From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Systems (Rated Start-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Systems, which collaborates on articles related to systems and systems science.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.
Taskforce icon
This article is not associated with a particular field. Fields are listed on the template page.

Initial comments[edit]

1. The following statements seem to me to be biased. They are not necessarily true:

"Heterarchy increasingly trumps hierarchy as complexity and rate of change increase. A heterarchical network could be used to describe neuron connections or democracy."

Indeed, it depends heavily on the circumstances, whether a heterarchy trumps over a hierarchy or the other way round. One could for instance imagine the task of spreading communication from one person to many other persons. In such a situation a strongly hierarchical system might easily be more efficient than a totally heterarchical one, because the number of possible communication paths is much lower in a hierarchy than in a heterarchy. A good example is the internet: IP-number resolution happens to be hierarchical rather than heterarchical. Peer-to-peer protocols (P2P) on the other hand are very interesting in terms of stability (nobody can ever really shut them down, once they started working), but as speed rates show, they are not very efficient in terms of exchanging data. Thus, many modern P2P-systems indeed use at least to a certain extent a mixture between hierarchical and heterarchical protocols, for instance by upgrading certain nodes to "supernodes".

Furthermore, modern democratic systems are far away from being heterarchical solely. Again, nearly every society has chosen a mixture between hierarchical and heterarchical elements. The president of the US, for example, has a lot more political power than a common citizen (--> hierarchy), but he has exactly the same amount of votes (namely a single one) in elections as everybody else (--> heterarchy) - (at least in theory... but this is another chapter and does not belong here). As everybody knows, who participates in any kind of "democratic group", a clear disadvantage of heterarchy is the long time it takes to come to a decision. (Which again, on the other hand, might also be an advantage, because everybody could participate in the process of finding the decision. This could, but does not necessarily have to as examples of decision theory show, increase the overall level of satisfaction.)

In common life, it is indeed seldom to encounter purely heterarchical or purely hierarchical systems, because they both have their advantages and disadvantages one over the other.

the concept.

I recommend taking these sentences out of the text.

2. This entry as indicatd as philosophy related isn't heterarchy more of a sociology realted term? Can this be recategorized? Being new to wikipedia I'll wait for someone to comment before I make a change to the categorization.

3. How amusing that someone should be arguing about the hierarchical placement of an article about heterarchy. :) I absolutely agree with comment #1 in that "A heterarchical network could be used to describe neuron connections or democracy" is rubbish. Neurons have different biological functions. Although the human brain is far from hierarchical, surgeons can cut out some parts with minimal side effects, while cutting away other parts can cause irreversible damage. The same goes for democracy. Certain parts are considered (although temporally) more important than others. Democratic states are more like dynamic (changing every few years) shallow (not many levels, but extremely wide) hierarchies. Obviously each level is in itself a heterarchy, but that can be said about all hierarchies.

4.I would argue against seeing heterarchical systems as subsytems within hierarchical ones. The exact opposite is far more likely. Time and research will ultimately suggest that all other systems of organization are subsequent to and components of heterarchical organizations.

Also, it is only at the micro scale (and among homogeneous elements) that all elements in the system "share common goals".. at a larger (and perhaps more relevent) scale, the diversity of goals (living organisms) or of constraints or trajectories (inanimate objects, physical systems) is a significant component of the overall actions of the system. Part of the power of heterarchical systems is their capability to fluidly reconcile diverse intentions or "goals".

Furthermore, while heterarchical systems are "horizontal", they are not evenly or equally so, neither are the indivual components within it restricted in their communication to adjacent components. In different systems, under different conditions, an individual component's volume of influence may be quite large, and tends to fade or diminish in potency as opposed to merely being cleanly cut off at a certain point. While it could be argued that every component in a heterarchical system has an equal potential for influencing or being influenced, it can not be simplified to saying "each element shares the same "horizontal" position of power and authority, each having an equal vote"... The truth of the matter is that at any given point in time, there will be elements within the system exercising more or less control than their peers. A simple analogy for this would be a blanket floating on a rolling sea. Though the blanket is "horizontal", it is not flat..

I think that since there is no accepted general definition of heterarchy, that we (whoever is interested in this subject) work towards developing a consentual general definition to lead off the thread. I'm sure that is what the first paragraph is already trying to do, but I don't agree with that particular definition, as I have pointed out above. And the 2nd and 3rd sentences should be separated from the definition itself. In any case, heterarchical systems are not merely a sociological idea, not philosophical/biological/whatever.. it's a condition of organization in reality that impacts every academic discipline and aspect of the universe. Hence the worthiness of striving for a "general" definition. And while perpetually refining and changing the definition on the article page is itself perhaps the most poetic or appropriate definition, it does less to further the discussion of a topic that is immensely important and significant, yet does not even appear in most dictionaries. So in the interest of discussion, I will post the general definition I have developed over the past few years here, and look forward to discussing and comparing it, side by side, to other general definitions.

--A heterarchical system is one in which multiple, dynamic, and potentially diverse subsystems control the actions of the overall system through simultaneous interaction.

Furthermore, how could it be said that "both a hierarchy and a heterarchy are systems in which multiple dynamic power structures govern the actions of the system"? The very nature of a hierarchy is to imbue a singular, fixed system with substantially more power than any other, giving the one the power to control and organize any other system or input. To make that sort of statement is contradictory to any concept of hierarchy, and it considerably confuses any attempt to define/understand heterarchy.

An additional note: I appreciate all that's been said here... very interesting discussion for consideration in better defining heterarchy. I'd like to suggest one more thought for consideration... While hierarchies were and are designed to "imbue a singular, fixed, system with more power than any other," the changing nature of an organization's environment (internal and external) can require (for the organization's continued health or survival) that a system become less fixed and that a more heterarchical approach be implemented to some degree or another (at least in certain parts of the organization). Thus, in spite of the intended purpose of a hierarchy, the desired outcome of providing more power and organizational ability does not always occur. Organizations or elements of an organization that survive and thrive (whether social or commercial or biological) typically adapt to and/or implement the method or combination, degree, and designated location for the application of methods which those elements or the organization as a whole ascertain will best sustain the organization or its parts based on the environmental aspects that are perceived to have the most lasting or the most impactful effect upon them.

Luminary2000 19:39, 27 December 2006 (UTC)luminary2000


from: pelasgian An orthographic note: hetaerarchy is the correct for heterarchy, because it derives from hetaeros and archy, i.e. partner and authority. Heteros in Greek means other, not partner which is hetaeros.

I guess that mispelling heterarchy came as an americanisation, such as gynecology instead of gynaecology, but while in the latter case it is plainly a typo indicative of substandard education outside the British Isles, in the case of heterarchy it ruins the meaning (or the joke if you prefer), but this is the least of your concerns.

Considering that hetaera was a courtesan participating in an ancient symposium, heteararchy means the political system where the hetaeres rule, which would be quite interesting, to a certain extend it already happened considering the level and quality of current international politics, but I doubt that this is what the writer had in mind.

So unless you want to see Greek people laughing with spasms on the floor when you mention such nonsense, may I offer to all these ambitious word makers a note of caution when making new words without being linguistically competent enough? I'd rather see Greek a dead language following latin, without being tortured beforehand.

Entirely honestly, the word hetaerarchy does not exist in Greek, but is a word that as a Greek I could live with; bemused and amused. However, the Holon, is not funny at all; it is an abomination, because this word actually exists in Greek, and it means the whole, actually the whole came from holon, which is a philosophical term.

Bastardising its meaning with petty theories of nothing, will create ambiguities that are not necessary, if not dangerous. It seems that some people in order to sound scientific and philosophical play, excuse me the expression, stupid games with words that sound cool, but this is neither science or even serious.

from: pelasgian _____________________________________ Actually, the "hetero" in "heterarchy" can also mean "different," (rather than "other") and that renders a more affirmative connection to the way the term is normally used. One way of describing a heterarchy is to say that it is a system in which more than one defining organization of priority or delineation operates, and the plural organizations have to be "different" in that they divide the system in orthoganal ways.

from: Blcarson —Preceding comment was added at 10:56, 3 March 2008 (UTC)


Examples would be helpful. Are the three forms of our government an illustration of a heterarchy-executive, legislative, judicial? or suppose to be a heterarchy? Lynchies (talk) 08:28, 2 November 2013 (UTC)lynchies

Source of Definition - Bondarenko[edit]

The source of Defintion is NOT Bondarenko but indeed Crumley - the Paper by Bondarenk says the following:

‘... the relation of elements to one another when they are unranked or when they possess the po-tential for being ranked in a number of different ways’ (Crumley 1995: 3)

1995. Heterarchy and the Analysis of Complex Societies. In Ehrenreich, Crumley, and Levy 1995: 1–5.

Ehrenreich, R. M., Crumley, C. L., and Levy, J. E. (eds.) 1995. Heterarchy and the Analysis of Complex Societies. Washington, DC: American Anthropological Association Press.

thus Bondarenk cited Crumely and the source should be corrected to refer to Crumley.

s. , (talk) 17:14, 13 December 2010 (UTC)

POV of this article - Ripe for deletion?[edit]

"Heterarchy" verges on being a WP:neologism. Also the article emphasises one individual while ignoring Warren St. McCulloch, alleged to have originated the term in this article [ Heterarchy and Hierarchy - Two Complementary Categories of Description Introduction by Eberhard von Goldammer]. A search also found other uses of equal or even greater merit. I don't feel like researching and updating this article, but I don't like seeing an article linked from panarchy that obviously is questionable. I think it's ripe for a discussion of deletion unless someone cleans it up. Carol Moore 15:29, 28 November 2008 (UTC)

Poor quality is not a reason for deletion. --Explodicle (T/C) 15:22, 16 June 2009 (UTC)

More helpful intro?[edit]

Could somebody edit the introduction to make it a bit more informative. I nearly majored in anthropology (some while ago now!), but I have only a faint idea what might be meant by "replete with overlap, multiplicity, mixed ascendancy, and/or divergent-but-coexistent patterns of relation." And that's in the first sentence!

The Wikipedia Manual of Style suggests that a lead section should be able to stand alone "as a concise version of the article," that its accessibility "is even more important ... than for the rest of the article," and in particular, that "specialized terminology ... should be avoided." The present version meets none of these criteria.—PaulTanenbaum (talk) 01:20, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

This page's problems[edit]

LETS CLEAN THIS UP OR COME TO SOME AGREEMENT SO THE PAGE INTRODUCTION IS NOT ONE THAT TELLS THE VIEWER that the page is not ready for viewing, citing, referencing, and so on........... — Preceding unsigned comment added by Yperson (talkcontribs) 03:32, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

I don't know where the taxonomic comments came from, but it is accurate example so I cleaned it up. Rich ARnold (Y Person) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Yperson (talkcontribs) 03:05, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

I'd love to see the page cleaned up. But I'm not the one to do it because I first came to the page in the hopes of learning about heterarchies and was one of those viewers who discovered that the page is not ready for viewing. I know a fair bit about what makes for good Wikipedia articles, but I know next to nothing about the topic of heterarchy.—PaulTanenbaum (talk) 04:34, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

Well I will Keep working on keep criticising my clean up work and maybe we can get a good page here. How do you upload pictures....what are the rules about pictures? (talk) 15:55, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

Hey, if it's grousing you want, that's one of my greatest strengths :-) The intro is certainly better now. I do still have a concern, but before I go to that, lemme acknowledge the difficulties here: there doesn't seem to be any single, agreed definition to put into this article. Having said that, my remaining heartburn with the intro is that it feels like this:
A dog is a creature that wags its tail. Some dogs are domesticated and live highly effectively with humans. But ethologists point out that other dogs are in fact wolves.
where it ought to feel more like
A dog is a highly social predatory mammal of the genus Canis.
What I mean by that is that the intro provides an assortment of properties of heterarchies, so it's a partial description, where what is called for is a definition (even if only a loose or fuzzy one). Keep pluggin along!—PaulTanenbaum (talk) 02:38, 21 October 2011 (UTC)


Would you please stop deleting the {{confusing}} tag. Its purpose is not to wave off any potential readers, although it does at least forewarn them to be on their toes. Its presence flags the page to bring it to the attention of other Wikipedians, to invite them to join in working on the page to resolve its current flaws. Whether there exists one person (you) who does not find the page confusing is irrelevant. So long as it confuses at least one moderately well educated person (it does confuse me, and I fancy myself moderately well educated), then there's the risk that it will confuse others, too. And that is grounds to think it a good idea to invite other Wikipedians to pitch in. That's why the {{confusing}} tag is there, and that's why it should stay until the article is better.
Just a sampling of confusing features
-The first paragraph is still loosey-goosey. Since my dog example didn't seem to speak to you, I'll try another. The first paragraph feels like this:
A house is a structure, which Edgar Guest wrote "takes a heap o' lovin'" to make a home. For U.S. congressmen, it is their place of employment, but those who study monarchies use house when discussing dynasties.
-The article is peppered with sloppiness. Continuing to focus only on the first paragraph, we encounter "organiz ation" and "e xample."
-A sentence or two later reads thus: "In the discipline of Biology, the essential features of [something or other] offers significant insight." Leaving aside the incorrect grammar ("features offers"), please understand that whether something offers insight is not an observation that belongs in the first paragraph of a Wikipedia article. Even more out of place is the next sentence, "Horizontal genetic inheritance is readily observed in the evolution of mircroorganisms such as bacteria." Please see the Wikipedia Manual of Style.
-The second paragraph begins with the assertion that "[t]he concept of heterarchy (HT) as a descriptive label..." Please note that concepts are not labels. The word heterarchy is not a concept, but instead the name of a concept. So the word is eligible to serve as a descriptive label. But the concept of heterarchy cannot itself be a label. If you think it can, then please lend me your car and promise to be content when instead of returning it to you I return a photograph of it. You may believe that the distinction I'm focusing on here is a quibble, but articles should not lay such traps for their readers justified only on the grounds that their authors see no problem. That sort of approach earns an article the {{confusing}} tag.
-The next sentence quotes Crumley as having written these words:
"examined alternative cognitive structure(s), the collective organization of which he termed heterarchy. [Balance of the direct quote of Crumley deleted]"
Who, pray tell, is the he whom Crumley credits with having termed something heterarchy?
I don't enjoy raising all of these objections. Good practice for Wikipedia editors is to prefer actually editing the articles and thus resolving their problems. But the article is so muddled that I really don't feel confident that any improvements I could make in the interest of clarification would result in clearly expressing correct ideas rather than clearly expressing improperly understood ones.—PaulTanenbaum (talk) 14:05, 23 October 2011 (UTC)

Jeez, here's one more: "Examples of heterarchical can be found in the transitive works of French social critics." Really, examples of heterarchical? And what does it mean to describe the work of French social critics as "transitive"? Perhaps something like this...

deterritorialization is more obscure than rhizome, and
rhizome is more obscure than body without organs, so
deterritorialization is more obscure than body without organs?

Hey, I'm sorry to have to tell you, but this page is confusing.

I've just realized that perhaps English is not your first language? I certainly would not wish to insult those endeavoring to express themselves in a second language, so please do not take my observations about the article to heart.—PaulTanenbaum (talk) 14:15, 23 October 2011 (UTC)

Most of your comments are written about stuff that I never put on the page. I have tried cleaning that stuff up. The French critics, I didn't add that to the page I just added that they were French social critics so that someone would know who they were. Heterarchy, maybe so defined that it will require further reading beyond this page for someone to really integrate this into thier thinking. And yes concepts can be used as labels. "It is conceptually descriptive......" This was the word he chose to use to describe the processes that he was seeing. Concepts like any other word has connotative, dennotative meanings and can take different forms and positions. While you reference a Wikipedia page in relation to concepts not be labels.....I would like to say there is no final authority on this matter which is why I reference, or provide so many references to offsite sources. I am no final authority either on this subject. And many of the sections will require others to contribute. In discussing process and subject integrity, if all the reference on a specific page overly rely on references to other Wikipedia pages that is like a researcher citing themself instead of citing other relevant material. Thanks for the comments.

Some progress[edit]

Hey, Yperson, The first few sentences were finally unconfusing enough that I dared to edit them for clarity. On another point, are you responsible for the biology example in (now) paragraph 2, the one discussing "the Taxonomic Hierarchy" [sic]? If so, what is meant by "ranks beings according to their ascendant/descendant linear relation to one another"? That reads more like genealogy than taxonomy.—PaulTanenbaum (talk) 19:42, 23 October 2011 (UTC)

Yes I am responsible for those words, though I am probably not the only one to make this comparison. So Paul exlpain to me the difference between asendant/descendant geneology classification schemes and generalization/specification: supertype/subtype classification schemes. Both are hierarchical in their ordering what exactly is the differential function or outstanding fearture that makes them different? You have really made me do some thinking so now your turn. Thanks for the comments. (R.K. Arnold) 21:10, 23 October 2011 (UTC) I have a lot on the table right now so probably going to have to take a week or two break from any serious editing on this page. Enjoying the dialogue. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Yperson (talkcontribs)

Well... looked at abstractly, they are both partial orders, but connotationally they are quite distinct. Taxonomy is typically understood to refer to things like phylogenetics, the whole Linnaean thing, which does indeed trade in superclasses and subclasses (e.g., kingdoms, orders, genera, species). In contrast, genealogy deals with relationships of individuals. The two partial orders are subset-of (among sets of organisms) and descendant-of (among organisms).—PaulTanenbaum (talk) 23:31, 23 October 2011 (UTC)

RfC: Is this article unclear?[edit]

I'm concerned that this article needs a lot of help before the general reader can find it useful, let alone clear. Another editor seems to disagree, or anyway fears that tagging it as unclear will scare readers away or something. I'm trying to avoid a revert war.—PaulTanenbaum (talk) 16:00, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

Paul I only hit the unclear option to get your attention.....had not heard from you in a while...there is no editing war here....not on my behalf.....I am not qualified to speak to the other areas of interest on the page but set them up for other contributors....but I do think it is unclear enough to remove the is cross referenced with hiearchy and other wikipedia pages....and this page provides ample sources for people to do additional research.....its an encylopedia page not a thesis....but for the most part I am not going to conribute any more to the page it needs other contributors......Thanks Paul for all the input these past few months.....--(R.K. Arnold) 01:01, 14 November 2011 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Yperson (talkcontribs)

Paul to the External Links I added Google Scholar Search as an in page aid to help with the references.....Oh and yes Paul this is the first major editing, contribution to Wikipedia I have attempted....many minor edits to other pages....thanks again......--(R.K. Arnold) 01:04, 14 November 2011 (UTC)

  • Unclear and poorly written. This article is both unclear, and not written to the standard we use at wikipedia. The first sentence does not define the phrase. Argumentative turns of phrase, like "Consider for a moment, the discipline of biology," which leads the second paragraph, are abundant. I suggest that editors here need wider experience with Wikipedia. This article should be reverted to the version before Yperson edited it - namely, [1]. Hipocrite (talk) 20:35, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
  • Yes, but the way to fix this is good old-fashioned editing, rather than an RfC. Take a look at WP:DEV for starters, if you haven't read it already. — Mr. Stradivarius 08:07, 9 December 2011 (UTC)

Given that this article is wider than about biological and organisational hierarchies, can I suggest a Plain English introduction (followed any more formal, technical or specialist definitions under separate headings)? I'm thinking along the lines of: "A Heterarchy is a network of inter-related classifications. Unlike a hierarchy, no classification is more important than another, and the classification is defined by its relationship to other sets of information. For example: Colour and Size of clothes; peer-to-peer contact networks within an organisation." MaryEFreeman (talk) 15:25, 18 January 2013 (UTC)