Managing Complex Adaptive Social Systems

Managing Complex Adaptive Social Systems

Roy Williams (University of Portsmouth, UK)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-931-1.ch098


Complex Adaptive Systems, for our purposes, are social systems that that evolve and display new, emergent properties, and self-organizing behavior of their components; they are based on a reasonably stable infrastructure, on the satisfaction of the most basic needs, and flexible, frequent, and open communication and interaction. Complex Adaptive Systems may be based on a few, simple rules, but can yield complex and unpredictable outcomes. The ‘Hole in the Wall’ project is an interesting case in point in the design of spaces for complex adaptive systems, or complex adaptive networks. In this project, touch screen computers were literally put in ‘holes in walls’ in places where unschooled children congregated. The children were given no instructions on how to use the computers, or what to do with them, but with startling results: the children soon taught themselves how to use the computers and the Internet, and much more (Mitra, 2003).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Knowledge: The capacity for effective action. In the terms of the Knowledge Process Cycle (KPC) this equates most generally to Strategic Knowledge. However, all of the components of the KPC (experience, data, ante-formal knowledge, formal knowledge, and strategic knowledge) are interlinked, and are all constituents of knowledge in some way.

Learning: Learning is the process of developing new capacity for effective action, and it arises from interesting conversations, empirical experiments, and good practice.

Strategic Knowledge: Strategic knowledge is the fit between procedural knowledge and contextual information, and in practice consists of a wide range of ‘fits’ across interlinking contexts: financial, cultural, political, institutional, technical and legal. It also, crucially, includes knowledge of complexity and complex events.

Complex Knowledge: Complex Knowledge is knowledge of complex adaptive systems, which do not yield the predictability and control of commodified knowledge. They yield, instead, models and accounts of the way particular Complex Adaptive Systems and Networks behave. They do yield coherence, but it is retrospective coherence , rather than prospective coherence; and emergent properties rather than predictability.

Ante-Formal Knowledge: Most of our interaction takes place within ante-formal information, from casual conversations to the globally dominant communication modes of social software. Ante-formal knowledge can range from the simple to the very complex, but it is knowledge which has not yet been subjected to the rigorous formalisation and abstraction of scientific, bureaucratic, or mathematical procedures.

Knowledge Process Cycle (KPC): Is an integrated flow chart of the components of knowledge, based on the different epistemological requirements of the different phases in the generation and operationalisation of knowledge. It includes experience, data, ante-formal knowledge, formal knowledge, strategic knowledge and communities of practitioners.

Commodified Knowledge: Commodified knowledge, or Formal Knowledge, is knowledge that is objective; it has been deliberately stripped of context and subjectivity, so that it can be communicated, traded, used and applied by anyone anywhere. It is often expressed in numerical or mathematic form, e.g finance and science.

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