As each new version of the map of the complexity sciences is released, there are questions regularly asked of us. Social media is not the best place for having such discussions -- particularly when people get mean or aggressive or do not actually take the time to read the Map Legend or explore things before commenting. Also, even when there are great questions asked, others may miss our response. We therefore thought it usefult to try and answer the questions typically posed to us on social media or email.
Brian Castellani and Lasse Gerrits
CLICK HERE FOR ONLINE VERSION OF MAP
CLICK HERE FOR PDF OR JPEG OF MAP
Q&A FOR THE MAP OF THE COMPLEXITY SCIENCES
What is this
This map is an
introduction to the complexity sciences – from physics and biology to sociology
and psychology to computational modelling and policy evaluation. We purposely
use the term ‘sciences’ in the plural because there is no one complexity
science and no one boundary around it. The map was created as an educational
tool. It is to be treated as an introduction, not an in-depth investigation
into the field. Experts in the field will also find the map useful for
exploring new areas and for teaching.
What about the
Arts and Humanities?
cannot address the Humanities or Arts as the map would become unwieldy. Complex
systems thinking, fractals, chaos theory and other areas of investigation have
been used in the arts; and the Humanities have added key insights, for example,
Buddhist meditation, deep ecology, fractal architecture, urban design, and
Is the map
It is roughly
historical. The five lineages, running from left to right, are based on Fritjof
Capra’s The web of life: A
new synthesis of mind and matter (1996), which organises the field into: (1)
dynamical systems theory and complexity in mathematics (purple), (2) systems thinking/systems science (blue), (3) the core concepts of complexity (yellow), (4) cybernetics (grey),
and (5) artificial intelligence/methods (orange). While not perfect, we’ve kept this basic framework as
it provides a nice skeleton on which to assemble the map.
How should the
map be read?
It should be read
left to right, moving from the early 1900s to the present. Topics are placed
approximately at the point when they became a major area of study. For each
topic, we have provided a handful of top scholars, including, when possible,
the individual or team that was instrumental in advancing the topic.
How was the
Between the two
of us, the map represents over forty years of combined research and reading, as
well as in-depth discussions with colleagues across the various fields and
around the world. Castellani launched the first version of the map in 2009.
Since then, it has been revised every several years, as the field has massively
expanded over the last decade. The current version, which is an update on the 2018 map, is rooted
in our fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study of the University ofAmsterdam.
Why didn’t you
use a bibliometric analysis to make the map?
analyses are all the rage, and they can be powerful tools. There are a couple
of reasons why we don’t use those tools. First, bibliographic analyses struggle
to construct a history of a topic. They are better at providing cross-sectional
snapshots. For a good overview, see Thomas, J., & Zaytseva, A. (2016). Mapping
complexity/Human knowledge as a complex adaptive system. Complexity,
21(S2), 207-234. Second, those tools depend heavily on articles
(as opposed to books), recognised journals (which is an issue, as many
complexity works are often in obscure journals or blogs, etc) and sources that
are online as opposed to libraries, archives, conference letters, and so forth.
They also do not capture historical impact beyond citations. Third, there is
range of more minor technical problems that make us unsure if those tools can
do a better job than we did manually.
Is this map
The map is not
complete, and was not designed to be – in fact, we are not sure what would even
entail. The complexity sciences represent a loose (but connected) and quickly
evolving body of knowledge that intersects with almost every field in the
sciences and the social sciences. A map created in 2019 will not look like a
map in 2020. We focus on providing a reasonably comprehensive introduction to
the field. The nice thing about the online version is that, by clicking on the
links, users are taken into even more in-depth reviews that link to an even
wider range of information.
diversity in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, and nationality?
We made a
concerted effort to make sure the map highlighted the work of a wide variety of
scholars around the world and up-and-coming researchers. We also sought gender
and stage of career balance as well as ethnicity and nationality. We will continue to
advance the work of everyone we can.
Why is author
x not on the map?
We often receive
questions about why a certain author is not on the map. Sometimes the scholar
is missing because of the limitations in our knowledge. Most of the time it is
because the map is an educational tool, and of limited size and space, and can
only include so many people.
please include author x on the map?
are unable to fulfil such requests.
please include me on the map?
are unable to fulfil such requests.
I know how to
improve the map.
everyone who believes that our map needs to be improved to make an
alternative one themselves. We are looking forward to such initiatives.
This is not a
good map / I don’t like your map / Your understanding of the field is incorrect.
As stated above,
we are looking forward to alternatives. In the meantime, in the brave new world
of social media, it is easy to be cruel. Please do not be mean.
Can I use your
You can always
use the map if you attribute correctly with this reference:
and Gerrits, L (2021). Map of the complexity sciences. Art and Science Factory,
encourage sharing of the map, we want to point out that the map may not be used
for commercial purposes and / or without proper attribution.
CLICK HERE for
downloads of the map as a jpg and pdf, which are located on the Map Legend
license is the map released?
The map is
licensed on Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share
Alike 4.0 International license.
continue to update the map?
Yes, we plan to
update the map regularly, as was done since the original version from 2009.
How do you
know what is complexity and what is not?
As others have
said before us, and we agree with, the complexity sciences are not defined by
clear boundaries. It is a sprawling and growing group of theories, methods,
findings, and big and small ideas, that permeates in almost every field
imaginable. The boundaries between what is about complexity and what is not are
The map is
skewered / biased towards…
Bias is real. For
starters, we can only cover English / German / Dutch / French between us, as such we may
overlook work published in other languages. There is also the fact that
map-making is somewhat path-dependent, where those who are said to have made an
impact may remain to be designated as such. Above all, it can be hard to trace
the origin of ideas, especially going further back in time. It may very well be
that someone took an idea from someone else without proper attribution. Sadly,
some labs or research groups tended to build on the work of PhD’s and postdocs
without giving much credit to their work. This continues to be an issue until
this very day. We’ve tried our best to present a balanced overview of the people
who have driven the study of complexity, and those who continue to do so.
I don’t think
that all the names on the map are the big names…
This is correct. We
purposely include names of upcoming scholars that we find worth following as
they push the field into interesting directions. Map-making is not only about
charting the terrain just crossed but also an attempt to charter the unknown
terrains. That is why we include scholars that we believe have something novel