Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dynamics of Social Systems

It's been a while since I've blogged. That's not for lack of ideas but for lack of time. There are a few ideas I'd like to get out, and this one has been on my mind for quite a while.

Years ago, when I was an engineering and math major at Rice University, I had Dr. C. Sidney Burrus for a very good course on circuit design. I also met Dr. Howard Resnikoff, reputedly a very good math professor, because he was an associate of my residential college (or so I recall).

Several years later, I discovered that the math and control theory I had studied at the university could also be applied to social and organizational problems. That field is called system dynamics, and it's what I'm teaching right now.

Within the last couple of years, I discovered Dynamics of Social Systems on Rice's Connexions. It's the material for a course they taught together that expresses some of the fundamentals of system dynamics in a somewhat more rigorous fashion than I've seen elsewhere. I like both their development of the material and their development of phase plane techniques.

If you take a look, recognize that this appears to be early course materials for a first-time course. It could have been developed into a book, but there seems to be an opportunity to finish the editing in places.

Still, I think many of you will find it worthwhile checking out. It might help those of you who know system dynamics see things from a slightly different perspective, and it might help some of you who have wondered what the fuss is all about to catch on.

While you're there, check out Connexions. If you want to learn something, you might find a free course there to help you out. If you are an educator and want to share your insights with others, it might serve as a good platform.

Incidentally, as you can see, both professors went on to develop serious reputations in their fields, but I haven't found evidence of either publishing more on system dynamics.

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