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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Steering Complex Human Systems Seminar

22 March 2017
Lecture Theatre B, Shackleton Building 44

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Dr Nathaniel O'Grady at N.O' .

Event details

Many pressing societal issues involve managing complex adaptive systems, many of which have human or technological, as well as “natural”, components. Examples include industrial networks, cities, global food and energy systems, economies and societies. The complexity, adaptability and reflexivity of these systems make managing them difficult and efforts to control them fully are often doomed to failure. I will discuss “steering” methodologies, in which one attempts to uncover and exploit the structure and dynamics of a system effectively whilst remaining in interaction with it, ready to respond to change. I will describe the steering approach and the background and history of this philosophy in fields from artificial life and complexity science to adaptive management and whole systems design. And will illustrate the broader ideas with examples from my own work in developing participatory complexity science tools for use by policy makers and system stakeholders in both regional industrial economies (“industrial ecosystems”) and water catchment management in the UK. I will discuss the strengths and challenges of a steering complex systems approach and the possible future for steering complex adaptive systems. Finally, and more speculatively, I will discuss the potential role of experiential complex systems and ask what an interactive “natural history” approach to complex adaptive systems can offer in combination with mathematical and computational tools.

Speaker information

Dr Alexandra Penn, University of Surrey . Senior Research Fellow, Department of Sociology

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