Julia Shin’s Expanded Definition of Feedback

TO: Prof. Jason Ellis
FROM:Julia Shin
DATE: 10/15/2019
SUBJECT: Expanded Definition of Feedback


Some people say that human beings are like computers in some ways. If you think about it, humans receive data from our senses, then process it in our brains to ultimately come to a decision. This is a direct parallel to how computers work. An important aspect of systems, more specifically automated systems, is the feedback. The same thing can be said for human beings. In order for people to adapt and grow, they must receive feedback. What exactly is feedback? This term can be used in different scenarios and its use has changed over time. The term will be placed under great scrutiny in order to understand its definition completely. 


One definition that the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) provides is “The return of a fraction of the output signal from one stage of a circuit, amplifier, etc., to the input of the same or preceding stage” (“feedback”, 2019). Another definition is “The modification, adjustment, or control of a process or system (as a social situation or a biological mechanism) by a result or effect of the process, esp. By a difference between a desired and an actual result; information about the result of a process, experiment, etc.; a response” (“feedback, 2019). From the integration of these two definitions, feedback (especially in terms of an electrical system) is when the output/result is fed back into the input so that the system can automatically adjust its parameters to meet a certain desired response. Since no system, process, or device is perfect, it is natural for there to be some sort of error. The feedback is responsible for minimizing the error and making the actual result as close to the desired result as possible. 

The etymology of the term, as generated by the OED, can be broken down into the words “feed” and “back”. According to the OED, “feed” means “To give food; to supply with food; to provide food for. Often followed by †of, on, with (a specified food).” (“feed”, 2019). Feeding is an essential part of life, because we would not be able to function properly without the nutrients we get from food. Similarly, automated systems rely heavily on the data they receive. The definition for “back” the OED gives is “In the direction of one’s back, or the back of any object in question; toward the rear; away from a forward position. Often with the verb (go, come, etc.) omitted, esp. in the imperative. back with: move back with, take or draw back.” (“back”, 2019). “Back” emphasizes the notion that sometimes in life we have to take a step back and reevaluate everything to proceed in the right direction. The same thing applies to automated systems and devices. In order for a system to work, it must not always travel linearly in a forward direction. This is why automated systems are also known as closed loop systems; it moves forward and goes back to the beginning in a circle. 


Feedback played an important role in early technological advancements, and it still does today. “State feedback controller is one of the simplest controllers in modern control system that can make the system having good performance. State feedback controller consists of gain controllers which respond to every state in the system. Hence, it can be modified following the dynamics of the system” (Maarif et al., 2019, p. 208). There are different types of controllers that can be used to “eliminate the steady-state error of the system” which is vital in an industrial process (Maarif et al., 2019, p. 208). However, Maarif et al. come to the conclusion that a state feedback controller is the most optimal. Based on the block diagrams provided in the journal, the state feedback controller observes the state the system is in then adjusts the feedback accordingly which, in the long run, aims to reduce the steady-state error. Feedback does not always have to involve some sort of electrical system. For instance, “You hope, as C.E.O., for the team to say ‘Boy, boss, you did a great job this year, are we lucky to have you.’ And, by gosh, every year they’ve come up with three or four things that are quite authentic that I ought to do better. So you’ve got to create those kinds of feedback loops” says Kevin Sharer (2009). In an interview conducted by Adam Bryant, Sharer explains why he seeks feedback from his fellow employees. Although hearing that everything is absolutely perfect is a great boost in morale, receiving feedback on what can be improved on will ultimately yield better results. Humans strive to better themselves in what they do and the way to do that is by receiving feedback from their peers. In a Twitter post, arcapayments wrote, “Getting feedback from your customers is very important in understanding how your business is performing. Feedback helps you to determine strategies to improve your customers’ experiences which helps increase patronage, retention and loyalty” (2019). Arcapayments emphasizes the importance of a business reflecting on customer feedback. In doing so, the customer will have a better experience with the service or product and the business will more likely succeed. This is a win-win situation. 

Working Definition

Feedback can be applied in different situations. In the field of electrical engineering, feedback is used through a means of a sensor that measures the output and is then connected to a summing amplifier. All of this is done to produce an error of close to zero, where error is measured in desired output (input) minus the present condition (output). Whether it is in regards to a network of components that come together to form a complete system or a network of people, feedback is key to having the best possible results that can be produced.


Arcapayments [arca_payments]. (2019, October 11). Getting feedback from your customers is very important in understanding how your business is performing. Feedback helps you determine strategies to improve your customers’ experiences which helps increase patronage, retention, and loyalty. Some businesses do not care about [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/arca_payments/status/1182763416534081538

Back, adj.,1. (2019). In Oxford English Dictionary Online. Retrieved from www.oed.com/view/Entry/14336

Bryant, A. (2009, March 28). Feedback in Heaping Helpings. Retrieved from  https://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/29/business/29corner.html?searchResultPosition=1.

Feedback, n.,1. (2019). In Oxford English Dictionary Online. Retrieved from www.oed.com/view/Entry/68965.

Feedback, n.,2. (2019). In Oxford English Dictionary Online. Retrieved from www.oed.com/view/Entry/68965.

Feed, v.,1. (2019). In Oxford English Dictionary Online. Retrieved from www.oed.com/view/Entry/68963

Maarif, A., Cahyadi, A., Herdjunanto, S., Iswanto, & Yamamoto, Y. (2019). Tracking control of higher order reference signal using integrators and state feedback. IAENG International Journal of Computer Science, 46(2), 208-216. 

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