One reason for my interest in complex systems is my field of interest for teaching and research: environmental law with a focus on ecosystem management governance, ecosystem services, and the specific resource issues of endangered species and wetlands. The challenge here is to use one complex system (law) to manage how another complex system (the economy) treats another complex system (the environment). Good luck to us!
Ruhl wonders about 21st century environmentalist politics:
[W]hat is the general take on the question of how environmentalism and democratic values are playing out in the U.S in the opening decade of the 21st century?
Comes now Michael Geist, surveying contemporary parallels between environmental politics in Canada and copyright politics in Canada and elsewhere around the world:
The emergence of the environment as a mainstream political issue is worth noting because today there is another issue that shows similar signs of moving from the periphery to the mainstream – copyright.
Michael clearly and quite deliberately does not include the U.S. in his review of countries where nascent consumer movements in the copyright context have found a footing. So his piece invites asking a version of J.B. Ruhl’s question:
What is the general take on the question of how democratic values and consumer interests in copyright and are playing out in the U.S in the opening decade of the 21st century?
Gigi Sohn = Rachel Carson + (whoever founded Common Cause)!
I have to say, though, it’s hard to raise the salience of these issues. But the environmental analogy is very apt, because, as Boyle as written, it’s a matter of getting people from many different ideological angles to see common problems (like red hunters and blue hikers sharing a common love for a pond).
It is precisely the dynamic of one or more complex systems “managing” each other that has drawn me into taking the “cultural environmentalism” metaphor seriously–beyond metaphor, in a sense. The political movement is one important aspect of “cultural environmentalism,” but unpacking the metaphor, say be developing a descriptive account of the cultural-intellectual environment as a complex resource system “managed” by a complex system (of law, norms, etc.) as well as a normative account of the values at stake in various individual and collective decisions we make, might be quite useful and interesting. Heck, I think it would be; that’s why I’m working on it! More to come in my forthcoming book review: Cultural Environmentalism as a Lens to (Re)view The Wealth of Networks. (Perhaps a more catchy title would be Boyle, Benkler, and Beyond.) Of course, this also connects nicely with the IP Pooling project that Joe, Mike and I are working on. I’ll post something about that soon.
Ahh, the language of complex systems “managing” each other reminds me of Niklass Luhmann’s work in systems theory. That theory is a sort of normatively-deflated version of Walzer’s Spheres of Justice–Luhmann tends to think of different social systems trying to force others to translate their demands into the influenced system’s terms. (for example, a political system’s efforts to manage the economy may inevitably need to be translated into monetary terms). Like Becker in econ, or sociobiologists, Luhmann pushes the envelope in social theory, even writing a work on love and romance in these terms.
Well, I’m not explaining it well here, but I hope to look into Luhmann in order to better respond to some great extant work on complex adaptive systems by Crawford (in our area) and Ruhl. Here’s a list from Ruhl: