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Sociology of Social Complexity

University of Perugia

Bachelor’s Degree

Public university. Science and humanities degree courses, multi/inter/transdisciplinary approach


Description of the Curriculum/Course

Admission Requirements
Prerequisites:
The knowledge of the main sociological and philosophical theories is required
Learning Outcomes
Educational objectives
1) the knowledge of the most topical issues covered in the lessons
2) the ability to formulate – logical and coherent - arguments on the topics and to identify the connections between the levels of analysis involved
3) the ability to interpret data and recognize the methodological implications
4) the ability to formulate assessments in a fully autonomous manner
5) communicative skills for developing arguments in support of their ideas
6) the ability, through reasoning and insight, to define possible solutions and to anticipate new problems.
______________________
The exam is always oral (oral exam) and it has a duration of at least 25 minutes.

The objectives of the exam are many:

1) to verify the knowledge of the topics covered during the course;
2) to evaluate the ability to analyze and make connections between the issues;
3) to evaluate the communication skills gained. It's also planned a presentation by the students of individual papers about topics covered in the course. Students may also choose to discuss the projects they developed, always concerning topics analyzed in the lessons
Programme
The objectives of the course: firstly, to reconstruct the controversies and the scientific debate on the subject of complexity and on the factors determining its passage to hypercomplexity; secondly, to underline that an
interdisciplinary and systemic approach which envisions objects as systems rather than considering systems as objects (as sets of divisible parts) is of the utmost urgency, calling for a radical makeover of our concepts of educative, formative and skill-related processes, overstepping the “false dichotomies” common to education and training, which reinforce the new asymmetries and inequalities emerging today; and finally, to recognize and understand the “great mistake” we are currently making in our attitude to technology in general and digital technology in particular.

Design/Methodology/Approach: Beginning with a brief historical description of the scientific awareness gradually acquired on the implications of complexity, hierarchical systems and the capacities for self-organization and emergence inherent to all biological, physical, human and social complex adaptive systems (CAS), and the inadequacy of defining reality through mathematical formulas or sets of rules, as had previously been used, we will provide: 1) a working definition of social complexity and “hypercomplexity"; 2) epistemological methods for teaching and training students to undertake a systemic approach, engage in systems thinking and understand the full implications of the “observer/participant” and of qualitative factors; 3) techniques for including error, uncertainty and unpredictability, conflict and debate in education, training hybrid figures capable of intersecting inter/multi/transdisciplinary fields of knowledge.

Findings: We identify the illusions of the hypertechnological, hyperconnected civilization and its ongoing anthropological transformation, including 1) the “tyranny of concreteness” and “the great mistake”:
the belief that all problems can be solved by delegating solutions solely to technology, and that complexity can be measured, managed and predicted through data, algorithms, formulas and statistics; 2) the fracture between the sciences and the humanities and between the natural and the artificial represented by “false dichotomies”; 3) the illusions of social control and elimination of error; 4) the vision of an ordered, regular society occasionally interrupted by “black swans”, without recognizing that emergency, error, uncertainty and unpredictability are intrinsic to all complex adaptive systems, which follow an irreversible arrow of time.
References
1.Dominici, P. The weak link of democracy and the challenges of educating toward global citizenship, in, "Prospects" (2022). UNESCO
Here’s the link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11125-022-09607-8#citeas
Springer Nature - #PeerReviewed
Teaching Methodology
Classroom lectures (face-to-face) - debate - seminars and practical training, but also Laboratory activities. Particular attention to the complexity of the issues/topics discussed and to the urgency of a systemic approach to complexity.
Laboratory and Practical Study on Systems Thinking
Language of the Curriculum and Course
English
ECTS Credits
9 CFU
length of the curriculum: 3 years
length of the course: 12 months
Examination Methodology
The exam is always oral (oral exam) and it has a duration of at least 30 minutes.
The objectives of the exam are many:
1) to verify the knowledge of the topics covered during the course;
2) to evaluate the ability to analyze and make connections between the issues;
3) to evaluate the communication skills gained. It's also planned a presentation by the students of individual papers about topics covered in the course. Students may also choose to discuss the projects they developed, always concerning topics analyzed in the lessons
Relevance
The relevance of the course is strategic. Within the framework of a systemic and multi/inter/transdisciplinary approach to the study of complexity and complex systems (with a focus on social and life systems), the course aims to prepare towards complexity and unpredictability of the human factor and social worlds.
Originality of the Course:
1) Bringing forth evidence that managing complexity is impossible; at best, we can only cope with or inhabit complexity;
2) Rethinking education and training radically and not simply as adaptations and extensions of educational processes to the technological changes; technology is a part of culture and can never be separate from it.
3) Introducing the concept of the “overturn”: today biological evolution is being determined by cultural evolution.
Social and Environmental Implications: Profound and systemic change can only be triggered from grassroots communities and individual actions, and can never be imposed top-down by intelligentsia, elites or governments. This implicates the fundamental importance of educational processes teaching systemic and critical thinking. Otherwise, any innovation will simply become a “would-be” innovation. It is furthermore essential to understand that innovating means destabilizing, at least temporarily.