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Tools for the Analysis of Complex Social Systems: An Introduction

Lasse Gerrits
lasse.gerrits@uni-bamberg.de

Department of Public Administration, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Lasse Gerrits is professor in political science at the University of Bamberg. His research focuses on the nexus of technology, policy and politics.

He is interested in methodological issues with regard to social complexity and the ways in which this complexity can be unboxed.

Lasse has published extensively on this topic in relationship to qualitative comparative analysis, critical realism, social complexity and qualitative methods.

He also has ample experience in applied research with, among others, railway companies all over Europe, and with many local and regional planning authorities.

Twitter  @ComplexGov


Course Dates and Times

Friday 22 February 13:00–15:00 and 15:30–18:00

Saturday 23 February 09:00–12:30 and 14:00–17:30

Prerequisite Knowledge

You should have affinity with concepts, ideas and methods from the complexity sciences and you should be flexible enough to think outside existing frames.


Short Outline

An introduction to the theories and methods of social complexity, in particular in relation to politics and policy-making.

We will discuss the basics of complex social systems and will then focus on the implications these basics have for the research methods we use.

This course is not meant to replace the actual methods courses offered at Winter School.

Tasks for ECTS Credits

1 credit (pass/fail grade). Attend at least 90% of course hours, participate fully in in-class activities, and carry out the necessary reading and/or other work prior to, and after, class.


Long Course Outline

Ideas and concepts from the complexity sciences have permeated the social sciences for a while now, and for good reason: there's no thing as complex as a social system. To some, that complexity simply means that things are difficult. However, the complexity sciences also offer very precise concepts and methods with which we can name, analyse and understand that complexity.

First and foremost, we need to understand what complex causality means and how we can put our methods to good use for our analysis. This short course offers an introduction to the theories and methods of social complexity, in particular in relation to politics and policy-making. We will discuss the basics of complex social systems and will then the implications these basics have for the research methods we use.

Next, we will have a closer look at some methods suitable for complexity-informed research:

  • qualitative comparative analysis (to address the configurational nature of systems)
  • event-sequence analysis (to address the evolutionary nature of systems)
  • system dynamics modelling (to address the structural nature of systems).

The course can be taken as a stand-alone but also as a starting point for other Winter School courses, in particular those on comparative research design, qualitative comparative analysis and / or process tracing.

This introductory course is not a substitute for those methods courses, even though we will look at some examples of the methods taught in those courses.

Day Topic Details
Friday afternoon Introduction to complex systems

A general introduction into the background and main concepts of complex systems.

Saturday morning Basics of complex systems. Complex causality.

A closer look at some complex systems. 

Discussion on the nature of complex causality.

Saturday afternoon How to do complexity-informed research.

A look at examples of Qualitative Comparative Analysis, System Dynamics Modelling and Event-sequence Analysis.

Day Readings
Friday afternoon

TBA

Saturday morning

TBA

Saturday aftenoon

TBA

Software Requirements

None

Hardware Requirements

None

Literature

TBA

Recommended Courses to Cover After this One

<p>Comparative research design</p> <p>Qualitative comparative analysis</p> <p>Process tracing</p>


Additional Information

Disclaimer

This course description may be subject to subsequent adaptations (e.g. taking into account new developments in the field, participant demands, group size, etc). Registered participants will be informed in due time.

Note from the Academic Conveners

By registering for this course, you confirm that you possess the knowledge required to follow it. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If in doubt, contact the instructor before registering.