The Mechanical and Biological Merger

Systems Behaviors in an Age of Noise

Darla Lindberg



Life’s game is measured in episodes of awareness, i.e., self-awareness, an awareness of the way things work, or that things are not always what they seem. As a child, when I learned the secret ingredient in my favorite Scandinavian food, “blood sausage,” was actually cow’s blood, it sent chills down my spine and I’ve never eaten it since. Systems dynamics are full of shocks to the system. Whether we are witnessing the physics of a rational system or the profundity of an irrational system, the shocks come with a sense of, “you mean you can do that?” The Mechanical and Biological Merger examines systems dynamics from the perspective of my own triangulated model comprised of commons environments (those shared environments at risk for over-use or degradation), the institutions we design to manage those commons and the human behavior associated with our investment in the triad. The feedbacks between the three comprise the Policy Arena for collective decision-making and form a backdrop for shaping personal actions. Beautifully illustrated with student case study research covering a range of topics from the past twelve years, the work is written for a wide audience including academics, researchers, designers, and concerned citizens. 


8" x 11" Portrait
Softbound with full flaps
Publication date: 
Spring 2018
Rights world: 
About the author: 

Darla V. Lindberg is a registered architect and a Professor of Architecture at The Pennsylvania State University, being the first woman in the over 100-year history of the department to be tenured and promoted and then to be promoted to Full Professor. Having recently held a two-year Endowed Chair of Design Innovation for her work in systems dynamics as it affects thesis thinking in design, Darla also gave a TED talk on the invitation, “What motivates influential people?” She grew up on a 1500-acre grain farm in North Dakota where, as natural systems farmers, life and living were both seamless and expansive. Located in the middle of the Bakken Shale, one of the largest oil developments in the U.S., she witnessed the horrors of coal strip mining in that powerfully productive landscape. Not surprisingly, her undergraduate architectural thesis tackled environmentalism, strip coal mining, land reclamation, and corporate greed in the design of a Scheduled and Unscheduled Maintenance Facility and Headquarters for North American Coal Corporation.