Complexity theory in the study of space and place

What struck me about the article, Complexity theory in the study of space and place, was how complexity theory transcends a variety of disciplines and schools of thought. It brings to mind the ultimate quest for the theory of everything. In addition, it tries to address the question concerning whether we may devise models and theories based on empirical observations that have the capacity to explain the world as we know it. Geocomplexity is highly related to the topic of uncertainty in spatial data, because it revisits the problem surrounding the extent that truth plays in modeling spatial observations. A key insight, although it does not directly answer questions concerning approaches to validating complexity-based models, is that “evaluation and validation of complexity-based models are as likely to be narrative and political in nature as they are to be technical and quantitative”(Manson and O’Sullivan, 2004). Narratives and political ideology highlight the importance that epistemology plays in complexity-based modeling of space and place. It seems that a big challenge in complexity science will be concerned with uncovering a better understanding of approaches that exist complimentary and at odds with one another. Examples of forces that are at odds within complexity theory include generalization and specificity, qualitative and quantitative reasoning, ontology and epistemology, pattern and process, holism and reductionism, and abstract theory and empirical evidence. I found the discussion about an overemphasis on pattern within complexity-based modeling over process to be a very interesting argument. I would agree that my experiences with GIS have tended to conflate spatial patterns with spatial processes. The static interface of arcmap tends to highlight the spatial patterns within my analysis, and I tend to not even entertain the possibility that the spatial patterns I see could be produced by two processes that conflict with one another.

I enjoyed how the article was outlined. I thought it helpful that the article laid out a series of questions for the article to answer. Following a series of central questions is important because complexity theory has such wide ranging applications. Complexity theory is particularly difficult to write about within the contest of geography because it is plagued by conflicting definitions and tends to be overly hyped by certain academic circles.


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