Spring 2012 STSH 4580 Mon-Thurs 12-2, Carnegie 206. Instructor: Ron Eglash.
To contact instructor:
Office Hours: Mon 10:00-12:00 and by appointment, 5502 Sage. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: 276-2048. Course webpage: www.rpi.edu/~eglash/eglash.dir/selforg.html
Self-organization has become an increasingly important phenomenon in both the natural sciences and engineering. Self-assembly of molecular structure is critical to nanotechnology; self-regulating ecosystems are modeled in biology, and so on. But recursive loops in which things govern themselves are also foundational to society: democracy is the people governing the people; social networks on the internet arise by self-assembly, and many indigenous societies use self-organization to create sustainable ways of life. This course will introduce students to models of self-organization in natural science and engineering, and examine their potential application to society, politics, and ethics. No prerequisites are required.
While ideas are available to everyone, credit for ideas, and the particular text used to express them, belongs to their originator. Plagiarism occurs when a student attempts to pass the ideas or words of someone else as their own. It is surprisingly easy to do. For example, students who are not writing in their first language will sometimes try to use a sentence from another written text, simply because they are worried about their grammar. Plagiarism also occurs when a quotation is reworded in an attempt to avoid citation—always make sure the sources of your quotations are specifically cited. The internet makes plagiarism particularly tempting, since you can copy and paste from the web to your paper. Recycling your own paper from another course would not be plagiarism, but it would be academic dishonesty and thus subject to the same penalties, which include failing the course (a grade of “F”).
Please contact me if you have special needs such as disability or religious holidays.
Evaluation will be based on the 4 short “reading reflection” papers (10% each), the research project paper (30%), the research project presentation (10%), and class participation (20%). Note that the syllabus tells you the reading that will be discussed for that day. You need to have done the reading before you arrive, and you are required to bring the reading to class so that we can discuss the texts in detail. Many class sessions you will need your laptop as well to play with simulations and other tools.
Short papers and research project:
Short “reading reflection” papers should be about 5 pages (double-spaced, with proper citations); these allow you to demonstrate your understanding of the material. The final research project paper should be 8-10 pages (double-spaced, with proper citations); the instructor will help you find a suitable topic for your research. Research projects can be done by groups, in which case the paper will be longer, and each individual is responsible for a different section of the paper. Working in a group is a great way to bring together more than one discipline (eg math and anthropology, or computing and environmentalism). Research project presentations may also be done by the group.
Mitchell, Melanie. Complexity: a Guided Tour. Oxford University Press, 2009
Eglash, Ron. African Fractals: Modern Computing And Indigenous Design. Rutgers University Press1999
Kelly, Kevin. Out of control : the new biology of machines, social systems and the economic world. Reading, Mass. : Addison-Wesley, 1995. Online at http://www.kk.org/outofcontrol/contents.php
Rheingold, Howard. Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution. Basic Books 2003.
Lecture: intro to course
NOVA video: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/emergence.html.
Further examples in video:
Lectures: intro to self-org, history of self-org
Jan 26. Readings: Mitchell ch 1. Couzin, I.D. & Krause, J. (2003) Self-organization and collective behavior in vertebrates. Advances in the Study of Behavior 32, 1-75.
In class: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIH-p1OSRZw wildebeest migration – start at 1:20 and observe how split evolves over time.
Flocking simulation at http://www.lalena.com/AI/Flock/; others at https://www1.ethz.ch/soms/research/Videos/#simulations
Reading: Mitchell ch 2, Eglash “Cybernetics and American Youth Subculture”: Nonlinear dynamics as low-dimensional self-organization. In-class experiments with:
Feb 2 Reading: Turnbull, D. “Rendering Turbulence Orderly.” Social Studies of Science, Vol. 25 , No. 1, 9-33. Feb., 1995
In class: Video, “The Strange New Science of Chaos.”
Feb 6 Mitchell ch 5, 18
Feb 9 Mitchell ch 7, 12
Feb 13 Mitchell ch 17. In class: Video “Hunting the Hidden Dimension” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/fractals/program.html
Feb 16 Mitchell ch 8-10. In class: experiment with CA at http://www.ccd.rpi.edu/eglash/temp/Life32v111.zip or http://sourceforge.net/projects/golly/
Feb 20 – no classes
Part II: Applications in African Studies
Feb 23 -- 1st paper due.
using simulations from math (Koch, Peano, etc) and nature (fern, acacia, etc.).
March 12. Spring break
March 15 Spring Break
Part III: Self-organization: from natural to social ecologies
Second paper due
March 22 Out of Control ch 1-4
In class: http://www.ted.com/talks/chris_anderson_how_web_video_powers_global_innovation.html
April 9 (Guest lecture from David Banks)
Part V The Politics of Self-Organization
April 23 Third paper due.
May 3 Fourth paper due
May 7 Final (research) paper due.
Some texts you might find useful in your research projects for this course:
Politics of self-organization
Haila, Yrjö et al. How Nature Speaks: The Dynamics of the Human Ecological Condition. Duke University Press 2006.
Chesters, Graeme and Welsh, Ian. Complexity and Social Movements: Protest at the Edge of Chaos. Routeldge 2006.
Geyer, Robert Complexity, Science and Society, Oxford: Radcliffe Publishing 2007.
R. Lewin, Complexity: Life at the Edge of Chaos. Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1992
Complexity: the Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos by Mitchell M. Waldrop 1992
How Nature Works: the Science of Self-organized Criticality by P. Bak
At Home in the Universe : the Search for Laws of Self-organization and Complexity by Stuart Kauffman
Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity by John H. Holland
The Computational Beauty of Nature: Computer Explorations of Fractals, Chaos, Complex Systems and Adaptation by Gary William Flake
Recursion and self-replication
Hofstadter, D. R., Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, NY: Basic Books, 1979.
Robert A. Freitas Jr., Ralph C. Merkle, Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines, Landes Bioscience, Georgetown, TX, 2004; http://www.MolecularAssembler.com/KSRM.htm
Six Degrees : the Science of a Connected Age by Duncan J. Watts