Handbook of Research Methods in Complexity Science
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Handbook of Research Methods in Complexity Science

Theory and Applications

Edited by Eve Mitleton-Kelly, Alexandros Paraskevas and Christopher Day

This comprehensive Handbook is aimed at both academic researchers and practitioners in the field of complexity science. The book’s 26 chapters, specially written by leading experts, provide in-depth coverage of research methods based on the sciences of complexity. The research methods presented are illustratively applied to practical cases and are readily accessible to researchers and decision makers alike.
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Chapter 22: Complex analogy and modular exaptation: some definitional clarifications

Professor Pierpaolo Andriani and Professor Giuseppe Carignani


This chapter discusses the complex analogy between biological evolution and technological innovation, focusing in particular on the novel construct modular exaptation. After carefully defining exaptation – a biological concept whose technological analogue is useful in innovation studies – the chapter explores its epistemological bases, arguing that the etiological concept of function – a biological tenet – is valid also in the technological domain. The complex analogy extends to biological and technological functional modules, providing the main building block on which modular exaptation can be founded. Establishing a complex analogy enables the description of the two domains via the same relational structure. In turns this allows the transferability of knowledge from the base domain to the target domain, and vice-versa. The complex analogy can therefore be considered a methodological tool for understanding complex systems in general and technological innovation in particular, as discussed in the final section of the chapter.

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