Systems Science Friday Noon Seminar Series

Recursive Identity and Purposeful Change



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Numerous theorists have used the concept of “identity” to characterize persistence and change in the experience and analysis of social and/or ecological systems. These include: Allena Leonard and Niklas Luhmann (cybernetics), Geoffrey Vickers (soft/critical systems), Béla Bánáthy (systemic design), Graeme Cumming (resilience), and Harrison White (networks). Concurrently, "identity" is also used to colloquially and academically describe that which persists in oneself. In this talk, I present models of identity that link individual, organizational, social, and ecological systems, characterizing the individual as recursively and intersectionally embedded and entangled in systemic relationships. This approach has significant implications for how one might consider and/or engage with purposeful change. This talk draws upon papers published in Ecology and Society ( and presented at the American Society of Cybernetics 2019 conference in Vancouver, BC.

Biographical Information

Howard Silverman teaches classes in systems and foresight in the Collaborative Design MFA / Design Systems MA program at Pacific Northwest College of Art. From 1999 to 2012 he was with Portland-based nonprofit Ecotrust. He writes at


Identity, Social change, Intersectionality (Sociology), Ecology (Social aspects), System analysis


Nature and Society Relations | Politics and Social Change | Theory and Philosophy

Persistent Identifier

Recursive Identity and Purposeful Change