Early Digital Humanities: German Idealism and the Development of Cybernetics in the mid 20th Century
There were no major representatives of the humanities at the Macy Conferences, the symposia that founded the movement called cybernetics. Cybernetics contributed to the development of information theory, cyborg technologies, the Internet, and the digital computer. Its founders also harbored philosophical ambitions, tying the development of the new machines to an overhaul of philosophy for the digital age. Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, and Gregory Bateson drew heavily on the movement called German Idealism as they tried to create a new language for science.
This project tells the story of this strange encounter between cybernetics and German Idealism for the first time. It traces the influence of the founders onto a later generation of cybernetic humanists who tried to update G.W.F. Hegel’s philosophy in particular, claiming that only his idealist metaphysics could make sense of the coming digital world.
Assistant Professor, Department of German, Faculty of Arts & Science