Archetype analysis in sustainability research: methodological portfolio and analytical frontiers

TitleArchetype analysis in sustainability research: methodological portfolio and analytical frontiers
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsSietz D, Frey U, Roggero M, Gong Y, Magliocca N, Tan R, Janssen P, Václavík T
JournalEcology and Society
Volume 24(3):34.
Keywordsarchetypical; global change; knowledge transfer; land system; pattern; review; socio-ecological system; up-scaling

In sustainability research, archetype analysis reveals patterns of factors and processes that repeatedly shape social-ecological systems. These patterns help improve our understanding of global concerns, including vulnerability, land management, food security, and governance. During the last decade, the portfolio of methods used to investigate archetypes has been growing rapidly. However, these methods differ widely in their epistemological and normative underpinnings, data requirements, and suitability to address particular research purposes. Therefore, guidance is needed for systematically choosing methods in archetype analysis. We synthesize strengths and weaknesses of key methods used to identify archetypes. Demonstrating that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach, we discuss advantages and shortcomings of a range of methods for archetype analysis in sustainability research along gradients that capture the treatment of causality, normativity, spatial variations, and temporal dynamics. Based on this discussion, we highlight seven analytical frontiers that bear particular potential for tackling methodological limitations. As a milestone in archetype analysis, our synthesis supports researchers in reflecting on methodological implications, including opportunities and limitations related to causality, normativity, space, and time considerations in view of specific purposes and research questions. This enables innovative research designs in future archetype analysis, thereby contributing to the advancement of sustainability research and decision-making.

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Archetype Analysis in Commons Research

This is a collaborative project based on the  IASC Arizona 2020 workshop panel on archetype analysis for commons research. Archetypes are increasingly used across a wide range of sustainability themes for “pattern recognition, diagnosis, or scenario development”.  The work draws on a family of cases from the Social-Ecological Systems (SES) Library at ASU - to explore how archetype analysis can be used to synthesize results from a set of case studies.  A second goal is...
21 Feb 2020