The Bertalanffy Center was – besides many other organisations – co-organiser of the ISIS Summit Vienna 2015, held at the Vienna University of Technology and including a floating part on the Danube. The focus of that event that attracted almost 400 people, mainly scientists, but also entrepreneurs and activists, was on shaping the future of the information society, on responsible science and technology, and on the concepts needed for such an intervention.

The Bertalanffy Center was represented in several ways.

Together with Deering Health Associates from Washington the BCSSS organised a track on “Empowering patients through health IT“. Mary Joe Deering was an invited speaker. Deering had been involved in US President Obama’s initiative to reform the health care system (known as “Obamacare”) with the help of ICTs and talked about the potential of health information technology for empowering all parties involved in health care. Read and download her abstract here.

Mary Jo Deering

However, ICTs impacts on society do not only foster the full human potential. The BCSSS held a workshop under the title “Homo informaticus” that gave a critical review of how information technology is changing our concept of what a human is. Fellow of the BCSSS, Felix Tretter, invited experts from different fields such as psychology, bioinformatics or political economy. See the programme and abstracts here.

Peter Fleissner, retired Professor, TU Wien, BCSSS Board Member, was one of the “Homo informaticus” workshop participants

The BCSSS co-organised in co-operation with the Leibniz-Sozietät der Wissenschaften zu Berlin the track on “Emergent systems, information and society” that resulted in the establishment of a Research Group at the BCSSS combining evolutionary systems thinkers in the tradition of Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s General System Theory and computer scientists as well as sociologists of information technology. Invited speakers included physicist Werner Ebeling who carried out studies on self-organisation in the then German Democratic Republic while Hermann Haken did so in the West, and a co-worker of Ebeling, Rainer Feistel. Klaus Fuchs-Kittowski, the spiritus rector of the group, drew a big picture spanning from a systems concept of information to dangerous technological developments such as drones in the military field. Look here.

Werner Ebeling

Stefan Blachfellner who works as Managing Director at the BCSSS moderated another track: “Transforming systems through design“. The rationale for that topic is the confluence of social systems design with transformation studies – system interventions are attempts to design systems in order to transform them. This is a transdisciplinary task since whenever transformative design is required you have to take into consideration technological and ecological aspects of social systems besides economic, political and cultural aspects. Furthermore, design must be participatory. Among the invited speakers was Thomas Fundneider from theLivingCore GmbH. Only recently he was co-opted for the Board of the Bertalanffy Center. Architect Liss C. Werner from Berlin, member of the BCSSS, was another invited speaker. For invited speakers abstracts see here. That track anticipated another BCSSS Research Group – that on “Socio-Ecological Systems and Design”.

Geraldine Fitzpatrick, Institute for Design and Technology Assessment, TU Wien, talked as invited speaker at the “Transforming systems through design” track about technological support for the share economy

Thomas Fundneider, theLivingCore
Thomas Fundneider

Gerhard Chroust from the Johannes Kepler University Linz and Marianne Penker from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna – both BCSSS Board Members – volunteered as chairs for a paper session on “Natural Desasters” (see here). Rainer E. Zimmermann, BCSSS Scientific Council Member, organised a paper session on “The ethics of foundations” (see here). José María Díaz Nafría, Universidad de León, Spain, BCSSS Fellow, co-organised a discussion on “Weaving the understanding of information” (see here).

Marianne Penker BCSSS
Marianne Penker, Institute for Sustainable Economic Development, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU)

Joseph Brenner, Member of the Bertalanffy Center and Corresponding Member of the International Center for Transdisciplinary Research in Paris, is Associate Director of the International Center for Philosophy of Information at the Xi’an Jiaotong University. In that function he co-chaired with the head of the Center, Professor of Philosophy, Kun Wu, the ICPI Stream at the Summit – The Second International Conference on the Philosophy of Information. Its topic was the “Integration of the Philosophy of Information and Information Science”.

Another BCSSS Member, Tomáš Sigmund, Department of Systems Analysis, University of Economics, Prague, was in charge of sessions that revolved about the question “Emancipation or disempowerment of man?” focusing on the influence of ICTs on media, science, and education (see here). Ludwig von Bertalanffy PhD Scholar Asimina Koukou from the Department of Communication, University of Vienna, moderated a session on “The governance of information freedom in crisis – Democracy, resistance and control” (see here). She had a talk too in another track (see here). Two other Visiting Students at the BCSSS from China, Lin Bi (see here) and Jian Wang (see here), gave presentations in the ICPI stream.

Asimina Koukou
Asimina Koukou

John Collier, Professor, Philosophy and Ethics, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa, keynote speaker at the EMCSR 2014 – he was elected Fellow of the Bertalanffy Center in early 2015 – made more than one contribution. He has been dealing with information since long. His invited speech connected the information concept to an evolutionary systems concept and involved practical recommendations: “Information dynamics, self-organization and the implications for management” (see here).

Robert K. Logan, Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto, an evolutionary systems thinking expert whose many publications on information and information technologies build upon General System Theory tenets, introduced the first invited speaker, Terrence Deacon. Logan was expected to give the last invited speech on the ship and deal with social systems (see here). However, he was unable to do that for family reasons. After the Summit Logan joined the BCSSS. He was elected Fellow. He will work in the Research Group “Emergent systems, information and society”.

Another member of the BCSSS, Yagmur Denizhan, Professor of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey, delivered an invited speech on education and teaching. The title of her contribution was “Tools and their users” (see here).

Yagmur Denizhan

The General Chair of the Summit was Wolfgang Hofkirchner in his function as outgoing President of the ISIS. In his opening speech he addressed the imperative of the global age – “Information for the Global Sustainable Information Society” (video (starting at 1:00:00) | abstract and presentation).

ISIS Secretary General, Robert Jahn – another member of the BCSSS – was in charge of the local organising committee.

The theme of the Summit “The information society at the crossroads – response and responsibility of the sciences of information” was deliberately chosen as continuation and concretisation of the last EMCSR’s theme “Civilisation at the crossroads – response and responsibility of the systems sciences”. The summit showed that the concerns of the systems view can successfully be extended to a different field and a different community. ISIS will invite to the next Summit in 2017 in Gothenburg, Sweden.