Skip to content

Overview of Complexity Science

Complexity science is part of a fairly loosely connected field of developing sciences that includes chaos, emergence, self-organization, and network theory. This interactive map of complexity science provides a good overview of various fields/disciplines. I do have a few issues with the map, however. First, complexity science, according to the map creator, incorporates many emerging sciences. While this makes for a concise map, a few elements are not quite accurate. Network theory, for example, is a distinct field of study that should not be subsumed wholly into complexity. Chaos theory as well. Secondly, the map seems incomplete in several areas. Chaos theory ends in 1980′s and doesn’t include mention of work by Steven Strogatz’s work on synchronization and chaos (though he is referenced in the network science portion of the diagram). Small criticism of what is a useful overview map.

It is nice to see people like Barry Wellman mentioned in the development of networks. I’ve encountered a few videos and articles recently that explore the science of networks as being only a decade old and driven by mathematics, when in reality, sociologists like Wellman and Granovetter have been exploring the field for decades.


  1. Ken Allan wrote:

    Kia ora George!

    Nice one! I agree with you about the relative position of network theory and more so with chaos theory. Nevertheless, as you pointed out, the map is a splendid overview of the players.

    There have been several who have made inroads to complexity over the decades, but like any ‘science’ that is moved into the limelight and with all the accompanying new terms invented by those who expound about it, there will always be claims that the study is new. Just take cybernetics, as an example – how far back can we go with that?

    Catchya later
    from Middle-earth

    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 6:33 pm | Permalink
  2. Kees Pieters wrote:

    You may want to include Edgar Morin in the graph! H is taking a more radical view on complexity (see On Complexity in which he states —which I believe— that complexity basically means that we are working with limited knowledge. This stance takes a more epistemological stance of complexity, and is probably going to be a very interesting field of enquiry.

    Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. Complexity and chaos theory « Edmusings on Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    [...] this way, it becomes overwhelming. However, I think current thinkers, such as Stephen Downes and George Siemens, are starting to examine new ways of learning, which I consider draws somewhat on complexity [...]