Tag Archives: ABM

Software tools for ABMs

A key consideration when embarking on an agent-based modelling focused project is ‘what are we going to write the model in?’. The investment of time and effort that goes into learning a new software tool or a language is so considerable that in the vast majority of cases it is the model that has to be adjusted to the modellers skills and knowledge rather than the the other way round.

Browsing through the OpenABM library it is clear that Netlogo is archaeology’s, social sciences and ecology first choice (51 results), with other platforms and languages trailing well behind (Java – 13 results, Repast – 5 results, Python – 5 results)*. But it comes without saying that there are more tools out there. A new paper published in Computer Science Review compares and contrasts 85 ABM platforms and tools.

It classifies each software package according to the easy of development (simple-moderate-hard) as well as its capabilities (light-weight to extreme-scale). It also sorts them according to their scope and possible subjects (purpose-specific, e.g., teaching, social science simulations, cloud computing, etc., or subject-specific, e.g., pedestrian simulation, political phenomena, artificial life) so that you have a handy list of software tools designed for different applications. This is, to the best of my knowledge, the first survey of this kind since this, equally useful but by now badly outdated, report from 2010.

Abar, Sameera, Georgios K. Theodoropoulos, Pierre Lemarinier, and Gregory M.P. O’Hare. 2017. “Agent Based Modelling and Simulation Tools: A Review of the State-of-Art Software.” Computer Science Review 24: 13–33. doi:10.1016/j.cosrev.2017.03.001.


* Note that the search terms might have influenced the numbers, e.g., if the simulation is concerned with pythons (the snakes) it would add to the count regardless of the language it was written in.

Image source: wikipedia.org

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!

Socio-Environmental Dynamics over the Last 12,000 Years workshop, Kiel, Germany 2-24, March 2017

University of Kiel, Germany will be hosting a workshop “Socio-Environmental Dynamics over the Last 12,000 Years: The Creation of Landscapes IV” between 20-24th March 2017.   It includes several sessions on simulation, modelling and ABM with a special emphasis on socio-natural systems.  The abstract submission deadline is a still quite some time (30th November) but it may be worth putting the event into your calendars if you are not planning on crossing the ocean for the CAA in Atlanta or the SAAs in Vancouver.

For more information see the workshop website: http://www.workshop-gshdl.uni-kiel.de


Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiel#/media/File:Postcard_Panorama_of_Kiel_(1902).jpg

CFP: SwarmFest 2016, Burlington, VT Jul 31 – Aug 3

Possibly the longest running meeting on agent-based modeling, SwarmFest, is being held this July at the University of Vermont campus in Burlington. Now in its 20th(!) year, SwarmFest brings together people from a range of backgrounds in ABM and simulation. From the website:

SwarmFest is the annual meeting of the Swarm Development Group (SDG), and one of the oldest communities involved in the development and propagation of agent-based modeling.  SwarmFest has traditionally involved a mix of both tool-users and tool-developers, drawn from many domains of expertise.  These have included, in the past, computer scientists, software engineers, biomedical researchers, ecologists, economists, political scientists, social scientists, resource management specialists and evolutionary biologists.  SwarmFest represents a low-key environment for researchers to explore new ideas and approaches, and benefit from a multi-disciplinary environment.  

Given the concentration of computational and complexity labs at UVM, this promises to be a very exciting meeting. And summertime is a fantastic time to be on Lake Champlain, or really any lake in New England, so I wholeheartedly recommend the trek to Burlington.

Call of abstracts closes June 15th, so get in quickly. For more info, see the website.

CAA in Atlanta: 2017 dates

The Simulating Complexity team is all coming home from a successful conference in Oslo. Highlights include a 2-day workshop on agent-based modeling led by the SimComp team, a roundtable on complexity and simulation approaches in archaeology, and a full-day session on simulation approaches in archaeology.

We are all looking forward to CAA 2017 in Atlanta. Dates were announced at Oslo, so start planning.

CAA2017 will be held at Georgia State University March 13th-18th. This leaves 2 weeks before the SAAs, so we hope to have a good turnout on simulation and complexity approaches at both meetings!

French Wine: Solving Complex Problems with Simple Models

What approach do you use if you have only partial information but you want to learn  more about a subject? In a recent article, I confronted this very problem. Despite knowing quite a bit about Gaulish settlements and distributions of artifacts, we still know relatively little about the beginnings of the wine industry. We know it was a drink for the elite. We know that Etruscans showed up with wine, and later Greeks showed up with wine. But we don’t know why Etruscan wine all but disappears rapidly within a few years. Is this simple economics (Greek wine being cheaper)? Is this simply that Etruscan wine tasted worse? It’s a question and a conundrum; it simply doesn’t make sense that everyone in the region would swap from one wine type to another. Also, the ceramic vessels that were used to carry the wine—amphorae—those are what we find. They should last for a while, but they disappear. Greek wine takes over, Greek amphorae take over, and Etruscan wine and amphorae disappear.

This is a perfect question for agent based modeling. My approach uses a very simple model of preference, coupled with some simple economics, to look at how Gauls could be drivers of the economy. Through parameter testing I show that a complete transition between two types of wine could occur even when less than 100% of the consumers ‘prefer’ one type.

Most importantly in this model, the pattern oriented approach shows how agent-based modeling can be useful for examining a mystery, even when the amount of information available might be small.

Check the article out on the open source MDPI website.

Considering Cultural Complexity in Agent-based Modelling, Cologne, 23-24 October 2015

Our colleagues in Cologne have put forward an interesting observation. They argue that most of the current ABMs in archaeology ignore the cultural dimension of human systems and instead treat agents behaviour in a mechanistic way. This has been a common criticism of economic models with their strong assumptions of rationality and perfect knowledge of the agents their model. However, I believe (tell me if I’m wrong), the lack of cultural complexity is raised for the first time in the context of humanities research.

If you find it an interesting food for thought, a two-day get together for researchers working on cultural complexity and agent-based modelling is organised in Cologne 23-24th October 2015 (see the event abstract below). The Call for Papers closes on 14th August. For more details see: http://abmculture.uni-koeln.de/index.html

Agent-based modeling can be used in a multitude of ways by researchers and teams with different scientific backgrounds all around the globe. With this workshop we intend to provide an opportunity to discuss the role of culture in agent-based modeling. Therefore we would like to invite to join the workshop the researchers whose work is based on the assumption that human beliefs and behavior are not caused solely by physical conditions and individual experiences but also by transmitted knowledge shaped in historical and social processes. We want culture to be understood in a broad sense, so that we can discuss a variety of concepts of culture and its current or potential use in agent-based modeling.

Image source: WikiMedia https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cologne_-_Panoramic_Image_of_the_old_town_at_dusk.jpg

Agent-based modelling meets R

In the world of computational archaeology the technical hurdle is a significant deterrent for many. I hear quite often fellow archaeologists complaining that ‘an ABM would really complement my research, but I cannot code in Python and don’t have the time to learn it’. Time needed to learn new software or programming language never seems to be there and many great ideas are put on the back burner indefinitely simply because they cannot be implemented in an environment one is already familiar with.

Now, thanks to our fellow blogger and complexity scientist Marco Smolla, you can learn how to build an agent-based model in one of the most popular scripting languages in archaeology: R!  Follow this link for a tutorial which will allow you to turn your data analysis environment into a simulation tool. Nice!