Thoughts on “Simplifying Complexity” (Manson, 2001)

As someone with very little knowledge on complexity theory before reading this article, I think Manson’s piece offers a solid introduction to the concept. I can see how complexity theory directly relates to geographic and GIScience problems. It all comes back to Tobler’s First Law of Geography, as geography creates complexity not replicated in other disciplines. 

“The past is not the present” and “complicated does not equal complex” are two concepts we have discussed at length in class. Regarding the first statement, complexity theory looks at entities as in a constant state of flux, and could thus reduce the problems associated with the “past = present” assumption; for instance, a common issue here is assuming that the locations of past actions will be the same as the present ones, among others. Regarding the second statement, this article was written in 2001, before big, complex, data was around like it is today, especially concerning its variety, veracity, value, volume, and velocity. Big data is complex, but not complicated. There are methods and technologies to more easily analyze this data; however, technology and complexity theory must keep up for researchers to continue to adequately analyze it. 

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