International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics

2nd Edition, as published by Charles François 2004 Presented by the Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science Vienna for public access.


The International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics was first edited and published by the system scientist Charles François in 1997. The online version that is provided here was based on the 2nd edition in 2004. It was uploaded and gifted to the center by ASC president Michael Lissack in 2019; the BCSSS purchased the rights for the re-publication of this volume in 200?. In 2018, the original editor expressed his wish to pass on the stewardship over the maintenance and further development of the encyclopedia to the Bertalanffy Center. In the future, the BCSSS seeks to further develop the encyclopedia by open collaboration within the systems sciences. Until the center has found and been able to implement an adequate technical solution for this, the static website is made accessible for the benefit of public scholarship and education.



The use of stories to emphasize some critical and sometimes unheeded aspect of a situation, especially in complex systems.

This technique has been widely used by R. L. ACKOFF, and sometimes produces striking results. Stories help to discover original angles and new meanings, get out of the rut by avoiding commonplace views and stuffy overbearing prejudices, produce synergies, increase competence in participants and generally stimulate creative insights.

According to R. SCHANK, storytelling is also and endogenous mnemonic process of stabilization of recollections: "It is the process itself of creation of the story which creates the mnemonic structure that will contain the basics of this story for the rest of our life" (1995, p. 154).

In both cases, the story can be a fabrication, but it is then a meaningful one. A related subject is the construction of scenarios for forecasting and planning purposes.

R. NUMMELA CAINE and M. CAINE observe: "Stories are powerful because they bind information and understanding over time. In fact, there is strong reason to believe that organization of information in story form is a natural brain process… At a minimum, a story is a sequence of experiences with a meaningful theme" (1994, p.121-2)

Indeed, story telling is as old as Gilgamesh, Ramayana, or Ulysses epopeas and the Bible itself: values, norms and understanding transmitted through an easily assimilated mental fare.

In a somewhat different sense, story telling is unavoidable, even as a contribution to scientific knowledge.

C. SLUZKI speaks of the "EIGEN-values of stories"(1995, p. 41) Of course, even if very imaginative of even fanciful, no story can make any sense if not connected to what SLUZKI call a "system of narratives". Moreover, different cultures can offer widely different systems of narratives, each within its own "whole conversing system "(id. p. 45)

S.J. GOULD observes (In "Wonderful Life", as quoted by P. BAK (1996, p.7): "Many large domains of nature – cosmology, geology and evolution among them – must be studied with the tools of history. The appropriate methods focus on narrative, not experiment as usually conceived".

This is so because, in these domains, no event is ever exactly repeated and no reproducible experiment can be organized that could eliminate all contingencies.

Of course, the analogies discovered among different, but more or less similar events, as for example a number of earthquakes or various hurricanes, can produce a deeper understanding of a whole class of phenomena and decrease the arbitrary perceptive deformations and interpretations always possible in story telling.

A good example is the discovery of the so-called laws of chaos, initially derived from meteorology research by E. LORENZ.


  • 1) General information
  • 2) Methodology or model
  • 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
  • 4) Human sciences
  • 5) Discipline oriented


Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science(2020).

To cite this page, please use the following information:

Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]

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