Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Types of systems

Evidently, there are many types of systems that can be analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively. For example, with an analysis of urban systems dynamics, [A.W. Steiss] [5] defines five intersecting systems, including the physical subsystem and behavioral system. For sociological models influenced by systems theory, where Kenneth D. Bailey [6] defines systems in terms of conceptual, concrete and abstract systems; either isolated, closed, or open, Walter F. Buckley [7] defines social systems in sociology in terms of mechanical, organic, and process models. Bela H. Banathy [8] cautions that with any inquiry into a system that understanding the type of system is crucial and defines Natural and Designed systems.

In offering these more global definitions, the author maintains that it is important not to confuse one for the other. The theorist explains that natural systems include sub-atomic systems, living systems, the solar system, the galactic system and the Universe. Designed systems are our creations, our physical structures, hybrid systems which include natural and designed systems, and our conceptual knowledge. The human element of organization and activities are emphasized with their relevant abstract systems and representations. A key consideration in making distinctions among various types of systems is to determine how much freedom the system has to select purpose, goals, methods, tools, etc. and how widely is the freedom to select itself distributed (or concentrated) in the system.

George J. Klir [9] maintains that no "classification is complete and perfect for all purposes," and defines systems in terms of abstract, real, and conceptual physical systems, bounded and unbounded systems, discrete to continuous, pulse to hybrid systems, et cetera. The interaction between systems and their environments are categorized in terms of relatively closed, and open systems. It seems most unlikely that an absolutely closed system can exist or, if it did, that it could be known by us. Important distinctions have also been made between hard and soft systems.[10] Hard systems are associated with areas such as systems engineering, operations research and quantitative systems analysis. Soft systems are commonly associated with concepts developed by Peter Checkland and Brian Wilson through Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) involving methods such as action research and emphasizing participatory designs. Where hard systems might be identified as more "scientific," the distinction between them is actually often hard to define.

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