17.689 what complexity is

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Sat Mar 06 2004 - 02:55:47 EST

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 689.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

   [1] From: Carolyn Rude <carolynr@vt.edu> (18)
         Subject: RE: 17.686 what is complexity?

   [2] From: Serena Fenton <fents@ibiblio.org> (30)
         Subject: Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture

   [3] From: Stephen Ramsay <sramsay@uga.edu> (22)
         Subject: Re: 17.686 what is complexity?

         Date: Sat, 06 Mar 2004 07:46:11 +0000
         From: Carolyn Rude <carolynr@vt.edu>
         Subject: RE: 17.686 what is complexity?

Ken Baake's book, Metaphor and Knowledge: The Challenges of Writing Science
(SUNY UP 2003), is based on his study at the Santa Fe Institute, where he
spent some time immersed in the culture and in conversation with the
scientists about how they use metaphor in developing and explaining new
concepts and discoveries. One chapter, "'Complexity': An Etymology Leading to
a Discussion of Whether it is a Metaphor or Something Else," addresses
complexity theory directly, but the concept permeates the book. Ken's writing
is accessible, and he is himself a polymath, with degrees in economics,
rhetoric, and literature as well as good knowledge of music, mathematics,
science, and engineering. He brings all of this together elegantly in his


Carolyn Rude
Dept of English, 323 Shanks
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0112
540 231 8396 fax 540 231 5692

         Date: Sat, 06 Mar 2004 07:50:28 +0000
         From: Serena Fenton <fents@ibiblio.org>
         Subject: Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture

A truly wonderful book (an explanation of why the modern architecture
movement is so dull):

Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture
by Robert Venturi
Paperback: 136 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.34 x 8.57 x 11.07
Publisher: Museum of Modern Art, New York; 2nd edition (July 15, 2002)
ISBN: 0870702823

One reader's response:
"Architects can no longer afford to be intimidated by the puritanically
moral language of orthodox Modern [!] architecture. I like elements which
are hybrid rather than "pure," compromising rather than "clean," distorted
rather than "straightforward," ambiguous rather than "articulated,"
perverse as well as impersonal, boring as well as "interesting,"
conventional rather than "designed," accommodating rather than excluding,
redundant rather than simple, vestigial as well as innovating, inconsistent
and equivocal rather than direct and clear. I am for messy vitality over
obvious unity. I include the non sequitur and proclaim the duality.

I am for richness of meaning rather than clarity of meaning; for the
implicit function as well as the explicit function. I prefer "both-and" to
"either-or," black and white, and sometimes gray, to black or white. A
valid architecture evokes many levels of meaning and combinations of focus:
its space and its elements become readable and workable in several ways at

   `     ,   ,     `        `     ,   ,  
Serena Fenton        http://layersofmeaning.org/

fents@ibiblio.org http://www.ibiblio.org/fents/ ` , , ` ` , ,

--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Sat, 06 Mar 2004 07:51:17 +0000 From: Stephen Ramsay <sramsay@uga.edu> Subject: Re: 17.686 what is complexity?

On Fri, Mar 05, 2004 at 09:41:01AM +0000, Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>) wrote: > I would be grateful for recommendations of books and papers on the topic of > "complexity".

It's been awhile, but I remember enjoying M. Mitchell Waldrop's *Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos* (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992). It's a highly anecdotal account of the early work of the Santa Fe Institute, but along the way, it manages to unfold some of the key insights of complexity theory. General reader material, but informative.

In pursuing this, you want to look for books that deal with emergence and artificial life -- cognate fields that have become increasingly important in the study of complexity.


-- Stephen Ramsay Assistant Professor Department of English University of Georgia email: sramsay@uga.edu web: http://cantor.english.uga.edu/ PGP Public Key ID: 0xA38D7B11 </x-flowed>

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