Complexity's Futurescapes, a fellowship lecture for the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Amsterdam

We would like to thank the Institute of Advanced Study at the University of Amsterdam for the opportunity to present the preliminary results of a study we are conducting and will publish in 2022 with Edward Elgar.


Here is a link to a PDF copy of our presentation.

Please do not cite without permission.


brian.c.castellani@durham.ac.uk and gerrits@ihs.nl


Here is a brief overview of our presentation, as found on the IAS website:

We, Brian Castellani and Lasse Gerrits, are working on the ‘Atlas of Social Complexity’. In this project, we take stock of where the analysis of social complexity stands and survey the future of the field, including mapping the most exciting territories. The field has advanced considerably over the last twenty-five years, reaching into just about every area of social inquiry – from sociology and economics to the public policy and urban planning – to become one of the largest research areas in the complexity sciences. It has also become, more recently, entangled with the dramatic rise in big data and digital social science; and it sits at the nexus of some of the biggest global problems we face, from climate change to the instabilities of the global economy.

Despite these advances, the field is by no means mature, facing twelve challenges, all of which need addressing. Examples of those challenges include a methodological privileging of the micro over the macro; a rather noncritical embrace of the latest developments in computational modelling and big data and machine learning; the canonization of the field’s core concepts such as self-organisation and emergence; and the absence of a developed theory of power relations and inequality. What is needed, then, is a proper mapping of where the field has been, what is presently taking place, and what yet needs to be done, and with it a more rigorous and critical cartography of where we are in 2020.

The purpose of this event is two-fold. First, it is to introduce the preliminary work we have done on the Atlas, including the field’s twelve key challenges and what we tentatively see as the cross-cutting areas of work being done to address or get free from them. Second, it is to set the framework for potentially interviewing colleagues around the work they are doing to likewise push past the current challenges of the field.