The concept of complexity, while it connects with associated ideas like the complicated or the difficult, gains precision from its use in complex systems theory, where it relates to the emergent qualities of systemic interactions. Complexity science studies such systemic processes in disciplinary contexts ranging across the natural and social sciences, but complexity is also manifestly of great interest in the humanities, both as a problem for cultural forms of representation and knowledge, and as a quality of cultural artefacts and discourses in themselves.
The humanities have much insight to gain from dialogue with complexity science, its methods and conceptual frameworks; but it is equally the case that humanities perspectives have much to contribute to the challenges complex systems present as objects of scientific inquiry, in conceptual and communicative terms. Complexity in the Humanities seeks to open up several dimensions of an exchange with complexity science in order to draw out the reciprocal benefits of such a radically interdisciplinary dialogue.
The disciplinary perspectives embraced by CModS offer three overlapping approaches to this dialogue, building upon the several respects in which questions of complexity arise in humanities research, and the connections already established in York with YCCSA (the York Centre for Complex Systems Analysis).
These connections have been developed via the Interdisciplinary Centre for Narrative Studies(the NarCS group) and the previous CModS research strand, World Systems/Systems of the World, as well as the ongoing Complexity Reading Group co-hosted by CModS and YCCSA.
The three axes of this research strand are:
Complexity in the Humanities will be inaugurated with a symposium in which papers on narrating complexity will be presented by members of the multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional NarCS network, with respondents drawn from the CModS participants.
The symposium will be followed up with a CModS and YCCSA workshop developing aspects of the dialogue on complexity in terms of the three axes of the Complexity in the Humanities research theme and pursuing the opportunities for collaborative humanities research these topics afford.
The ongoing Complexity Reading Group meets on a monthly basis, alternating hosted by CModS in the Berrick Saul Building and by YCCSA in the Ron Cooke Hub; it is open to all interested faculty and graduate students.