Complex Processes and Social Systems: A Synergy of Perspectives

Complex Processes and Social Systems: A Synergy of Perspectives

David Large (Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK), Petia Sice (Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK), Robert Geyer (Lancaster University, Newcastle, UK), Geoff O'Brien (Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK) and Safwat Mansi (Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/ijss.2015010104
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Abstract

In this paper the authors consider two contrasting viewpoints; Complex responsive processes which deal with interactions in the present, and complex adaptive systems which focus on learning through the production of what are called mental models. The paper shows that rather than being contradictory, these viewpoints are – at least in some respects - complementary. From the resulting perspective we are able to identify qualitative synergies between the two approaches. Complex responsive processes involve reflections on interactions that take place in time. But you cannot stop time so these present reflections always refer back to a present now gone. Complex adaptive systems are analytic tools. They are not explicitly in the present or in time at all, but they shape our thoughts and actions which are in the present. They shape how people behave, respond and think in a context. In this way people can combine, or reorganise, the approach to complex responsive processes and complex adaptive systems to show how humans address the complex notions of our world.
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Introduction

The starting point of complexity is interactions and what emerges from those interactions. This approach defines complexity as ‘emergence from interactions’. This open definition allows complexity to apply to different domains (Stacey, 2005).

In this paper we consider two contrasting viewpoints; Complex responsive processes and complex adaptive systems. Complex responsive processes deal with interactions in the present and involve reflections on interactions that take place in time (Stacey, 2011). You cannot, however, stop time so these present reflections always refer back to a present now gone. Complex adaptive systems focus on learning through the production of what are called mental models (Johnson-Laird, 1983; Johnson-Laird and Byrne, 1995). Complex adaptive systems are analytic tools. They are not explicitly in the present or in time at all. However, they shape our thoughts and actions which are in the present.

The paper shows that rather than being contradictory, these viewpoints are complementary for both complex responsive processes and complex adaptive systems address how we behave, respond and think in a context. This means that rather than focussing on the differences between the two approaches we here seek to identify and explore the strengths and similarities of both approaches.

To begin we will clarify our assumptions about cognition and language in a social context. This will show the need to avoid separating the act of knowing from the content of our knowledge.

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