How System Attributes Influence System Function

While at CRASSH I will be conducting research into how a system’s attributes influence its capacity to function under uncertain operating conditions. These systems can be of many different kinds, including technical systems (e.g. machines and software), biological systems (e.g. organisms and ecologies) and social systems (e.g. institutions and regulations). These system types can also be combined into hybrid systems, including socio-technical systems (e.g. airports, cities and power systems). All these system types operate under uncertain conditions, whether that uncertainty relates to the environment in which the system must function, the state of the system itself or the demands that are placed upon it. Across different types of system, there are recurring system attributes that can be observed to influence a system’s capacity to function under uncertain operating conditions. These attributes are often described by terms such as ‘modularity’, ‘redundancy’, ‘scalability’, ‘robustness’, and so on. I will be working to identify, define and classify such system attributes, and explore how they apply to different system types and different kinds of uncertainty.


Dr Nathan Crilly is Crausaz Wordsworth Interdisciplinary Fellow in Philosophy, Lent 2014.

He is a Lecturer in Engineering Design at the University of Cambridge. Nathan’s research interests are in the areas of design, creativity and communication. He employs an interdisciplinary approach to studying designed products and systems. In particular, he studies how these artefacts are developed, the properties they exhibit and the ways in which users respond to them. The outputs from such work have been published in leading interdisciplinary design journals, especially Design Studies, but also Design Issues, International Journal of Design and other more specialised outlets.


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