature an interchangeable entity due to the fact that only interchangeability ensures computability. This interchangeability contradicts the unique nature of a place and starts a feedback loop as the augmented place serves as a new and presumably better (utilizable) representation of the world although it has already lost part of its uniqueness and converges to an abstract and interchangeable representation itself.


References and Notes

[1] Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications (New York: Braziller, 1968), 17, 21.

[2] Ibid., 16.

[3] From its Latin origin, the term presupposes some substrate to settle upon, something already in existence which can be augmented then; from augere, to enhance, enlarge something by letting it grow. See Friedrich A. Heinichen, Lateinisch-Deutsches Schulwörterbuch [Dictionary of Latin] (Leipzig/Berlin: Teubner, 1903), 95.

[4] Paul Virilio, Geschwindigkeit und Politik (Speed and Politics) (Berlin: Merve, 1980), 9-76; and 40, to the dictatorship of movement. 

[5] Ibid., 80.                     

[6] Cf. Stanislaw Lem, Summa technologiae, trans. F. Griese, (1981; repr., Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1964), 172, on the general question if cybernetic systems should be allowed to ‘swallow’ (i.e. ot destroy) other systems, drawing an ethical parallel to the behavior of predators in nare.

[7] To such an original understanding of ethics, see Johannes Hoffmeister, Wörterbuch der philosophischen Begriffe [Dictionary of Philosophic Terms] (Hamburg: Meiner, 1955),2.

[8] To such a definition of the mythic, see Ulrich Gehmann, “Modern Myths,” Culture and Organization, vol. 9, no. 2 (2003): 1059.

[9] Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications, 16-7.

[10] Ibid., 44.

11] Ibid., 45.

[12] To the new individualism of these newly emerged ‘mass societies’ as a survival unit, see Herbert Spencer, Social Statics, Abridged and Revised (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1896365.

[13] Cf. Humberto R. Maturana and Francisco J. Varela, Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Living (Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. 42) (Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 80).

[14] Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, On the Dignity of Man, trans. C. G. Wallis (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 19, 5.

[15] To go deeply into this phenomenon would require an investigation by its own; but the hint may be allowed, due to the phenomenon's importance as regards the mentioned mindset. In case of real physical spaces which became 'augmented' since the era of Enlightenment, it is referred to Anthony Vidler, Scenes of the Street and Other Essays (New York: Monacelli, 2011), 22-127, and 2257.

[16] Different positions summarized from Philip Baron, “Ecosystemic Psychology: First and Second Order Cybernetics”, the website of  Ecosystemic-Psychology, June 2007, (accessed December 4, 13).

[17] Heinz von Foerster, “Principles of Self-Organization – In a Socio-Managerial Context”, in Self-Organization and Management of Social Systems, ed. Hans Ulrich and Gilbert J. B. Probst (Berlin: Springer, 1984)-24.

[18] Ibid., 4.

[19] From its Latin origin, the term presupposes some substrate to settle upon, something already in existence which can be augmented then; from augere, to enhance, enlarge something by letting it grow. See Friedrich A. Heinichen, Lateinisch-Deutsches Schulwörterbuch, 5. 

[20] Stanislaw Lem, Summa technologia, 165.

[21] Processes included which serve for the sustaining the system’s overall viability, in terms of essential feedback- and feed-ford loops.

[22] Francisco J. Varela, “Two Principles for Self-Organization”, in Self-Organization and Management of Social Systems, 25-26.

[23] To the notions of control see Hans Ulrich, “Management – A Misunderstood Societal Function”, in Self-Organization and Management of Social Systems, 80-93.

[24] Francisco J. Varela, “Two Principles for Self-Organization”, in Self-Organization and Management of Social Systems, 25.   

25] Ibid., 2.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory: Foundations, Development Applications, 77.

[28] For further investigations on this phenomenon, see Martin Reiche, “The Destruction of Space by Augmentation”, in Real Virtuality, ed. Ulrich Gehmann and Martin Reiche (Bielefeld: Transcipt, 2014), 275-281.

[29] Martin Reiche and Ulrich Gehmann, "How Virtual Spaces Re-render the Perception of Reality through Playful Augmentation”, in Proceedings of the 2012 International Conference on Cyberworlds, Darmstadt, (Setember 2012), 304-307.

[30] Feature extraction or variable selection is a concept and processing step used in computational sciences to model real-world objects into computable entities. According to Isabelle Guyon and Andre Elisseeff, “An Introduction to Variable and Feature Selection”, Journal of Machine Learning Research 3 (2003): 1157, it serves the objective to “improve […] prediction performance, providing faster and more cost effective predictions, and providing a better understanding of the underlying process that generated the data.” One general issue in feature extraction is the design of the objective function (or in other terms, the question what the system will optimize) besides the obvious problem of data reduction leading to a transformation of the identity of the object when it gets transfer into the feature space.

[31] For further information on check-in practices see Henriette Cramer et al., “Performing a Check-in: Emerging Practices, Norms and 'Conflicts' in Location-sharing Using Foursquare,” Proceedings of the MobileHCI 2011 Conference, Stockholm(August-September 2011).

[32] Filtering out information (e.g. blocking unwanted users) has proven a good way to achieve approval and compliance amongst the users, resulting in a better user experience and therefore serving the need for economic viability. The application of the filtering can thus be seen as a direct consequence of the augmentation system’s dependence on the economic system.

[33] Erich Jantsch, “Evolution: Self-Realization Through Self-Transcendence,” in Evolution and Consciousness: Human Systems in Transition, ed. Erich Jantsch and Conrad H. Waddington (London: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1976), 62. The term ‘higher’ is not meant normative here but shall only state the achievement of successively e complex states of order.

[34] Ibid., 61, on self-transcendent systems; and 58, the aspects of evolution.

[35] The user is a specifically important class of the ‘actors’ introduced above, since as a category, it relates to the question of mindset introduced in the beginning: Namely the mindset to consume deliberately assembled fragments of a former ‘real’ world (the old one) in terms of simultaneity and real-time. See for instance Ian Clothier, “Transcontinental Hybridity,” Subtle Revolutions: Proceedings of the 2nd International Hybrid City Conference, Ahens, (May 2013), 259-269.

[36] To this process in the case of man the cultural animal’s (to cite Marshall McLuhan) genuine place to live, the urban, see Ulrich Gehmann and Martin Reich“Virtual Urbanity,” 253-258.

[37] This becomes obvious if you look at the evolution of public transportation maps over time, for example maps of the Berlin metrosystem.


Author Biography

Ulrich Gehmann, Dipl Biol. et lic. oec. HSG et MA history, studied Biology, Business Administration, and History. Manager in industry and international consulting. Director in charge for management consulting in Bucharest, Romania. Lecturer at Wuppertal University, Germany, for business administration. Founder of the research group formatting of social spaces, and of the journal New Frontiers in Spatial Concepts, University of Karlsruhe (KIT), Germany. Publications on occidental mythology and its impact on recent sociocultural reality, spatial issues, and virtual worlds, inter alias at Oxford Univ. Press. Museum projects. Lecturer at Karlshochschule International University, (cultural issues of organizations); partner in a German consulting firm active in the EU Commission, founding member of Subformat Research Group.

Martin Reiche is an audiovisual installation artist living and working in Berlin, Germany. He is co-founder and head member of the Laboratory for the Analysis of Social Networks (LASN) at Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, co-founder of the Subformat Research Group with research on theory of space and spatial digitalization phenomena and is regularly presenting on professional computer science and digital art and gaming conferences.

frederick gragg:

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