2/2/12

Case Based Method and Complexity Science, Part I (Byrne, Ragin, Complexity and Case-Based Method)

Back in May of 2009 I interviewed David Byrne, who, along with Charles Ragin, has championed the usage of case-based method for modeling complex systems.  (CLICK HERE TO SEE INTERVIEW).  

Ragin's work is generally referred to as case-comparative method, or, more specifically qualitative comparative analysis.  It comes in two general forms, a crisp set and fuzzy set form.  Byrne's work builds on Ragin.  Over the last several years, Professor Byrne has emerged as a leading international figure in what most scholars see as two highly promising but distinct fields of study: (1) case-based method and (2) the sociological study of complex systems.  An example of the former is Byrne’s Sage Handbook of Case-Based Methods (1)—which he co-edited with Charles Ragin, the most prominent figure in case-based method.  An example of the latter is his widely read Complexity Theory and the Social Sciences (8).   

What scholars (including myself and several of my colleagues) are only beginning to grasp, however, is the provocative premise upon which Byrne’s work in these two fields (including his development of Ragin's ideas) is based.  His premise, while simple enough, is ground-breaking:

Cases are the methodological equivalent of complex systems; or, alternatively, complex systems are cases and therefore should be studied as such. 

With this premise, Byrne adds to the complexity science literature an entirely new approach to modeling complex systems, alongside the current repertoire of agent (rule-based) modeling, dynamical (equation-based) modeling, statistical (variable-based) modeling, network (relational) modeling, and qualitative (meaning-based) method.

The name of this new approach, I think, is best called case-based complexity science.  My goal here, and in the next few posts for February 2012, is to discuss this new approach.  I begin with a few definitions:


My colleagues, Frederic Hafferty and Corey Schimpf and I just finished a chapter that outlines the field of case-based complexity science for  Martin and Sturmburg's forthcoming book, Handbook of Systems and Complexity in Health, Springer.  CLICK HERE to read a section of a rough draft of the paper.


















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