I attended ESSA 2014 in Barcelona Sep 1-5th. Unlike previous ESSA conferences this brought together social scientists, historians and economists each having their own strand in the 30 minute paper presentations. Whilst I stuck mostly to the social sciences talks, it was interesting to see how other discplines are using and discuss agent-based modelling. It is also heartening to see ABM being used in the Humanities (an area under-represented in our engagements at Oxford).
I earned my bacon by giving a workshop about using the Behaviour Composer as a meta-modelling tool (modelling4all project). I think I got the idea across, and there were a lot of in-depth questions during the practical part of the session. We built the Sugarscape model in homage to the keynote the next day by Joshua Epstein but later found out he’d cancelled due to illness, which was a real disappointment because I really wanted to meet him.
The conference website brings together all the details about the talks and we were given the papers and posters on our memory sticks. Here are the three memories that stand out most from the conference:
- First and foremost, this year was the first to feature a serious games strand. The first presentation by Alexander Verbraeck (you’ll have to use google translate) was about their use of various kinds of simulation in business games. Alexander gave some important words of wisdom with regards to how great graphics shouldn’t trump game design, and the simulations that really work are those that are uses creatively within a workshop. What I mostly took from this session was that there are lots of other scientists doing work with ABM.
- Hidden amongst the posters (I somehow managed to walk past it several times) was a description of work by Tomas Trescak et al at the University of West Sydney who have recreated a 3D virtual model of the Uruk civilisation. Not only that, they’d given people in the model behaviours that meant they trade, get hungry and move about the city in a realistic manner. But where this most matches work here is that they’ve done this by writing open source plugins to Unity. Actually I found out about this work by bumping into Mike Bithell at Cambridge, who used to be in Geography here and who is also interested in participatory games.
- Stefano Picascia has created a GIS based simulation of manchester where the map is populated with historical house price data by postcodes. The aim of the model is to try to predict which areas will regenerate through private capital, and which will need public sector intervention. I liked this paper because it reassures me NetLogo can do GIS modelling, and the model is based on real world data but being used to try to extrapolate forwards. If successful there’s an obvious role for such a model in policy-making.