Models that belong to the realm of complexity studies turn very insightful when addressing societal and technological transitions. The very idea of transition finds direct counterparts in a number of phenomena in natural sciences, the most notable one being phase transitions. Complexity approaches to socio-economic systems have mostly involved financial markets. Here we claim that technological change is another promising field for complexity theories, and that technological transitions in particular have a large potential of new insights that complexity thinking can offer. In this paper we review a number of concepts and modelling approaches that we believe are particularly interesting in attacking technological transitions.
We have presented a number of models and theoretical frameworks that we believe are meaningful approaches to the complexity of technological and societal transitions. The main idea underlying this presentation is to think of transitions as events showing a “big change” with respect to the “regular” dynamics before and after the transition. Such big change may have different connotations, as phase transitions or critical mass, for instance. But in all cases, the intimate nature of the process is “complex”, because the transition dynamics shows characteristics that are unknown to the system without transition.