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Navigating Complexity

A Portal to Complex Adaptive Systems Thinking

Welcome!

If you have stumbled in, please note that this site is still under construction and is in the process of being edited and populated with content!

This site is your gateway to learning more about the science of Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS). It offers a general, non-mathematical overview for understanding and working with complexity. The site introduces the principles of complexity, unpacks how complex systems are governed, and illustrates how they solve problems.

Complexity dynamics can be used to unpack many different kinds of emergent phenomena: the ripples of sand in a desert, the pathways of ants in a colony; the behaviors of people in a society. Each of these systems is in some way 'complicated'. But is that the same as being complex? And if not - what, in the end, is useful about complexity?

Complex Adaptive Systems  are a distinct class of systems capable of processing information, energy or flows in highly efficient ways. Such systems can be harnessed to solve a host of diverse problems and provide a useful lens for understanding various phenomena.  This is because:

      • CAS are great optimizers - stewarding system resources effectively;
      • CAS can solve complicated problems - without need for top-down control;
      • CAS adapt - realigning their behavior to 'fit' into their changing contexts;
      • CAS have an alive quality to them - they feel natural.


Complexity for who?

This website is intended both for those new to the study of complex systems, and to those who may already be familiar with complex dynamics but wish to broaden their knowledge. Using non-technical language, it will help users:

  • identify complex systems;
  • understand their governing-dynamics;
  • unravel key concepts and terms;
  • frame problems in ways that lend themselves to solutions that employ complexity;
  • gain tools for applying this understanding to problem-solving in disparate domains.

The site serves as a guide to a new way of thinking about the world - one where we can perceive a host of diverse phenomena through the lens of complex systems. The site unpacks terms, tools, thinkers, principles and methods from CAS research, showing the links between different ideas and approaches. 


At the same time, a portion of this website (the right hand side of the cartograph, discussed below) is specifically dedicated  to content relating to how complexity informs different branches specific to urban theory: showing both similarity and differences, and helping bridge these discourses That said, this is not an urban theory website: urbanism is just one potential application. Over time the website is intended to evolve so as to track and weave additional knowledge domains, beyond the urban field and their respective relationships to complexity thinking.

Getting Started

If you are exploring complexity for the first time, and looking for a general overview prior to jumping into specifics, click on the What is Complexity  button at the top of the page.


Navigating the Site

To begin navigating, click on the circle and spoke icon at the center top of the page: this will take you to the interactive "Navigating Complexity" cartograph, organized in three parts:

The center of the diagram highlights six Governing Features of complexity - these six features are then linked to two domains:
  • The left hand side of the diagram describes Core Concepts associated with complexity and how these relate to the governing features (intended for anyone interested in complexity);
  • The right hand side of the diagram describes various Complexity & Urbanism discoursed engaging with  complexity, to illustrate  how these discourses each relate to the governing features (intended for anyone interested in urban theories of complexity).

The website also has a wealth of content to assist in illustrating and contextualizing these ideas. This includes: People, Terms, & Resources (videos, books, articles, thought experiments, & more.

If you want to jump directly into a topic,  term, or author related to complexity (or just browse some of the general site resources), go to the'In General' section at the upper right half of the page and begin exploring.

Methodology

To understand how the six governing principles that organize this site were determined, visit the {{Background-Approach}} page at the top right. This page also contains some historical background related to complexity thinking.

You can also learn about the site's author here: The people behind the scenes

 

 


Photo Credit and Caption: jeremy-bishop-FzrlPh20l7Q-unsplash

Cite this page:

Wohl, S. (2022, 3 June). Navigating Complexity. Retrieved from https://kapalicarsi.wittmeyer.io/

Navigating Complexity was updated June 3rd, 2022.

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Navigating Complexity © 2015-2022 Sharon Wohl, all rights reserved. Developed by Sean Wittmeyer
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Related (this page): 
Section: 
Non-Linearity
Related (same section): 
Related (all): Urban Modeling (11, fields), Resilient Urbanism (14, fields), Relational Geography (19, fields), Landscape Urbanism (15, fields), Evolutionary Geography (12, fields), Communicative Planning (18, fields), Assemblage Geography (20, fields), Tipping Points (218, concepts), Path Dependency (93, concepts), Far From Equilibrium (212, concepts), 
Nested Orders
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Related (all): Urban Modeling (11, fields), Urban Informalities (16, fields), Resilient Urbanism (14, fields), Self-Organized Criticality (64, concepts), Scale-Free (217, concepts), Power Laws (66, concepts), 
Emergence
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Related (all): Urban Modeling (11, fields), Urban Informalities (16, fields), Urban Datascapes (28, fields), Incremental Urbanism (13, fields), Evolutionary Geography (12, fields), Communicative Planning (18, fields), Assemblage Geography (20, fields), Self-Organization (214, concepts), Fitness (59, concepts), Attractor States (72, concepts), 
Driving Flows
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Related (all): Urban Datascapes (28, fields), Tactical Urbanism (17, fields), Relational Geography (19, fields), Parametric Urbanism (10, fields), Landscape Urbanism (15, fields), Evolutionary Geography (12, fields), Communicative Planning (18, fields), Assemblage Geography (20, fields), Open / Dissipative (84, concepts), Networks (75, concepts), Information (73, concepts), 
Bottom-up Agents
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Related (all): Urban Modeling (11, fields), Urban Informalities (16, fields), Resilient Urbanism (14, fields), Parametric Urbanism (10, fields), Incremental Urbanism (13, fields), Evolutionary Geography (12, fields), Communicative Planning (18, fields), Rules (213, concepts), Iterations (56, concepts), 
Adaptive Capacity
Related (same section): 
Related (all): Urban Modeling (11, fields), Urban Informalities (16, fields), Tactical Urbanism (17, fields), Parametric Urbanism (10, fields), Landscape Urbanism (15, fields), Incremental Urbanism (13, fields), Evolutionary Geography (12, fields), Feedback (88, concepts), Degrees of Freedom (78, concepts),