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Come to Atlanta, learn ABM

This year the simulating complexity team is yet again teaching a 2-day workshop on agent-based modelling in archaeology as a satellite to the CAA conference.  The workshop will take place on Sunday and Monday 12-13 March 2017. The workshop is free of charge, however, you have to register to the conference (which has some good modelling session as well).

Last year we had an absolute blast with over 30 participants, 10 instructors and 96% satisfaction rate (of the students, instructors were 100% happy!).

The workshop will follow along similar lines to last year although we have a few new and exciting instructors and a few new topics. For more details check here and here or simply get in touch!

This event is possible thanks to the generous support of the Software Sustainability Institute.


Simulados: a short video explaining what ABM is and how we use it to understand the past

This video, brought to you by our friends over at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, does a great job of explaining in easy-to-understand terms what agent-based modeling is, and how it can be useful for both understanding the past and making the past relevant to the present. No small feat to accomplish in about 3 minutes. Have a look!

CFP: Computational Social Science Society of the Americas, Santa Fe, Nov 17-20

The CSSSA will be hosting its annual conference in November, bringing researchers from all stripes of computational social science together in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico. According to the website, some of the topics to be discussed at the meeting include (but are not limited to):

  • Social network analysis
  • Agent-based models / modeling
  • Emergence
  • Economic models / resource allocation
  • Population dynamics
  • Ecosystems
  • Political/social systems
  • Biological systems / metabolism / bioenergetics
  • Efficiencies / fitness functions
  • Competition / cooperation
  • Networks / information flow
  • Social contagion
  • Vision / knowledge acquisition
  • Influence
  • Swarm intelligence
  • Adaptation / evolution
  • Decision making
  • Local knowledge / global patterns
  • Game theoretic models
  • Strategy
  • Learning

Applications close August 15th, 2016. For more information, check out the CSSSA website.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Public Domain

CAA call for sessions open

Sharing the CAA 2016 call for sessions and workshops via our good friend Tom over at Archaeological Networks. More on this conference as it develops!

Archaeological Networks

caaThe countdown to CAA 2016 in Oslo has begun! Time to submit your awesome session and workshop proposals!

The annual Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) conference will be held in Oslo, Norway, from March 29th to April 2nd 2016. The Call for sessions and workshops is now open until 7 September 2015. More info about the conference can be found on the conference website.

To propose a session or workshop, go to the CAA Open Conference System and click on the ‘Submissions’ link on the right-hand side of the page.

Hope to see you all in Oslo for my favourite conference of the year!

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Simulating Complexity at the SAAs!

Come see the  Simulating Complexity team at the Society for American Archaeology meetings in San Francisco in April! Our session, “Simulating Social Complexity to Understand the Archaeological Past” will present new research into complexity science and archaeology with leaders in the field and is sure to be an exciting afternoon.

Mark your calendars for April 16th from 1-4pm.

Participants include: Mark Lake, Tim Kohler, Philip Fisher & Luke Premo, Ben Davies, Iza Romanowska, Matt Grove, Colin Wren, Stefani Crabtree & Kyle Bocinsky, John Murphy, Isaac Ullah, Rachel Opitz, Devin White, Shawn Graham and Enrico Crema

For more information on the SAA meetings, go here.

CAA 2015 Siena Call for Sessions open

KEEP THE REVOLUTION GOING! is the next year’s CAA motto. So for all of you who would like to keep alive the several-years-long streak of fantastic sessions on complexity science, simulation, network analysis and modelling, here’s the call for sessions.
See you all in Siena!


Call for session proposals
DEADLINE – Tuesday, September 30th 2014

The Organising Committee wish to inform you that the Call for Sessions for the 43rd International Conference on Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) is open. The conference will be held at the University of Siena (Italy), in collaboration with the National Research Council (ISTI-Pisa), from March 30th to April 3rd 2015.

Please submit your SESSION ABSTRACT PROPOSAL online before Tuesday, September 30th 2014.

The 43rd Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology Conference, “KEEP THE REVOLUTION GOING” (CAA 2015 SIENA) will explore a multitude of topics to showcase ground-breaking technologies and best practice from various archaeological and computer science disciplines, with a large diversity of case studies from all over the world.

The conference committee encourages you to consider a presentation format that will engage your colleagues in discussion and learning beyond the simple dissemination of information. The main themes of the conference are likely to include the following, but may be modified or extended according to the session proposals we receive:

  • Field and laboratory data recording
  • Data modelling, management and integration
  • Linked data and the semantic web
  • Data analysis and visualisation
  • 3D modelling, visualization, thinking, interpretation and simulations
  • Spatio-temporal modelling, GIS and remote sensing
  • Users and interfaces: education, museums and multimedia
  • Theoretical issues, and the relation of CAA with the Digital Humanities
  • Digital Cities, cultural heritage interpretation and modelling the past.

Author Guidelines
Your abstract should not be longer than 500 words including title, affiliations and key words.

Provide the full names and affiliations of all authors, including e-mail addresses. Please indicate the name of the corresponding author.

Provide 3-5 keywords describing the contents of your session.

The official language of the conference is English. Spelling should conform to British practice and follow the Oxford English Dictionary.

Simulating the Past. Special issue of JAMT

Just a quick note for those who might have missed it. The most recent issue of the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory is dedicated to simulation techniques in archaeology. I haven’t yet dived in fully  but it looks like a great mix of papers looking at different aspects of simulation, complexity science and practical applications.

There are some theoretical papers dealing with the same old simulation problems other disciplines have been mulling over for years: emulation vs explanation, abstract vs realistic or verification vs validation etc. What makes it really valuable though, is the fact that the authors discuss them in the specific context of archaeological data, method and tradition. Although archaeology shares lots of characteristics with other disciplines, we are not the same as biology or social science. To point out the most obvious difference: all the subjects of our research are dead, ranging from quite long to very long to unimaginably long dead.

The theory section is followed by a number of papers describing applications of simulation techniques to archaeological case studies. It’s worth pointing out the sheer breath of techniques used by the authors. Although Agent-based Modelling is dominant, there are some good examples of mathematical modelling and GIS.

You can expect a flurry of post with more detailed description of  these paper the near future, but the simple conclusion for now is: archaeological simulation is not dead, it’s actually on the rise.

Is the universe a simulation?

A recent NY Times op-ed reintroduces the philosophical concept of the simulation hypothesis: the idea that the universe we live in is an elaborate computer simulation.

This is kind of based on the idea that mathematics has rules that, while expressed in a human-derived conceptual language, exist in a plane unto themselves. This concept has been explored by folks like Eugene Wigner, but the simulation hypothesis is still certifiably fringe from what I can tell. It would hold that these rules are what controls our simulated existence, and that each time we learn something about them, we’re pulling back the curtain just a little more.

The op-ed featured some recent mathematical research into this topic, which is looking for “observable consequences” of being in a simulation (the fringy-ness should be apparent in the opening to the conclusion: “In this work, we have taken seriously the possibility..”). These folks are saying “if the simulation were a simulation like this (in this case, a latticed hypercube of time-space), we should be able to detect how that world was set up using physical assessments of certain known phenomena (in this case, high energy cosmic rays). They conclude that as long as there is some limit to the resources available to the simulators, there must be ways of detecting the spacing within the lattice. Other research has focused on detecting this through changes in gravity around black holes in universes of different dimensions. It is interesting to me that the solutions proposed by these researchers, at least as described here, follow a method similar to that of Grimm et al.’s pattern-oriented modeling.

Working in simulation brings up plenty of epistemological issues regarding scientific representation. I think some of the most important of these for archaeologists are those which deal with relationship between a modelled entity and its real counterpart, and the nature and validity of computational “experiments”. Of course, that all becomes more or less moot if we are only part of a simulation ourselves. But what has me puzzled on this existential level concerns the more general role of simulation. Simulations are usually models, or ways of representing the interacting variables within a more complex system. They’ve been described elsewhere as “tools to think with”, a feature of the upcoming workshop at the CAA. But if our universe is a simulation, in the sense of a model, then what more complex phenomenon is our universe a model of?

Photo credit:  Sergey Galyonkin via Wikimedia Commons