Professor Klaus Krippendorff was honored by the World Complexity Science Academy during their September 26-27, 2011 conference at the Università di Palermo, Italy, receiving their medal for outstanding contributions to systems research.
Krippendorff’s acceptance speech was titled “Shifting epistemology from complexity to reflexivity.” In this talk, he proposed a solution to the well recognized failure of the natural sciences to cope with very complex socio/economic/technological systems. Recognizing that the large systems that this Academy was considering, their complexity and policies, do not exist without the language describing them both as outside researchers and inside participants, he suggested that their language be included in accounts of such systems. This, he argued, requires the academic community to embrace reflexivity, the possibility that theories affect themselves and become constitutive parts of the phenomena to be understood. Just as human communication theories need to apply to their theorists and theories of social organizations must be recognizable in the practices of its members, so should theories of social systems be considered part of the social practices they attempt to theorize.