Complex Systems in Sport Research Group - Emerging group 2014 SGR 975


Dear visitor, welcome to the SUMA (Synthetic Understanding via Movement Analogies) learning platform

The modern education from its initiation has been fragmented. Long before the onset of post-modern movement in the 1960es, during and after the period of Enlightenment, various education systems lend themselves to immersing young generations within fragmented narratives told by different academic subjects. Today the situation is not different.

Fragmented scientific understanding seems to be caused dominantly by existence of emergent levels of substance organization whose key properties cannot be formally, i.e., mathematically, deduced from the laws that govern the behavior of the more microscopic components. Therefore, each level is endowed with specific and novel structures and properties which need a specific language to explain them. These languages, thus, use context-dependent concepts to name and explain the processes under scrutiny. Context dependence is viewed essentially as a major cause of the fragmentation between the vocabularies of different scientific disciplines. That is, while within specific scientific fields and subfields the communication of knowledge is made possible by a common vocabulary, the more distant disciplines are, the more difficult communication becomes. As this language fragmentation is also translated into science education, this inevitably leads to the formation of a fragmented worldview in learners and limits the possibilities of a learning transfer between different scientific subjects.

In his UN manifesto ‘Seven complex lessons in education for the future’, Edgar Morin made a plea for an integrated approach in education. In his view, the contemporary education, based on a fragmented structure of topics, limits reasoning and critical thinking in students, contributing little to the development of the integrative competencies and knowledge considered essential in modern society. The main issue, then, becomes how to integrate and reduce the barriers within and between widely different areas as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and Humanities, which is not achieved by various forms of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches.

We think that the tension arising from the coexistence of context-dependent and unifying tendencies in science can be seen as an opportunity rather than a problem: resolving it may result in explanatory patterns that are characterized by both a coherent explanatory skeleton coming from unifying tendencies and flexibility due to its context-dependent vocabulary. Some preliminary project results and general considerations on this topic can be found here.

In this learning platform we offer one possible strategy of creating a base for a synthetic understanding of processes in nature, society and arts. We base the  integration on teaching common concepts and principles of various dynamical systems. Moreover, we put physical activities, in a form of movement analogies, as a pivot in forming the content of such an integrative education through formation of an embodied and experientially grounded understanding.  Similar to the human knowledge growth this platform is a project in development. We hope it will grow and change bringing new and improving the old contents. We also hope that it will be a helpful tool for teachers, educators and students in their permanent striving to integrate their visions of the world.

Bellow, you will find links to the general concepts that provide integrating tendencies in formation of synthetic understanding.  Each of those links further enables links to phenomena at different level of Nature’s organization (we consider Society as an emergent state of Nature). Examples using movement analogies will be given in each of these links. We are fully aware that this initial stage suffers many imperfections. We are also aware that that is a typical property of any beginning.

General Concepts

Attractor-Repeller informs about the final state of the system. In a sense attractor is a state, shape, configuration, towards which the system is destined to evolve. Repeller is a state from which the system tends to escape and moves toward the attractor.

Context dependence informs about the conditions within which the system evolves or persists….component’s properties, coupling (strength and type) depends on components properties, environment… control parameters

Energy  informs about the system’s state of motion or about the ability/capacity to put the system into motion.

Entropy-Information informs about the breadth and availability of possible states to the system.

Fields (scalar-vector) informs about the state and interactions within the system or between the system and the environment (locality – nearest neighbour interaction)

Fluctuations – Perturbations inform about the unpredictable disturbances and stability of system’s states and the spatio-temporal interactions within the system;

Gradients inform about the strength of  forces and flows between two states within the system;

Interactions/couplings inform about relations between the system’s components. The interactions can create collective states (of n ≥ 2 components) that form the system; Short range-Long range interactions.

Networks inform on how interactions are structured between system components;

Phase transition/Bifurcation/ Critical point informs about the qualitative changes (change of functional dependence between the behavior and the context) within the system

Self-Organization/Self-Assembly/Soft-Assembly  informs about the capacity of the system’s components to form organized patterns  within some context without the patterns being explicitelly imposed by and external agency.(positive feedback)

Space-time scales  Informs about the order of magntude of the spatial and temporal properties of the system’s behavior. The minimum physically sensible spatial scale is of the order of 10-35meters. In similar vein the minimal time scale is of the order of 10-43 seconds. On the other hand the currently maximal spatial extent is of the order of 1027 meters and the current time extent is of the order of 1017 seconds, the spatio-temporal extent of the observable Universe. This is a vast extent between what we call micro and macro spatial and time scales. Human beings with the spatial extent of their bodies of the order of 1meter and life span of the order of 109 seconds (tens of years) lies in between these extremes…

Stability-Instability-Metastability (State transitions) = inform about the propensity of the system to return to the previous state (negative feedback) or to attain the new one or switch from one to another state sequentially;

State/Collective/Reaction-coordinates-modes-variables-Order-parameters  inform about how the system is collectively ordered (n ≥ 2 components –it is a relational variable);

Symmetry-Symmetry breaking (rearangement) informs about the state, emergence or the chage of the ordered behavior of the system


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