Hierarchy can be [1 p. 83]:

  • order hierarchies - ranking on some criteria;
  • inclusion hierarchies - "Chinese boxes" aggregations;
  • control hierarchies - who gives orders to whom; and
  • level hierarchies - ontological organisation, in which entities exist at different levels.

perhaps also classification hierarchies.

Complex entities are composed of inclusion hierarchies that are nearly-decomposable [1 p.86]. These components are loosly coupled bith vertically and horizontally. Processes at different levels have different time scales.

A key concept in nearly decomposable systems is that of the ''small world'' [2]. This means most nodes are only connected to a small community (where everyone knows each other) but a small number of nodes are connections between these communities.

Where the connections per node follow a Pareto [power] law, these are called 'scale free' networks [1 p. 227].

Latour (see Actor-network Theory) rejects level hierarchy [1 p. 107]. However, ANT uses Punctualisation, which is an inclusion hierarchical concept, so care must be taken with considerations of hierarchy.

1. Pumain, D. 2006, Hierarchy in Natural and Social Sciences, Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
2. Watts, D.J. & Strogatz, S.H. 1998, 'Collective dynamics of ‘small-world’ networks', Nature, vol. 393, no. 6684, p. 440.
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