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This article develops a media philosophical framework for addressing the intersection of epigenetics and complex dynamical systems in theoretical biology. In particular, it argues that the theoretical humanities (and especially media philosophy) need to think critically about the computability of epigenomic regulation (proposed by the complexity sciences), as well as speculatively about the possibility of an epigenomics beyond complexity. The fact that such a conceptual framework does not exist suggests not only a failure to engage with the mathematics of complexity, but also a failure to engage with its history. Both epigenetics and the application of complex dynamical systems to biology originate in the mid-twentieth-century work of Conrad Hal Waddington. The article demonstrates how this genealogy of epigenetic complexity (which passes through Waddington’s epigenetic landscape, the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, molecular epigenetics, and the limitations of nonlinear differential equations for biological modeling) reveals the need for a speculative conception of epigenomic mediation beyond mathematical complexity. Using Whitehead’s philosophy as a conceptual anchor, the “epimedial landscape” serves as a first pass at a media philosophical revision of the complex dynamical systems view of the epigenetic landscape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-40
Number of pages17
JournalAngelaki - Journal of the Theoretical Humanities
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 3 2020


  • Waddington
  • Whitehead
  • complex systems
  • epigenetic landscape
  • media philosophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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