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Complexity theory in the study of space and place


  • Steven Manson
  • David O’Sullivan


Researchers across disciplines apply complexity theory to issues ranging from economic development to earthquake prediction. The breadth of applications speaks to the promise of complexity theory, but there remain a number of challenges to be met, particularly those related to its ontological and epistemological dimensions. We identify a number of key issues by asking three questions. Does complexity theory operate at too general a level to enhance understanding? What are the ontological and epistemological implications of complexity? What are the challenges in modeling complexity? In answering these questions, we argue that, although complexity offers much to the study of place and space, research in these areas has a number of strengths that enhance complexity research.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven Manson & David O’Sullivan, 2006. "Complexity theory in the study of space and place," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 38(4), pages 677-692, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envira:v:38:y:2006:i:4:p:677-692

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    Cited by:

    1. Ron Martin & Peter Sunley, 2010. "Complexity Thinking and Evolutionary Economic Geography," Chapters,in: The Handbook of Evolutionary Economic Geography, chapter 4 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Wallentin, Gudrun, 2017. "Spatial simulation: A spatial perspective on individual-based ecology—a review," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 350(C), pages 30-41.
    3. repec:eee:ecomod:v:229:y:2012:i:c:p:25-36 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Donghan Kim & Haejin Han, 2015. "Simulating the Impact of Compact City Policy on Two Korean Cities: Daejeon and Hwaseong," ERSA conference papers ersa15p1586, European Regional Science Association.
    5. Guido Ferilli & Pier Luigi Sacco & Massimo Buscema & Giorgio Tavano Blessi, 2015. "Understanding Cultural Geography as a Pseudo-Diffusion Process: The Case of the Veneto Region," Economies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(2), pages 1-28, June.
    6. He, Zheng & Rayman-Bacchus, Lez & Wu, Yiming, 2011. "Self-organization of industrial clustering in a transition economy: A proposed framework and case study evidence from China," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(9), pages 1280-1294.

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