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.



P. CHECKLAND introduces this concept in the following way: "The system "man" is crucial because of man's ability, as tool maker, myth maker and doer, to change his environment and his circumstances within it. Given man and his abilities, we have the huge area of "human activity systems", from the one-man-with-a-hammer… to the international political systems which we shall have to forge if life is to remain tolerable for the human race on this finite planet…

"Human activity systems must be designated in two different ways. Firstly there are the physical collections of components which are the structural set which makes the system; and secondly, because of the nature of the human component, there are the activity systems which are concerned with processing information, making plans, carrying out operations, monitoring performance, taking control action, taking leisure, finding things out, and so on" (1972, p.52).

B. BANATHY introduced a still wider embracing concept of "Human activity system" in 1987. He described it as follows: "Human activity systems, such as organizations and social systems can give direction to their evolution and shape their future by engaging in design inquiry. They can enhance their continuous development and improve their effectiveness by purposeful design". He understands design as "creative, decision-oriented, disciplined inquiry that first clarifies the reason for engaging in design: then diagnoses and describes the design problem situation; formulates expectations, purpose and requirements of the system to be designed or redesigned; generates and clarifies alternative representations of the system that can meet those requirements and expectations; devises criteria by which to evaluate those alternatives; and prepares a plan for the development and implementation of the selected design" (1987, p.54).

These concepts and proposals are developed by the FUSCHL Group, whose endeavor is to translate them to the transformation of real systems.

The general methodology (co-participative design) is close to J. WARFIELD's Generic Design.

Three factors seem of particular importance:

- A careful study of the situation as it is and of the causes that led to it (in order to avoid any problem of underconceptualization).

- The avoidance of ideological illusions, which very easily creep in idealistic groups unaware of their own biases.

- The necessity to promote the effective participation of all the members of the group interested in the design and its results.

K. BAUSCH, in turn gives the following definition: "A designed social system organized for a purpose, which they attain by carrying out specific functions"(K. BAUSCH, Glossary, pers. comm., 2002)

Of course, the relation between the purpose (or purposes) of the social system and its design is crucial. In particular, there is wide difference between a system designed by an individual (the "boss"or "bosses") for own purpose and another system designed by a conversation group of would be stakeholders.

For now and for any practical purposes, this is the first type of human activity systems completely predominates (with only the peculiar case of religious groups or charities)


  • 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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