What is Complexity, Depth and Versatility?


Complexity, Depth and Versatility

 How to design thoughtful, clever systems that people interact with is an often a contentious topic. “You must do it this way” or “This way is inherently better” without a foundation of reasoning, is a common problem. Here are my two cents on some terminology associated with design sandbox systems.

Complexity: The Inherent difficulty or lack of difficulty that arises from the or to use an object. A Fork is not a complex object since it is intuitive to use, however a car- to the untrained- is a complex beast with may systems to interact with. The individual systems that make up are a car are not: The Steering wheel moves with the way you turn it; Pressing your foot on one pedals make it go faster, one makes it slow done. However, to achieve function use out of an object requires knowledge of all the varying overlap that all of them have. The Accelerator and the Clutch interact in a specific fashion that is not obvious at first, however can be used to emergency stop that car as well as make the car change gear to achieve better efficiency of the car.

Depth: The amount of use an object can have in its current form. A spoon is an object that has a lot of depth. It could (hypothetically) be used to dig a whole; to drink soup; to stir something; to cut up soft food; to pry open something; use it as a pseudo screw driver or to (not very effectively) hit someone. The amount of thing that this spoon can do in its current form is very broad- so it has a lot of depth.

Versatility: The number of Things you can change an object into, to serve another purpose. A sheet of metal is very versatile, as it can be formed into other object of a higher use. It could be: Formed into a roof, into the sides of a car, formed to make a tool such as a knife; used to make a pot; tiles in a kitchen; extruded into a covering for food. The sheet metal has a lot of versatile use, however in its current form, not much depth does arise.

Extended examples

A sheet of metal has a hugely versatile, has extremely low complexity, however has very little depth in its current form. From this, we can draw that an object’s versatility, depth and complexity are not inherently dependant. In a lot of cases, one does arise from another and is permanently linked. For example, a Computer is both complex and has a lot depth- it can be program to perform a myriad of tasks but requires knowledge and awareness to do so. A car is complex (in some ways), however has little depth and lacks much flexibility to change form and use.



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