Faculty Research at Morehead State University


Chaos Theory and Emergent Behavior in the West Virginia Water Crisis

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Chaos theory holds that systems act in unpredictable, nonlinear ways and that their behavior can only be observed, never predicted. This is an informative model for an organization in crisis. The West Virginia water contamination crisis, which began on January 9, 2014, fits the criteria of a system in chaos. This study employs a close case study method to examine this case through the lens of chaos theory and its tenets: sensitivity to initial conditions, bifurcation, fractals, strange attractors, and self-organization. In particular, close attention is paid to emergent organizations and how their embodiment of strange attractor values spurred the self-organization process for this chaotic system.