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The Information Society as a Complex System

Objective

The proposal aims to develop a complexity-based theory and methodology to achieve a deeper understanding of the "information society". It is based upon the premise that information technologies profoundly affect the socio-political-economic structures of the societies adopting them, and that these structures in turn affect which kinds of technologies are developed and how they are used. To analyse further this reciprocal causation between social structure and information technology, we propose to study the dynamics of innovation and to discover and explain scaling phenomena for corporate structures and urban systems. The results of our research will be integrated into both a comprehensive vision of the "information society" and a set of policy-relevant suggestions for European participation in this society. The proposal aims to develop a complexity-based theory and methodology to achieve a deeper understanding of the "information society". It is based upon the premise that information technologies profoundly affect the socio-political-economic structures of the societies adopting them, and that these structures in turn affect which kinds of technologies are developed and how they are used. To analyse further this reciprocal causation between social structure and information technology, we propose to study the dynamics of innovation and to discover and explain scaling phenomena for corporate structures and urban systems. The results of our research will be integrated into both a comprehensive vision of the "information society" and a set of policy-relevant suggestions for European participation in this society.

OBJECTIVES
The proposed research is designed to develop a theory and methodology by means of which we may achieve a deeper understanding of what "information society" means and how socio-political-economic structure is related to the ways in which new information, communication and control technologies are generated and used. To carry out this task, we propose to establish an interdisciplinary team of social and physical scientists, engineers, mathematicians, statisticians and computer scientists.
The team will initiate research on a new, complexity-based agenda in social science, featuring a dynamic theory of innovation and an account of the emergence of scaling laws in corporate structure and urban systems; it will develop tools to implement this agenda in order to gain new understanding about our current information society; and it will apply this understanding to analyses of possible paths of social-technological development in the future.

DESCRIPTION OF WORK
The innovation subproject will have three components: theory development, modelling, and a detailed case study. The theory will describe the structure of agent-artifact space and will analyze the cognitive, constructive and stabilizing processes through which invention and innovation transform this structure. Two agent-based modelling environments will be developed: one for innovation processes, which will be used to investigate different modalities of cooperation among competing agents participating in the construction of new marketing systems; the other for investigating the interrelation among communication and decision processes with different inherent time scales, which will be applied to problems of information contagion, organization design, and market processes. The case study will test the adequacy of the theory to structure a narrative and provide new insight into the emergence of a distributed control network market system.
The scaling law subproject will have two components. The first will search for scaling laws in corporate structure, the second in urban systems. They will be based in part on a recently developed theory of biological organization that relies on optimality in hierarchical branching networks. The tasks involved include finding the right set of variables that exhibit scaling and the model the dynamics that produce empirically observed scaling relationships. Both components will include substantial empirical analyses, based on the one hand on a large corporate database constructed by McKinsey Associates, the other on data for urban settlements in SW France assembled in the context of another European Research Project, as well as new data sets for all of Europe. At the end of the projects, the researchers and consultants will search for policy relevant suggestions based upon the research carried out.

MILESTONES


Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts

Coordinator

UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI MODENA E REGGIO EMILIA
Address
Via Universita 4
41100 Modena
Italy

Participants (6)

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE
France
Address
3, Rue Michel-ange
75794 Paris Cedex 16
CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE
France
Address
3, Rue Michel-ange
75794 Paris Cedex 16
IMPERIAL COLLEGE OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND MEDICINE
United Kingdom
Address
South Kensington Campus
SW7 2AZ London
UNIVERSITE PANTHEON-SORBONNE (PARIS I)
France
Address
Place Du Pantheon 12
75231 Paris
UNIVERSITE PANTHEON-SORBONNE (PARIS I)
France
Address
Place Du Pantheon 12
75231 Paris
UNIVERSITE PARIS X NANTERRE
France
Address
200 Avenue De La Republique
92001 Nanterre