InterJournal Complex Systems, 405
Status: Accepted
Manuscript Number: [405]
Submission Date: 529
Multiple timescales and semiotics in complex ecosocial systems
Author(s): Jay Lemke

Subject(s): CX.08, CX.12, CX.13, CX.14, CX.43

Category: Report


Multiple levels of organization are common in complex systems and are usually associated with extensional scales of mass, energy, and spatial extent of units and unit-processes. Time- and rate-scaling may more directly ground the relative autonomy of levels because of adiabatic barriers to energy- and information- transfer across levels and may also apply more transparently even when the spatial connectivity of systems is branching or laminar rather than compact. The informational relations among levels suggest an analysis of emergent organization in terms of triples of levels with the emergent levelís timescale intermediate between those of two pre-existing prior levels. It is possible to reinterpret inter-level relations of constituency (N-1, N) and constraint (N, N+1) in such triples in terms of semiotic relationships among objects, signs, and systems which interpret signs. Such an analysis suggests that very often emergent levels of organization function semiotically to reorganize continuous variation (categorial difference) on the level below as categorial (continuously variable) information for the level above. Moreover these two possibilities may strictly alternate across many triples of levels in the biological hierarchy. Efforts to extend this model to ecological systems in which human cultural meaning plays a materially determinative role (ecosocial systems) encounter a potentially significant set of phenomena which by-pass the normal adiabatic de-coupling of processes on radically different timescales, allowing them to become interdependent and requiring ecosocial processes to be described as mixing timescales (heterochrony). Heterochrony may be an important perspective for analyzing the couplings among changing/developing institutions, environments, and individuals.

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