The character of something which is related to, or pertinent, in relation with an investigated issue.
Elements, events, environment are considered relevant for a system if, at least in some cases and sometimes, they exert an influence on its behavior.
Of course, criteria of relevance are defined by the observer and his/her specific viewpoint. They are thus never absolute and, in many cases, may even be illusory.
From a systemic viewpoint, we could tentatively distinguish:
Underconceptualized relevance: Relevance is considered only from a very narrow viewpoint by an individual or a small group merely interested in an ill-understood and/or ill-conceived circumstancial and very limited issue. In most cases no serious research is done, or taken into account. In some, serious (or spurious) research may even be used as an ad-hoc tool to further some dubious objective.
This type of viewpoints is very common in day-to-day politics.
Broad relevance: Relevance is considered in a long term and wide embracing perspective. This supposes a clear definition and a broad inquiry about the system considered and also of the motives, expectations and goals of all the stakeholders. However, research excessive in scope and in time may lead to procrastination.
In big issues, as for example great public works, the limits of relevance should be clearly defined, justified and explained.
Overconceptualized relevance: Relevance is considered in such a vast space and time perspective that it becomes… irrelevant for any practical purpose.
In such cases, red-hot issues may remain unattended while spurious research and abstract debates linger unconclusively on.
A good understanding of systems and their conditions of existence and survival is instrumental in defining criteria of relevance at any level.
On the contrary, the lack of appreciation of the relevance of some events or elements for a given system leads to unwarranted simplifications and, at times, very costly errors.
- 1) General information
- 2) Methodology or model
- 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
- 4) Human sciences
- 5) Discipline oriented
To cite this page, please use the following information:
Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]
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