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Brought to You By:

Dr. Randall Whitaker
Copyright © 2001 Randall Whitaker

  Randall Whitaker
Observer Web  

  THE OBSERVER WEB:
Autopoiesis and Enaction

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OFFERED HERE:
Humberto Maturana The Biology of Cognition
Autopoietic Theory
Enactive Cognitive Science

The Theories of Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela

  Francisco Varela
 Maturana   Varela 

Tutorial
Study Plan
Bibliography
Encyclopaedia Autopoietica
Internet Guide
Reading Room
Focus Files
M&V 1980 Index
Book Shop
The Observer


OFFERED 
ELSEWHERE:

Observer Illustration Analyzing Essential Circularities Doing and Knowing Illustration
Without Circular Reasoning
EVERYTHING SAID IS
SAID BY
AN OBSERVER
  ALL KNOWING IS DOING
AND
ALL DOING IS KNOWING

  • Effective with 2001, the site at www.enolagaia.com is the primary location for The Observer Web .

  • The original site (at Umeå Universitet, Sweden) remains operational, but is not guaranteed to be as current as this one.

  • KEYWORDS:   autopoiesis, enaction, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, autopoietic theory, biology of cognition, Santiago theory, second-order cybernetics, languaging, cognition, observer, phenomenology, epistemology, radical constructivism, enactivism, enactive cognitive science, self-organization, self-organizing systems, self-reference

Original Site
(Umeå Universitet)

  • COPYRIGHT:   Observer Web  materials are annotated with their respective copyrights. With one exception (The Encyclopaedia Autopoietica ), you are free to download, copy, use, and distribute the material as you see fit. I only ask that you include an attribution to me as the author. This preserves reference to the materials' originator and gives your readers a pointer so they can 'backtrack' to the original sources. I would appreciate it if you respect my wishes in return for access to all these resources.
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  In response to requests over the years, I've assembled an introductory tutorial to give you a basic taste of Maturana and Varela's work.

 

Observer Web TUTORIAL

 
  • The Tutorial is presented in two parts.

  • Tutorial 1 will set the context for Maturana and Varela's work, introduce you to the fundamental descriptive concepts, and provide a brief explanation of this theory's theory about theory itself.

  • Tutorial 2 will introduce the key explanatory constructs of the theory and discuss them. At the end, you will be introduced to Varela's recent concept of an enactive cognitive science.

  • If you are interested in going deeper and learning more (after reviewing the Tutorial), the numerous online resources listed below will equip you for further exploration.

     

GO: Top of Page URL:
 
http://www.informatik.umu.se/~rwhit/Tutorial1.html
 
  GO:  Tutorial
Alternate
Site:

 
http://www.informatik.umu.se/~rwhit/ATIntro.html
 
 
WARNING:

The version at the alternate site may not be as current as the one here.

 
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  The Study Plan is a suggested syllabus for exploring the literature on autopoiesis and enaction. It provides both a guide for the individual scholar and a suggested syllabus for a single-term university course.

 

Observer Web STUDY PLAN / SYLLABUS

 
  • I have organized the recommended readings to lead the beginner from a basic introduction to deeper general understanding and analysis of the theory's areas of application to date. This will be enough to get you started.

  • Links are provided to lead you to literature directly accessible via the Observer Web  Online Reading Room.

  • You can then explore further by following the links in the Guide to Internet Resources or pursuing more of the literature as listed in the Bibliography.

  • To the extent that key books are in print and available, you can pursue them via the Observer Web Book Shop.

 
GO: Top of Page URL:
 
http://www.informatik.umu.se/~rwhit/StudyPlan.html
 
  GO:  Study Plan
Alternate
Site:

 
http://www.informatik.umu.se/~rwhit/StudyPlan.html
 
 
WARNING:

The version at the alternate site may not be as current as the one here.

 
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  The Bibliography is a comprehensive listing of the literature on autopoiesis and enaction. I've been compiling and distributing the bibliography since 1989, and it is still growing.

 

Observer Web BIBLIOGRAPHY

 
  • You can browse the HTML version, which contains active links to those materials available via WWW and to other relevant sites.

  • Click on one of the links below to access the Bibliography and be taken to a specific alphabetical section OR:

  • Click on the offered globe to access the Bibliography 'from the top'.
 
 

[A] [B] [C] [D] [E] [F] [G] [H] [I] [J] [K] [L] [M]

 

[N] [O] [PQ] [R] [S] [T] [U] [V] [W] [XYZ]

 

GO: Top of Page URL:
 
http://www.informatik.umu.se/~rwhit/Bib.html
 
  GO:  Bibliography
Alternate
Site:

 
http://www.informatik.umu.se/~rwhit/Bib.html
 
 
WARNING:

The version at the alternate site may not be as current as the one here.

 
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  The Encyclopaedia Autopoietica is a compendium of the terms and concepts used in autopoietic theory, with emphasis on the core literature of Maturana and Varela.

 

Observer Web ENCYCLOPAEDIA AUTOPOIETICA

 
  • This HTML document is intended to serve as a background resource for you to use in exploring and understanding the theory.

  • It is a reference work, not a tutorial on the theory itself.

  • This proprietary product is designed to be obtained and used as a standalone reference.

 

Warning!
HUGE File!
HTML > 850 Kb
Total = 1.5 Mb

 
  • DON'T PANIC: CLICKING THE BUTTON WILL NOT COMMIT YOU TO THE DOWNLOAD (YET)

  • It takes you to the Encyclopaedia's Entry Point, where you can get an overview and check your download options.

 
GO: Top of Page URL:
 
http://www.informatik.umu.se/~rwhit/EAIntro.html
 
  GO:  Encyclopaedia Autopoietica
Alternate
Site:

 
http://www.informatik.umu.se/~rwhit/EAIntro.html
 
 
WARNING:

The version at the alternate site may not be as current as the one here.

 
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  I've also provided an extensive Guide to Internet Resources, which offers you links to other online materials relevant to autopoietic theory.

 

Observer Web GUIDE TO INTERNET RESOURCES

 
  • These links will take you to information resources on the biology of cognition, autopoiesis, and enactive cognitive science.

  • There are also links to Internet resources on topics closely related to the themes of The Observer Web , such as cybernetics and radical constructivism.

  • This guide also includes alternative sources for some of the assets available here at the Observer Web.

 

GO: Top of Page URL:
 
http://www.informatik.umu.se/~rwhit/Guide.html
 
  GO:  Internet Guide
Alternate
Site:

 
http://www.informatik.umu.se/~rwhit/Guide.html
 
 
WARNING:

The version at the alternate site may not be as current as the one here.

 
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  The Observer Web's  Online Reading Room was created in 1997 in response to feedback from the global community of people interested in autopoietic theory. It provides a convenient channel of direct access to documentation on the subjects of autopoiesis and enaction.

 

Observer Web ONLINE READING ROOM

 
  • The materials listed are all accessible via your Web browser. These documents are a selected subset of the materials listed in the Bibliography and the Guide to Internet Resources.

  • Beginning in 1998, the Reading Room is your source for Observer Web Archive Editions of key publications in this field.

  • Archive Editions are HTML editions of papers formatted to reflect the layout and pagination of the original (and typically difficult-to-locate) hardcopy edition. Using an Archive Edition, you can access / explore / cite original literature using your Web browser.

  • Observer Web Archive Editions are provided with the kind permission of the relevant copyright holders.
     
GO: Top of Page URL:
 
http://www.informatik.umu.se/~rwhit/ReadingRoom.html
 
  GO:  Reading Room
Alternate
Site:

 
http://www.informatik.umu.se/~rwhit/ReadingRoom.html
 
 
WARNING:

The version at the alternate site may not be as current as the one here.

 
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  Some key topics and questions arise again and again. I've developed Observer Web Focus Files to address some common issues.

 

Observer Web Observer Web FOCUS FILES

 
An Observer Web  Focus File is a Webpage whose presentation concentrate on a particular issue or topic. Effective with 2001, I am generating a series of Focus Files as educational modules providing detailed information on a specific subject.

Some Focus File modules are interlinked with the Tutorial and the Encyclopaedia Autopoietica  to allow for deeper exploration and reduced download times for those components' main files.

 


Francisco J. Varela, 1946-2001

 

Francisco Varela was instrumental in documenting and formalizing Maturana's vision of cognition and living systems. As such, his writings must be considered (along with Maturana's) as primary sources in this area. Varela's writings are the primary sources relating to: autonomy, logical frameworks (cf. Spencer Brown's 'calculus of indications'), and the progression from autopoietic theory to an enactive cognitive science. In particular, Varela's 1979 book Principles of Biological Autonomy has to be considered one of the two 'Bibles' of autopoietic theory (the other being Autopoiesis and Cognition [Maturana & Varela, 1980]. Sadly, Francisco died on May 28, 2001, at the age of 54. This Focus File is an initial compilation of data on Varela's career, including a comprehensive publications listing.
 
  GO:  Varela

Autopoiesis Checklist

 

The question of whether or not something is autopoietic can only be addressed once you have a means for evaluating autopoiesis. Varela, Maturana and Uribe (1974) laid out a six-step procedure for judging whether a composite unity is autopoietic. The Autopoiesis Checklist, adapted from that 1974 paper, is a quick guide to evaluating whether or not an entity is autopoietic.
 
  GO:  Checklist

Enactive Cognitive
Science in Context

 

Enactive cognitive science is the new mode of cognitive studies proposed by Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch in their 1991 book The Embodied Mind. It is presented as a third alternative to cognitivism and emergence (connectionism). Enactive cognitive science is defined in contrast to these other two paradigms. This Focus File offers tables illustrating the distinctions among these 3 approaches.
 
  GO:  Enactive Cog Sci in Context

Inside/Outside:
Observing Unities as Either Simple or Composite

 

The phenomenal domain of an observer observing a system as a whole (simple unity) is not the same as that established in observing the same system as a network of components (composite unity). Varela has presented the most explicit discussion of this distinction between perspectives and their ramifications. This Focus File  provides instructional illustrations of these concepts.
 
  GO:  Inside/Outside

George Spencer Brown
and his
Laws of Form

 

This Focus File presents some descriptive material on Spencer Brown, as well as hot links to surviving Web resources on him and his work. As lost material is retrieved, I may well add it into this Focus File.
 
  GO:  Spencer Brown Bibliography

Bibliography:
George Spencer Brown
(Laws of Form)

 

As of 2001, many of the best Web resources on George Spencer Brown and his book Laws of Form had disappeared. As a 'salvage and preserve' project, this Focus File presents one of the most important 'missing assets' -- a large bibliography on Spencer Brown and his work. My eternal thanks to the bibliography's original compiler (Dave Keenan) for dredging up the last (1995) ASCII text version of this valuable reference aid.
 
  GO:  Spencer Brown Bibliography
GO: Top of Page        
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  I've also compiled an extensive Topical Index for the key book in this area -- Autopoiesis and Cognition (Maturana & Varela, 1980).

 

Observer Web TOPICAL INDEX: Autopoiesis and Cognition

 
  • I consider this book the key reference on the biology of cognition and autopoietic theory. If you're only going to read one book on the subject, this is the one to read.

  • It is a relatively small book, but the material is relatively "dense" -- i.e., there are many ideas and concepts per unit of text. Additionally, the discussion introduces a number of novel terms and relies on them to delineate the line(s) of argument. As such, this book feels as if it is much larger.

  • Unfortunately, the book does not have an index, making it difficult for both the new reader and the scholarly researcher to navigate the material.

  • In 1993, I compiled a text version of a topical index and began distributing it over the Internet.

  • In 1996, Kevin McGee volunteered to convert it to HTML format for Web browsing. Thanks, Kevin!

 
GO: Top of Page URL:
 
http://www.informatik.umu.se/~rwhit/MV1980Index.html
 
  GO:  M&V 1980 Index
Alternate
Site:

 
http://www.informatik.umu.se/~rwhit/MV1980Index.html
 
 
WARNING:

The version at the alternate site may not be as current as the one here.

 
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  Established in January 1997, the Book Shop provides you with a channel via which you can pursue all the relevant literature currently available for purchase, both new and used.

 

Observer Web THE Observer Web  BOOK SHOP

 
  • In association with the WWW-based Amazon.com Books ('Earth's Biggest Bookstore'), I've set up direct links which permit you to purchase books online, and / or to submit requests for Amazon to conduct a search for an out-of-print book.

  • I have used Amazon.com on multiple occasions, and I find their service excellent.

  • Miscellaneous other materials offered by sellers other than Amazon.com will be listed as I become aware of them.

  • The Book Shop is provided as a convenience for those of you who would like to acquire the materials necessary to explore this area further.

 
GO: Top of Page URL:
 
http://www.informatik.umu.se/~rwhit/ATBookShop.html
 
  GO:  Book Shop
Alternate
Site:

 
http://www.informatik.umu.se/~rwhit/ATBookShop.html
 
 
WARNING:

The version at the alternate site may not be as current as the one here.

 
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  The Observer was a newsletter / journal originally distributed over the Internet via email. It was the first Internet-based resource for people interested in the biology of cognition / autopoietic theory.

 

Observer Web The Observer (Internet Newsletter / Journal)

 
  • I began the newsletter in 1993, at the suggestion of Francisco Varela, to provide a forum for disseminating news and views on autopoietic theory and enactive cognitive science. Prior to that point, there had not been a persistent forum for people interested in these subjects.

  • By 1995, The Observer's known audience had grown to ten times its original size.

  • The Observer transitioned to a Web-only format in 1997. This meant it was no longer being 'broadcast'.

  • The proliferation of the WWW and the emergence of online discussion forums made The Observer obsolete, and it has been discontinued.

  • If you want (or need) to access issues of The Observer , you can visit the archive at the original (Swedish) Observer Web  site.
     
GO: Top of Page
URL:

 

http://www.informatik.umu.se/~rwhit/ObsArchive.html
 
GO:  Observer Archive

 

 

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The Observer Web  is an evolving Internet resource established and maintained by Dr. Randall Whitaker.

This page copyright © 2001 Randall Whitaker.
All other pages in this Webspace are annotated with their respective copyrights.

The Observer Web  is provided as a component of the effort affiliated with the totem / meme / icon / rubric Enola Gaia.
 

 
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