Computational and Mathematical Approaches to Societal Transitions

26 February - 2 March 2007

Venue: Lorentz Center@Oort

If you are invited or already registered for this workshop, you have received login details by email.

Organization team:

DRIFT (Dutch Research Institute for Transitions)

J. de Haan, J. Timmermans, M. Schilperoord (general organisation)

H. te Riele (master of ceremony)


J. de Boer (artistic and organisational support)


N. Frantzeskaki (additional organisation)

Transitions are long-term, large-scale processes of societal change. Transitions change the way societal systems work. During transitions both the physical and non-physical structures are changed as well as people that are part of it. In the past we have experienced several transitions that changed the lives of many. For example the communication revolution of the nineties, of which we only start to realise the impact and the explosion of mobility that visibly changed the way we lived and the world we live in. These phenomena have in common that they encompassed change in many ways, infrastructure, culture, legislation, and mindset to name a few. They also share a high degree of unpredictability and non-linearity in their dynamics. As these processes both result from and have effect upon the actions of people, transitions are vital in resolving wicked problems confronting global society. Transitions need not only to be studied as phenomena in themselves, but also as processes of change we would like to push in the right direction.

The workshop focuses on the modelling –computational, conceptual or mathematical– of societal processes that are part of transitions. The task is to translate societal phenomena into research questions that can be tackled with exact methods. During the workshop the focus shifts from identifying and describing the questions and methods towards elaborating the models that are drawn from them. This requires a special kind of participant, ones that are trained in exact methods, interested in societal phenomena and willing to step beyond the boundaries of their training or discipline.

Possible participants could have a background in:

Mathematics, computer science, theoretical physics, biology, econometrics or sociology

These participants are interested to apply their expertise to new questions, areas of expertise such as:

System dynamics, evolutionary computation, evolutionary algorithms, agent-based computer models, nonlinear dynamics, complex systems, dynamical systems, statistical methods, data-analysis, self-organising systems, complex adaptive systems, economics, econometrics, evolutionary economy, far-from-equilibrium thermodynamics

The methods used to address the questions identified during the workshop, however, are not fixed. In fact, one of the goals is to identify more methods to gain insight in the dynamics of transitions. The workshop is driven by the questions, not by the solutions.

This workshop is organized by the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT), member and chair of the Knowledge Network for System Innovations and Transitions (KSI), to advance the emerging field of Transition Science in mathematical and computational directions. The workshop aims to gather scientist rooted in computational and mathematical approaches with a strong urge to apply these methods to ‘the social’. We aim to investigate and develop computational and mathematical approaches to modeling societal transitions and supply participants with an inspiring and relevant research interest and the people to share it with. The workshop will be an unorthodox scientific experience for the participants. Audiovisuals, music, objects and art provide a kaleidoscope to engage the participants in to transition thinking and contribute to the new and exciting area of research that is Transition Science.


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