Linda Blaasvær, Tore Gulden and Frederick Steier
This article introduces the understanding of double bind communication from cybernetic theory. It describes how a synthesized model of logical paradoxes can serve as a means for systems analysis of double bind communication inherent in the relationship between clients and service providers. The study is oriented in the context of the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV). Double bind can be described as communication that is paradoxical in contexts where, for example, the client, in this study, the citizen, seeking help in difficult life situations, encounters dimensions of being disciplined and helped as two facets of a conversation with the service provider, in this study a public servant representing a welfare provider.
We have explored communication sequences in citizen–public servant conversations in relation to cybernetic theory and Bateson to understand and design services that meet users with double bind communication in welfare services in particular and service design in general. This is to design a mutually trustworthy relationship between the citizen and the welfare provider. It is suggested that the model of logical paradoxes synthesized in this research should be introduced to design students. This will enable a wider understanding of double bind functioning and thus create a method to design for situations where double bind communication is detected or unavoidable.
Keywords: systemic design, cybernetic theory, double bind, sustainable welfare system