**Principia Cybernetica Web (C)**

Author: F. Heylighen

Date: 20 March 1989

Parent Node(s): Network for Complexity Research

Some practical propositions

In order to efficiently organize and coordinate a large-scale research effort, as sketched above, it appears best to promote interaction and collaboration between a maximum of people wishing to participate in this type of research. There are several possibilities for stimulating such an interaction:

Creation of a network

The basic idea would be to set-up an international network, being an informal association of individuals and organizations (research centers, societies, departments,...) with similar interests, connected by many channels of communication for the exchange of information, ideas, papers, projects, software, funding, people, ... The individuals at which the network is aimed would be "researchers" in the broadest sense of the term, i.e. they would not have to be academicians, but could also be practitioners in, for example, industry, art, social organizations, government, ..., who are driven by a basic curiosity, and by the need to explore new concepts and methods in various settings.

A network has no hierarchical organization: there are no leaders or presidents, nor reglementations. Yet a network may have one or more "central nodes", being local subgroups which have many contacts and which are easily reachable by a maximum of other members of the networks. Geographically (for a Europe-centered network) such centers might be located e.g. in Brussels or in Amsterdam.

The activities of the network should include - apart from exchanging preprints and electronic mail - the organization of meetings, conferences and courses on the subject domain. Moreover, the network might engender partnerships between different universities for engaging in large, international projects.

The present project can also be used as a basis for organizing local research groups, associating people from different centers or faculties of the same university, on a common transdisciplinary theme. These local kernels could then function as a "neighbourhood", attracting other people from inside or outside the university.

The first requirement for setting up a network is the compilation of a list of addresses, together with the domains of activity, of all people interested in the project. All people joining the network would then receive an updated copy of this list, indicating which people they might want to contact for exchanges and collaboration.

Diffusion of the present text

In order to make sure that the right kind of people are reached, the aim and the domain of research must be described in the most accurate and expressive manner. The description may be neither too restricted (excluding researchers working on the same type of problems but using a different terminology or methodology), nor too broad (blurring the distinctions with domains characterized by a different philosophy, and thus failing to establish a clear identity for the network). The present text is a first attempt to provide such a description.

Of course, other people, though they would recognize their domain of interest in the text, might want to change or add things which they think are important. Therefore I propose that everybody who has read this text would send me his or her criticisms - constructive as well as destructive - , indicating which ideas should be added or deleted, which parts of the text are too restrictive or too broad, which opinions they disagree with (event though agreeing with the remainder of the text). In particular I welcome all tips or propositions for organizing the network in a more effective way. These comments will be incorporated in later versions of the text, so that it would gradually more and more reflect the ideas presently living the community of researchers I try to reach. The text will be accompanied by a form where people (representing themself or their organization) can fill in their name, main activities, and the way they can be reached or could collaborate.

In order to ensure a wide diffusion I propose that everybody who has received the text, would make copies of it and pass it on to at least one other person who might be interested. In this way the number of copies circulating might undergo an exponential reproduction, in the same way as a chain letter, or as a population of organisms. The reactions of the different people would then constitute a source of external selection and variation, allowing to make the initial set of ideas better adapted to the needs of the community of researchers.

In a later stage, the text version may be complemented by a HyperCard Stack on floppy disk, expressing the basic ideas in an interactive, multimedia, network organization. Beside text fragments, such a stack might contain a network of associations and cross-references, a database with already collected addresses, artwork (graphical or musical) emphasizing and illustrating the essential concepts, and some example programs simulating processes of self-organization and user-computer interaction.

Creation of an association

The danger with a loosely structured network is that - since no one is responsible for its maintenance - it may easily disintegrate. Therefore, it might be useful to complement the network with a formally defined "Association for Complexity Research" (or whatever name people find nice), with a board of directors, and a fee for people wishing to become members. In exchange for their fee they would receive a newsletter, and be invited for conferences. In a later stage the association could also publish a journal. It would provide a forum for the dissemination, towards other researchers, the public and the institutions, of ideas associated with the paradigm of complexity research. In particular it might engage in lobbying for the raising of special funds for complexity research, as mentioned in the paragraph on the EC.

Such an association could still be organized rather informally, allowing the self-organization of initiatives within its framework. Some initial support for the newly founded association may be found by applying for membership of a federation, e.g. the "International Federation for Systems Research".