Big data and artificial intelligence get most of the press about computational social science, but maybe the most complex aspect of it refers to using computational tools to explore and develop social science theory. This course shows how computer simulations are being used to explore the realm of what is theoretically possible. Computer simulations allow us to study why societies are the way they are, and to dream about the world we would like to live in.
This can be as intuitive as playing a video game. Much like the well-known video game SimCity is used to build and manage an artificial city, we use agent-based models to grow and study artificial societies. Without hurting anyone in the real world, computer simulations allow us to explore how to make the world a better place.
We play hands-on with several practical computer simulation models and explore how we can combine hypothetical models with real-world data. Finally, you will program a simple artificial society yourself, bottom-up. This will allow you to feel the complexity that arises when designing social systems, while at the same time experiencing the ease with which our new computational tools allow us to pursue such daunting endeavors.
WEEK 1 – Getting Started and Computer Simulations
In this module, you will be able to define theoretical computer simulations, specifically agent-based models (ABM). You will be able to recall how and why agent-based models can be useful and you’ll be able to examine Schelling’s famous segregation model.
WEEK 2 – Artificial Societies: Sugarscape
In this module, you will be able to identify how to mix different models to create new and more complex models. You will be able to explore how to create sophisticated versions of artificial societies. You’ll also be able to examine an artificial society called Sugarscape.
WEEK 3 – Computer Simulations and Characteristics of ABM
In this module, you will be able to discover how one uses computer simulations to solve practical problems. You will be able to discuss agent-based models (ABM) and identify how ABM can be used in social science.
WEEK 4 – Model Thinking and Coding Artificial Societies
In this module, you will be able to describe what agent-based models are. You will be able to identify their capabilities and limitations. You will be able to define and use vocabulary and terminology around model thinking. You’ll also be able to code using NetLogo and be able to grow your own artificial society.
- Martin Hilbert
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