This project (2020-1-SE01-KA203-077872) has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Coupled systems: Social-ecological and socio-technical systems

Admission Requirements
Bachelor’s degree in any academic subject

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the course, the student is able to:


  • Describe complex relations between society, nature and technology can be conceptualized, analyzed and shaped.
  • Explain concepts and methods used by different schools to define coupled systems and how they are constituted and differ from each other.
  • Explain implications of different coupled systems schools of thoughts on actions and reactions within coupled systems.
  • Relate perspectives from natural science interpretations and from social sciences and the humanities to each other


  • Use various methods to map coupled systems from given or own example.
  • Interpret and narratively analyze coupled system images.


  • Use systems thinking to analyze a real-world situation covering relations between, natural and technological systems
  • Take positions in debates about opportunities and limits of different approaches to coupled systems.


How can systems thinking help us understand the complex relations between humans, nature and technology?

In this course students are exposed to how different schools of thought study the systemic aspects of the relations linked to sustainability and how coupled systems are interpreted. One challenge is that coupled systems require  a crossing of natural, social and engineering disciplines.

The main task in the course is to apply general system and complexity theory concepts to analyse how the different schools on coupled systems are reasoning about which elements to study, how relations between the elements are described, how distinctions anre made and boundaries defined. Further how do the different schools of thought think about uncertainty, evolution and emergence.

The students are assisted in this endeavour by seminal theoretical approaches  to the complexity of societyies, humans, technology and nature.


Mandatory reading

  • Topical selections of scientific articles on social-ecological and socio-technological systems
  • Bateson, Gregory (2002). Mind and nature: a necessary unity. Cresskill, N. J.: Hampton Press
  • Khalil, Elias & Boulding, Kenneth Ewart (red.) (1996). Evolution, order and complexity. London: Routledge
  • Huntjens, P. (2021) Towards a Natural Social Contract. Cham: Springer Nature.
  • Luhmann, Niklas (1989). Ecological Communication. Chicago University Press
  • Odum, Howard T. (2007). Environment, power and society for the twenty-first century: the hierarchy of energy. New ed. New York: Columbia University Press

Selected reading from ...

  • Chapin III, F Stuart, Kofinas, Gary P, Folke, Carl (2009). Principles of ecosystem stewardship resilience-based natural resource management in a changing world. New York: Springer
  • Robbins, P. (2020) Political ecology : a critical introduction. Third. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell (Critical introductions to geography)

Teaching Methodology

Please, specify the teaching methodology to be used, such as:

  • The course provides students with recorded Video lectures on the key approaches to coupled systems, introductions to the literature on the frequently used concepts as well as instructions on exercises;
  • Independent Study on selected literature based on written reading instructions;
  • Seminars on Zoom are used to discuss the literature and its applications to student´s tentative thesis topics;
  • Practical Study on use, design and analysis of Casual Loop Diagrams.

ECTS Credits
7,5 ECTS

I semester

Examination methodology
The course will be examined through a written essay, through active participation in seminars and submission of exercises.

This course follows on the previous courses on systems thinking

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