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Self-Organization in Science and Society

This website provides resources for exploring the intersections between self-organization in science (complexity theory, cellular automata, animal flocking, molecular self-assembly, etc.) and self-organization in society (online communities, self-managed commons, anarchist political theory, etc.). It was started by the RPI course Self-Organization in Science and Society


Some thoughts about the NOVA "emergence" episode [1]

Why study Self-organization through STS? [2]

An Introduction to Self-organization [3]

History of self-organization in science and society [4]

Highlights from “Self-Organization and Collective Behavior in Vertebrates [5]

Intro to Deterministic Chaos [6]

Complexity, Order and Disorder [7]

Comparison of Norbert Wiener and John Von Neumann [8]

Online Articles

Cybernetics and American Youth Subculture [9]

Weather Forecasting, examples of Weiner and von Neumann methods [10]

National Geographic article on Swarm Intelligence. Pretty basic, but interesting introduction [11]

The Tragedy of the Commons, Garrett Hardin's landmark paper on common pool resources

A Democracy of Groups, by Beth Simone Noveck First Monday, volume 10, number 11 (November 2005)

Mathematical Games: White and brown music, fractal curves, and one-over-f fluctuations (PDF), Martin Gardner's 1978 Scientific American article on fractals in music.

Websites with applets

Fractals in Math, Nature, and African Design [12]

Diffusion Limited Aggregation [13]

Simple Cellular Automata intro [14]

Social Circles (Mailing List Social Network Maping Software) [15]

Examples of crowd sourcing

Crowdsourced hate speech database could spot early signs of genocide [16]

Track local plants and animals in your area [17]

Using crowds and fresh satellite imagery to find Steve Fossett [18]

Galaxy Zoo

The Funniest, The Fairest, and The Cutest all present user submitted images, having users vote on which of a given pair is funnier, prettier, or cuter. The Funniest is particularly interesting as the top images can follow trends (e.g. the "lolcats" fad). The Fairest is dominated by nature photos, and The Cutest has primarily baby animals. Note: some images on The Funniest may be "not safe for work" in typical Internet culture tradition.

ETC Group NanoHazard Symbol Competition (ended January 2007) [19] Winners of NanoHazard Symbol Competition [20]


Map of the Internet

The Sexual Network of a High School

Related project and course pages

GOLEM project at Brandeis - Virtual robots evolved by trying mutations on a given landscape to determine fitness. The most fit are then rapid prototyped in 3d. Project results page. Continuation of the Golem@Home portion of the project by Cornell.

W3Pal, a program attempting to map the Internet as a network.

breve Simulation Environment for "multi-agent systems and artificial life."

Network Theory and Social Complexity course with wiki/syllabus at University of California Irvine

Wiki Justice, Social Ergonomics, and Ethical Collaboration

Urban Tapestries: a research project and experimental software platform for knowledge mapping and sharing ("public authoring").

FoldIt Site which allows parallel protein folding by people. Analog computer (humans) vs digital computer differences.

Christian Fuchs[21] for a social/political connection using self-organizing techniques and viewpoints.

Video clips

segment from NOVA episode, "emergence" [22]

"boids" simulated flocking [23]

"boids" applet and other info [24]

Rodney Brooks discussing robots[25]

Ghengis, a robot created by Brooks [26]

Short presentation by Hod Lipson from Cornell about evolutionary robotics. Another video of one of his self-assembling robots.

Books (see also course syllabus)

Self-Organization, Networks, Emergence, Scaling

Kelly, Kevin. Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World. New York: Perseus, 1994. Full Text [27]

Eglash, Ron. African Fractals: Modern Computing And Indigenous Design. Rutgers University Press1999

Barabasi, Albert-Laszlo. Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means. Plume books 2003.

Rheingold, Howard. Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution. Basic Books 2003.

Alternative Economic Theories

Piore, Michael J. & Charles F. Sabel The Second Industrial Divide. Basic books 1984

Gibson-Graham, JK The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy . University of Minnesota Press 2006

Giddens, Anthony The Third Way: The Renewal of Social Democracy. Polity 1998

Smith, Philip and Eric Thurman A Billion Bootstraps: Microcredit, Barefoot Banking, and The Business Solution for Ending Poverty". McGraw-Hill 2007

Kelso, Louis O. & Mortumer J. Adler The Capitalist Manifesto Random House 1958. Full Text. [28]

Image Gallery

Fractals, Scaling & Tessellations

Playing Around



Santa Fe Institute [29]

Institute for Networked Culture [30]

Appalachian Center for Economic Networks [31]

Personal tools