And here is the kicker! To put it simply: when it comes to modeling complexity, the social sciences are far behind current trends, leaving most social scientists grossly outmatched by their fellow complexity scientists in physics, computational modeling, data science, and mathematics — resulting, in many instances, with the latter often having the upper hand in constructing the complexity turn narrative Castellani The problem with this, as Duncan Watts the famous network physicist pointed out in Annual Review of Sociology , is that most natural and computational scientists are poor social scientists, with little to no knowledge of social theory — which takes us to the final point.
So, that is our top-ten list. And, as I hope to illustrate next, it has had a profound and lasting impact on my research. While the nuances of this impact exceed the limits of this essay, I will highlight a few, hoping readers may be likewise inspired to explore the complexity turn for their own work. As a social scientist, my training is in sociology and clinical psychology.
For me, understanding health is ultimately about the complexities of the case and at multiple levels, from global health to the health of patients. In turn, treating these complex cases is ultimately about the intersection between theory, method and application. Here, then, are a few examples of how the complexity turn has been of use to my work:. In terms of theory, the complexity turn has helped me in two key ways:. First, it helped me realize that, while their work is not labeled as such, a lot of social science theorists have made important insights into social complexity.
For example, I was able to redefine dispositif e. To make this translation, I employed the complexity theory of Cilliers To make this translation, I employed the complex realism of Byrne For the past decade, my colleagues and I have been developing a new way to model social complexity. The premise for his integration, while simple enough, is groundbreaking: cases are the methodological equivalent of complex systems; and alternatively, complex systems are cases and therefore should be studied as such. As a type of case-based modeling, the SACS Toolkit is a case-based, computationally-grounded, mixed-methods platform for modeling complex systems.
Figure 2 is an example: it is a topographical map of the main clusters in a study on allostatic load.
Complexity theory and emergence point the way to understanding consciousness.
Across all of these studies, the advantages of employing the SACS Toolkit have been several: it has allowed us to 1 employ multiple methods; 2 map the complex, nonlinear evolution of ensembles or densities of cases; 3 classify major and minor health clusters and time-trends; 4 identify dynamical states, such as attractor points; 5 plot the speed of cases along different states; 6 detect the non-equilibrium clustering of case trajectories during key transient times; 7 construct multiple models to fit novel data; and 8 predict future time-trends and dynamical states.
Still, despite these strengths, as with any new intellectual development, neither case-based modeling nor the complexity turn are a panacea for the errors of contemporary social science. Nonetheless, they do seem to offer a number of important tools for improving social inquiry in the global century of complexity in which we currently live.
And that, to me, is sufficient reason for anyone to explore the utility of this turn. Buckwalter, G. Castellani, B. John, B. McEwen, A. Rizzo, K. Burrows, R. After the crisis? Big Data and the methodological challenges of empirical sociology. Byrne, D. Complexity Theory and the Social Sciences: The state of the art. The Sage handbook of case-based methods. Sage Publications Ltd. Sociology , 46 1 , Complexity, configurations and cases. Complexity theory and the social sciences: an introduction.
Psychology Press. Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory , 18 2 , Rajaram, G. Buckwalter, M. Ball and F. New York: Springer. In press. In Handbook of Systems and Complexity in Health pp. Springer New York. Sociology and complexity science: a new field of inquiry. Michel Foucault and symbolic interactionism: The making of a new theory of interaction. Capra, F. Cambridge University Press.
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Cilliers, P. Complexity and postmodernism: Understanding complex systems. Collins, R. Theoretical sociology. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Gulbenkian Commission.
Open the social sciences. Hafferty, F. The increasing complexities of professionalism. Academic Medicine , 85 2 , Hammond, D. The science of synthesis. University Press of Colorado.
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Harvey, D. Social science as the study of complex systems. Chaos theory in the social sciences: Foundations and applications , Mitchell, M. Complexity: A guided tour. Oxford University Press. Newman, M. Networks: an introduction. Rajaram, R.
Complexity , 18 2 , The utility of nonequilibrium statistical mechanics, specifically transport theory, for modeling cohort data. Savage, M. The coming crisis of empirical sociology.
Sociology , 41 5 , The system may make changes to reestablish equilibrium, but these changes will be first-order changes — linear, gradual, segmental, predictable, moderate and incremental. There may be many possible options at each fork in the road and the consequence is that the future becomes unpredictable, although not random. Like entering the vortex of a tornado, the system experiences this movement as chaotic and, in human terms, terrifying while inside the cone, but from outside, we can see that the vortex has form and boundaries. Hence chaos is not really chaos, exactly.
In fact, the possibilities of movement within the vortex will be constrained by previous decisions that have led to this turning point, and by other aspects of both internal and external reality, but within the field of choice within the cone, anything can happen. These strange attractors, acting like magnets, constrain the system to lie within certain ranges. The system orbits around these strange attractors but never in exactly the same way so that although a pattern can be seen from a distance, close-up the behavior of the system is unpredictable for any specific repetition.
The patterns that strange attractors give rise to are never repeated exactly within the system but even so, there is a form. These forms when made into visual images on a computer create beautiful, rhythmic patterns that look like infinity symbols, sinuous mandalas, fireworks Chamberlain, Like fractals, their geometric cousins, strange attractors demonstrate a crystalline, convoluted ornateness that is associated with the field of chaos Moran, The change of a caterpillar into a butterfly is an example of second-order, transformative change.
We know intimately about the power of applying stress to a system, while watching that system — individual, family or group — attempt to restabilize itself using tried and true methods, or defenses, only to become overwhelmed and enter a period of chaos out of which may or may not come positive change and growth.
There has long been a tension in the mental health field generally, and the psychiatric field in particular, between those who favor doing whatever it takes to stabilize a patient — drugs, restraint, punishment — and those who see strategic and creative possibilities within the chaos, i.
Laing, Joseph Berke, etc. McClure has written an entire book devoted to understanding the process of group therapy through the lens of chaos theory. In it he postulates that the stages of group therapy map out the process of chaotic transformation that can occur in a group if there is effective group leadership that does not seek to control and limit the group transit through the period of conflict and chaos. He sees groups that become regressive and even destructive as those that have been unable to evolve and develop, to self-organize out of the chaotic transition in a healthy way.
Several authors have written about the process of family treatment from the perspective of chaos theory.
Brian Castellani on the Complexity Sciences – Theory, Culture & Society
The potential relevance to all areas of human endeavor are startling, and carry for many of us enormous hope that there is something beyond the fragmented, reductionistic, exploitative view of human nature that currently confronts us from every angle. It forces us to evaluate many of the underpinnings of our present mechanistic, scientific viewpoint. The chaos concepts ask us to suspend, or at least be willing to play with the notions that behavior is predictable, that observation can be objective, that behavior is replicable, that output is proportional to input, that chaos is destructive and even avoidable, that anything can be understood in isolation from anything else Chamberlain, It is time for such a change.
In the 22nd century movie version of 21st century history, just as our linear and reductionistic solutions to the complex problems of corporate globalization fail to save the planet from threatened extinction, the human species discovers — or rediscovers — the power of subtle change, of dynamic, unpredictable, creative self-organization. We come to recognize that all life is truly and irrevocably interconnected and that our salvation lies in giving up the struggle for control and turning ourselves over to loving life in each other and the world around us. Bloom, S. Bohm, D. Wholeness and the Implicate Order.
New York: Routledge. Brabender, V. Chaos and order in the psychotherapy group. In Masterpasqua, F. Washington, D. Briggs, J. New York: HarperCollins. Chamberlain, L. In Chamberlain, L. Strange attractors in patterns of family interaction.
In Robertson, R. Chaos Theory in Psychology and the Life Science. Dean, A. London: Routledge. Demastes, W. Cambridge, U. Gleick, J. Chaos: Making a New Science. New York: Penguin.
Holland, J. Emergence: From Chaos to Order. Reading, MA: Helix Books. Hudgens, B. Dynamical family systems and therapeutic intervention. Jantsch, E. New York: Pergamon. Kauffman, S. New York: Oxford University Press. Laszlo, E. Evolution: The Grand Synthesis. Boston, MA: Shambala. Liebovitch, L.
Fractals and Chaos: Simplified for the Life Sciences. Masterpasqua, F. McClure, B. Moran, M. Chaos theory and psychoanalysis. Prigogine, I. New York: Bantam Books. Robertson, R. Chaos Theory in Psychology and the Life Sciences. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Waldrop, M. New York: Simon and Schuster.
The Blind Men and the Elephant. Case Study of John, an 11 year old boy in residential treatment illustrating chaos and complexity theory. Chaos Theory and Therapeutic Community. Purchase Now. Learn More. Research and purchase S.
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