Complexity Primer

The first part of the course is building a complexity ‘primer’ to share as a resources for others in the class

The topics and readings will appear here shortly. See Wattle for the list of allocation to topics.

The readings here are a starter - feel free to explore the topic in any direction that you would like to!

There are lots of Wikipedia articles here - see the Nature article on the reliability of Internet encyclopaedias

Go and Investigate!

Adaptive systems

systems that adapt to external changes

Attractors

areas that systems tend towards

Behaviour

the shape of the output of a system

Black swans

a metaphor for events that come as a surprise

Chaos

where the approximate future cannot be predicted

Cognitive bias

systematic non-normal judgement

Collapse

where a system/society/situation declines

Collective behaviour

spontaneous behaviour of a group

Conceptual metaphor

describing one thing in terms of another
  • More than cool reason: a field guide to poetic metaphor by George Lakoff & Mark Turner Chapter 2 [PDF]

Context

the situation around a problem of interest

Continuum

the continuous sequence of values

Country

for Indigenous Australians, the culture, nature and the land
  • NITV’s coverage of Nat’s Journey to Country NITV
  • ABC’s Education package on Vincent Lingiari ABC Website

Crisis

an unstable or dangerous situation
  • Costanza’s After the Crisis: two possible futures PDF

Culture

the social behaviour of human societies see also Living Culture
  • Understanding Environmental Values: A Cultural Theory Approach PDF

Cynefin framework

a mapping of problem spaces from obvious to disorder

Delays

time lags in system responses

Determinism

that all events determined by previously existing causes

Dimensions

a system of coordinates to define a point in the space

Discourse

the totality of codified language in a given field

Diversity

a broad range of possibilities or entities

Emergence

the ultimate behaviour of interacting parts

Entropy

the tendency for a system to move towards equilibrium
  • Michio Kaku and Morgan Freeman Explain Entropy YouTube
  • Arieh Ben-Naim’s, Discover Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics Chapter 1

Equality

where relationships are of equal value

Equilibrium

the balancing of multiple conditions or inputs

Estimation

an approximation of a value

Evolution

the change of a system over time
  • Darwin’s On The Origin of Species Wikipedia

Feedback

a loop where the output effects the input of a system

Fractals

self-similar replicating patterns

Framing

how we perceive or communicate reality

Game theory

strategies for anticipating the outcome of a situation
  • Why do competitors open their stores next to one another? Jac de Haan on TED-ed (4 mins) a great introduction to Hotelling’s Law, explaining why similar shops set up next to one another YouTube

Hermenuetical cycle

an understanding of the whole and the parts [and reverse]

Heuristics

experience-based methods for approximation

Identity

(depends on the context and definition)

Ignorance

a lack of knowledge, intentional or otherwise
  • Mike Smithson, Ignorance Studies PDF

Initial conditions

the starting conditions of a system

Innovation

application of better solutions to new requirements
  • Roger’s Diffusion of Innovation, PDF

Integrative sciences

i2s - an approach for dealing with complex problems
  • Gabriele Bammer’s Disciplining Interdisciplinarity, Chapter 1
  • The Microbiome Center at University of Chicago as an example Video

Interaction

the actions of one object on another

Interdependence

the dependence of two or more things on each other

Interdisciplinary

working together in a way that integrates different disciplines

Learning organisations

organisations that learn from previous situations

Legacies

ideas and artefacts that stand the test of time
  • Panich’s *Archeologies of Persistence: Reconsidering the Legacies of Colonialism in Native North America PDF

Leverage points

places to intervene in a system

Living Culture

a culture that is practiced in the modern day

Mental model

the thought-process about how something works

Narrative

the sequence of a story or report

Natural capital

the world’s stock of natural resources

Networks

a system of nodes and links

Non-linearity

where the change in input does not proportionally change the output
  • David Suzuki on exponential growth YouTube

Occam’s razor

a principle for selecting solutions that rely on the fewest assumptions
  • Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Simplicity

Precautionary Principle

a response to reduce harm where there is a lack of evidence

Prediction

to be able to forecast an uncertain event
  • Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Simplicity

Reductionism

that the behaviour of a system can be explained by its parts

Requisite variety

the minimum number of alternative required for a successful outcome

Resilience

the capacity of a system to resist change

Rights

principles of freedom or entitlement

Risk

the likelihood of gaining or losing something of value
  • Chapter 26, Coping and Managing under Uncertainty PDF

Scale

the level of observation: micro, meso, macro

Self-organisation

a system that organises spontaneously
Wikipedia entry on swarm intelligence
Fleischer’s article on ‘Foundations of Swarm Intelligence’
PixelBots video, demonstrating self-organisation

Simplicity

tending towards the state of being simple
  • Primer entry by Madeleine (2019) Puzzling Complexity Using Simplicity Primer Entry

Social-Technical Intersection

The interaction between society and technology
  • Pfaffenberger’s Social Anthropology of Technology PDF
  • Majcman’s Reflection on Gender and Technology Studies: In What State is the Art? PDF

Songlines

Indigenous knowledge systems for navigation
  • Christine Judith Nicholls, Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters is a must-visit exhibition for all Australians on The Conversation

Storytelling

the cultural activity of telling stories
  • Ira Glass on Storytelling Video

Sustainability

the property of system to continue indefinitely
  • Harris on Seeking Sustainability in an Age of Complexity PDF

Synthesis

the cognitive ability to merge multiple ideas or worldviews

Systems thinking

an approach for thinking about systems principles

Tipping points (threshold values)

levels that change the behaviour of a system when traversed

Transdisciplinarity

a strategy that crosses many disciplinary boundaries

Triangulation

using multiple sources to determine the truth

Uncertainty

the absence of certainty in a given situation

Unintended consequences

the unforeseen effects of an action

Unknowns

variables or factors with incomplete information

Visualisation

a visual representation of a system

Wicked problems

problems that are resistant to resolution
  • Brown, Valerie A., John A. Harris, Jacqueline Y Russell 2010, Tackling wicked problems through the transdisciplinary imagination, Earthscan (Chapters 1 and 2) PDF

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