Complexity Theory: a Science of Cultural Systems

Karen Cham, Jeffrey Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In popular dialogues, describing a system as 'complex' is often the point of resignation, inferring that the system cannot be sufficiently described, predicted nor managed. Transport networks, management infrastructure and supply chain logistics are all often described in this way. In socio-cultural terms 'complex' is used to describe those humanistic systems that are ‘intricate, involved, complicated, dynamic, multi-dimensional, interconnected systems [such as] transnational citizenship, communities, identities, multiple belongings, overlapping geographies and competing histories’ . Academic dialogues have begun to explore the collective behaviors of complex systems to define a complex system specifically as an adaptive one; i.e. a system that demonstrates ‘self organising’ principles and ‘emergent’ properties. By introducing generic principles of complex systems, and looking at the exploration of such principles in art, design and media research, this paper argues that a science of cultural systems as part of complex systems theory is the post modern science for the digital age. Furthermore, that such a science was predicated by post structuralism and has been manifest in art, design & media practice since the late 1960s.
Original languageEnglish
JournalM/C: A Journal of Media and Culture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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