Complexity and Architecture

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It is funny because, for anyone who has read much about postmodernism, you know that its start was, interestingly enough, just as much grounded in architecture as it was in literature or science. 

Apropos of this point, I stumbled, today, across the Complexitys.com website, which is devoted to the topic of architecture and complexity science.  The ideas running through my head as I clicked through its catalogue of photos was crushing.  Of course, thinking of humans as complex, dynamic, self-organizing systems and of communities as complex networks, and on and so forth is deserving of an architectural response.  But, this point didn't really hit me until just now.  Wow!  I mean, I have been blogging on Tomas Saracano's work and green architecture and so forth.  But, for some reason it really hit me today.  How should buildings and pathways and highways and trains and public transportation and gardens and lawns and parks and stores and recreation and so on fit into all of our emerging notions of complexity? 

In my field of study, health and health care, we talk about the built environment all the time.  And, it is not like this is a new idea in architecture or urban planning.  But, suddenly, looking at these photos the whole thing just overwhelmed me in its measure.


Case Based Modeling and Sociology and the Complexity Sciences

As you can see from the picture below, we have updated the face of our Sociology and Complexity Science Website.

The new version of the website has been condensed to focus specifically on case-based modeling and its application to the study of various topics in health and health care. 

Case-based modeling is an entirely new approach to modeling complex systems, grounded in two key insights by the British sociologist and complexity scientist, David Byrne: (1) complex systems are cases and cases are complex systems; (2) complex realism serves as a viable epistemological frame for social scientific inquiry.

The SACS Toolkit is our new case-based method for modeling complex systems.  It uses a long list of the latest methods in computational modeling (e.g., network analysis, cluster analysis, agent-based modeling, neural nets, synergetics, cellular automata, etc) in connection with conventional social scientific methods (e.g., factory analysis, logistic regression, grounded theory method and historical inquiry) to model complex systems as sets of cases.  

On the website, you will see:

1. A quick overview of case-based modeling.
2. Papers on the SACS Toolkit, including a mathematical outline of our method.
3. Papers applying the SACS Toolkit to various topics.
4. Papers on mixed methods and data mining.


New Version of Complexity Map

 Hello everyone!

As you can see above,  I have updated my map of the complexity sciences.


My current edits are based on my autumn sabbatical at Durham University, in the UK.  I have spent a lot of time working with and talking to complexity scientists from as far ranging fields as quantum mechanics and neuroscience to business administration and health care to philosophy and the arts--all of which has led to my new version.

First, I have included the field of visual complexity.  As those who follow this blog know, I have spent considerable time discussing the influence of complexity science on the arts and how visual design is advancing how we organize and understand the massive globalized world of data in which we now live.  This is an important new area of emerging investigation.

Second, I have highlighted Hermann Haken and his work in the field of synergetics.  It appears that, within the past couple years, a movement has re-emerged within dynamical systems theory where complexity researchers are thinking, once again, about the macroscopic as a way to dampen or manage the high levels of complexity in a system, primarily by rethinking micro-level interactions and their rules at the macro level.  One example is the recent paper that my colleague, Rajeev Rajaram and I published in Complexity--click here.

Third, I added the field of case-based modeling, based largely on the internationally renowned work of Charles Ragin in case-based reasoning and David Byrne in case-based complexity and complex realism.  This is a major, major movement in the social sciences and in applied areas like health, business, education and political science.  It is also a significant advance in complexity method, adding an entirely new way of thinking about complex systems as cases.

Fourth, I added the field of multi-level complex systems.  This is where I think a huge segment of complexity science is headed.  We need to find ways to model systems at multiple levels, taking into account agency and structure.  And, we need to move to the usage of multiple methods.  A good example of this advance in thinking and its financial support is the European Union's initiative on multi-level complex systems--Click here.

Finally, I added a few more long-deserved names to the list, including Eshel Ben-Jacob and Nicholas Christakis and Bruno Latour (on whom I have been blogging lately).

As always, no map is perfect and I am sure people will let me know.  But, I am always working on it.



Tomás Saraceno, HangarBicocca and The Center for Art, Science and Technology at MIT

Okay, so you know I am a big fan of the work of Tomás Saraceno.

Well, he has a new exhibition at HangarBicocca, a new Italian art gallery in Milan--the picture on the left was taken from their set of gallery images.

The title of Saraceno's exhibit is On Space Time Foam--click here to see more images and a brief interview video. 

As stated on their website: On Space Time Foam is a floating structure composed of three levels of clear film that can be accessed by the public, inspired by the cubical configuration of the exhibition space. The work, whose development took months of planning and experimentation with a multidisciplinary team of architects and engineers, will then continue as an important project during a residency of the artist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - MIT in Cambridge (MA).

Speaking of MIT, through their Arts at MIT program, they have a really interesting new Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST).  Such a center offers a lot of possibilities to complexity artists working at the intersection of complexity science, art, visual complexity and computational modeling and technologies.

Here is what they say on their website: The Center for Art, Science & Technology (MIT CAST) facilitates and creates opportunities for exchange and collaboration among artists, engineers, and scientists.  A joint initiative of the Office of the Provost, the School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) and School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS), the Center is committed to fostering a culture where the arts, science and technology thrive as interrelated, mutually informing modes of exploration, knowledge and discovery.

For more on CAST Director Evan Ziporyn and other key faculty, click here.

For an overview of what Saracano will be doing at CAST, click here.