This is the third issue of Emergence: Complexity and Organization, and in this issue there are some articles that tackle several of the fundamental questions that underlie the words of our journal title. The question of what is meant by emergence, and the relationship of this to complexity, and to the structures and organizations that […]
Introduction The three papers in this section touch in one way or another on epistemological concerns involved in the study of complex systems. Why the apparently special relevance of epistemology for complexity research? The answer, I think, lies deep within epistemology itself (Gr: epistémé or knowledge) and in its traditional concern about the reliability of […]
This paper analyzes the epistemological implications of complexity studies on consumer theory. Agent-based models in complexity studies are a good fit to try to describe individual consumption via evolving patterns, and are being painstakingly researched (Potts, 2001; Fonseca & Zeidan, 2002). The implications of this research are that new theories and models are being created, and a paradigm shift is occurring that will probably lead to a new orthodoxy in consumer theory. However, a question arises as of how this shift is taking place: through a Kuhnian incommensurability approach or a Popperian evolution. This paper is a speculative piece on the methodology of studies of complex adaptive systems in economics, with special regard to consumer theory, and tries to assess costs and benefi ts of both approaches as regarding the new complex theories of consumer behavior. The main proposition is that authors should look into a non-Kuhnian approach to the problem, trying to incorporate the complexity approach into a framework understandable by orthodox economists.
This paper attempts to accomplish the following goals: formulate and elaborate the epistemo-logical problem of studying organizational complexity qua phenomenon and of using “organizational complexity” qua analytical concept in the study of other organizational phenomena; propose and defend a solution to this epis-temological problem by introducing a definition of complexity that (i) introduces the dependence of ’complexity of an object’ on the model of the object used, without either (ii) falling into a fully subjective and relative view of complexity or (iii) falling into a falsely subject-independent view thereof and thus (iv) making precise the subjective and objective ’contributions’ to the definition of complexity to the end of (v) making ’complexity’ tout court a useful analytical construct or hermeneutic device for understanding organizational phenomena; show how the new view of complexity can be usefully applied in conjunction with classical, well-established models of organizations to understand the organizational phenomena that are paradigmatic for the research tradition of each of those models; derive the implications of the new view of organizational complexity for the way we study and intervene in organizational life-worlds.
Complexity has been understood in different ways since its (re)introduction into scientific discourse. Therefore, instead of proposing a definition of complexity, we group the existing explanations about it into two distinct categories: descriptive and perceived complexity. The main features of these categories are described and how they arise as the result of the adoption of contrasting epistemologies is discussed. These categories together with their implications for our doing in the world are explored under the rubric of the ‘epistemological problem of complexity’. The practical significance of the issues we address, especially as they relate to building capacity for systems practice, understood as a way of managing in situations of complexity, is also of concern. “Even when the individual trees are highly interesting and picturesque, it has use to see what the forest looks like in the large” (Rescher, 1998: xvii).
The notion of nonlinear change, the most recent addition to the lexicon of change types, emerged as a logical extension of viewing organizations as complex adaptive social systems. As such it may be nothing other than a ‘label’ following a rich tradition of poorly conceptualized change concepts, yet may also contain the promise of improved explanatory power with regard to organizational change dynamics. This paper explores the theory of nonlinear change with particular reference to macro-scale and micro-scale change processes and tests its application with a ‘bank run’ or ‘run-on-deposits’ in a case organization. The retrospective analysis of newspaper reports covering a period of 18 months echoes the theoretical fundamentals of nonlinear change and highlights the central role of human affect as a catalyzing source of nonlinear change, the importance of‘field’ (context), and the need for changed managerial approaches to minimize the catastrophic impact of nonlinear change.
A mathematical formalism for emergence As described in the editorial opening the first issue, E:CO is aiming at the intersection of three gaps: The distance between academic theory and professional practice; The space between the mathematics and the metaphors of complexity thinking; and, The disparity between formal idealizations and actual human organizations. Because the following […]
This paper introduces the main concepts and constructs of archetypal dynamics, a formal approach to the study of emergence based upon the analysis of coherent, meaning-laden information flows within complex systems. Two forms of emergence, horizontal and vertical, are discussed, and four dyadic modes of information, public-private and active-passive. The fundamental triad of archetypal dynamics consisting of semantic frame, realizations (system) and interpretation (agent/ user) is introduced. The formal representation, the tapestry, is defined and the notion of H-com-plex tapestries is introduced, along with proposed connections to horizontal emergence.
Introduction It is easy to get caught up in the excitement surrounding the study of complexity and how our new learning might be applied to the problems we face today. We often feel like pioneers in a new land, making new discoveries. For those involved in charting such a course, it is easy to lose […]
Introduction The motivation for this multi-part series is solely my observation that much of the writing on complexity theory seems to have arbitrarily ignored the vast systems theory literature. I don’t know whether this omission is deliberate (i.e., motivated by the political need to differentiate and promote one set of topical boundaries from another; a […]
It should not surprise us, Robert Nozick warns, “that it takes time to achieve clear and precise formulations of new and difficult concepts, such as those of quantum mechanics” (Nozick, 2001). His warning isn’t directed specifically at readers of this journal. But it might as well be. The field of social complexity theory, the application […]