Expanding the concept of ‘model’: the transfer from technological to human domains within systems thinking

Ramage, Magnus and Shipp, Karen (2012). Expanding the concept of ‘model’: the transfer from technological to human domains within systems thinking. In: Bissell, Chris and Dillon, Chris eds. Ways of Thinking, Ways of Seeing. Berlin: Springer, pp. 121–144.

URL: http://www.springer.com/engineering/robotics/book/...

Abstract

‘Systems thinking’ is a portmanteau term for a body of theories and techniques that unite around a focus on whole systems and relationships between entities, rather than breaking systems down into their individual components and considering those components in isolation. Various forms of modelling are central within systems thinking, with many of the modelling techniques being developed from work originally carried out in engineering and technology settings, but applied to human-centred application domains, in particular organisations and the environment, but also many others. In this chapter we will discuss four quite different systems modelling approaches that have adapted modelling techniques from engineering to studies of humanity: system dynamics (the work of Jay Forrester and others, applied to organisational, economic and ecological systems); the viable systems model of Stafford Beer (applied to organisational systems); the work of Howard Odum on ecological systems; and the systems diagramming approach of the former Faculty of Technology at the Open University.

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