In his tremendous book, “Architecture of the Jumping Universe”, Charles Jencks brings forth the concept of “Organizational Depth” as a Postmodern measure of beauty and internal coherence.
“Organizational depth can be seen all around us, in everything we love and look after; but to picture it abstractly we can make use of models developed from network theory. To imagine this, conceive for a moment of a work of art being like an organism with a series of subsystems nested within its overall structure. The linkage of these nested hierarchies, the connections between them, reveal one dimension of how highly organized is the organism.
The architectural theorist from Berkeley, Christopher Alexander, has contrasted two different types of organization: the ‘semi-lattice’ and the ‘tree’ – the former dense with internal connections, the latter poor in linkage.
Here we have the visual and mathematical analogue of Coleridge’s distinction between the synergetic Imagination and the additive Fancy. It is apparent that the great poem or work of architecture forms a tight web of meaning which resists unsympathetic criticism, one-liners, and misunderstandings just as it opens the mind to new interpretation and use. The open work – the opera aperta of Umberto Eco – is for the open society and its continual transformation and unfolding.
Organisational depth is one measure of this openness.
It is interesting that similar models, or images, have recently been offered as the key to critical value: the lattice, network, labyrinth, and rhizome have become the key images of Post-Modernism, from Umberto Eco’s novels to neurobiologists’ natural nets.
EM Forster’s injunction, “Connect, only connect!” leads to organizational depth, as long as you do not overconnect (which, once again, leads to complication.)
Organizational depth, like complexity, depends on the amount and linkage of material. “More is different.” The number of meanings (M) and links between them (L) are thus a rough measure of organisational depth.
Obviously, a simple ‘tree’ hierarchy has few links but, surprisingly, a structure where everything is linked is also too simple. Both can be described by short algorithms. Thus, between them, the richly connected semi-lattice is highest in organizational depth.”