Introduction To Simulation And Modeling

Overview

This week we're going to get introduced to simulation as a means of experimentation and exploration.

To do

Before

Do the following before this week's class. This is a good week to get this done.

  1. Go to the Elevator pitch page every other day during the next week and contribute to the answers to the questions on that page. Add a new point, revise an existing one, add a new subsidiary page, re-organize what's there — it's all possible. The goal is to have relatively coherent answers (or partial answers, as appropriate) by next week's class.
  2. Install onto your computer the most recent version of NetLogo.
  3. Learn how to use NetLogo by going through the first three tutorials in the NetLogo User Manual (web, pdf). You don't need to worry about learning how to program yet — but you will. What you should be focused on now is how to navigate around NetLogo and how to use models.

After

Do the following after this week's class.

  • Write a short essay (maybe 1-3 printed pages) answering the question “Why do we use simulation to study something?” If you want, you can choose a specific problem in which to frame your answer. Have this done by next Wednesday evening at 8pm so that I can have time to read them before class. Write your answer within a page on this wiki. Don't read the other students' answer until after these are due; I want the essay to reflect your thinking.

Readings

Be sure to refer to the questions below while you are reading; be prepared to discuss them in class.

  1. "Why do simulation?", by J.P. Marney and Heather F.E. Tarbert. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 3(4), October 2000.
  2. "Simulation and rational practice", by Hartmut Kliemt. In Rainer Hegselmann, Ulrich Mueller, and Klaus G. Troitzsch, editors, Modelling and simulation in the social sciences: From the philosophy of science point of view, volume 23 of Series A: Philosophy and methodology of the social sciences, pages 13-27. Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1996.
  3. "Social science simulation —- Origins, prospects, purposes", by Klaus G. Troitzsch. In R. Conte, R. Hegselmann, and P. Terna, editors, Simulating Social Phenomena, pages 41-54, Springer, 1997.
  4. "The world as a process: Simulations in the natural and social sciences", by Stephan Hartmann. In Rainer Hegselmann, Ulrich Mueller, and Klaus G. Troitzsch, editors, Modelling and simulation in the social sciences: From the philosophy of science point of view, volume 23 of Series A: Philosophy and methodology of the social sciences, pages 77-100. Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1996.

Be prepared to discuss all the questions below. You may not use slides but you can use a one-page handout if you want. We'll spend some time afterwards trying to come to some sort of consensus about the positions put forth in these articles.

Modeling quotes

Just some interesting quotes:

  1. "All models are wrong, but some are useful." — George Box
  2. "Far better an approximate answer to the right question, than the exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise." — John Tukey

Questions to consider

You should prepare notes (for yourself) for class discussion. I want us to have an informed discussion during this class. In later classes we will also have formal presentations; however, in this one I simply want to have a discussion.

  1. What is a simulation?
  2. Why do we use simulation to study something? Why don't we just use analytical techniques? What does the researcher hope to gain from a simulation? Be sure, at some point, to relate your answer specifically to research in business and IT.
  3. How can we differentiate between good simulation-based research and bad simulation-based research? (BTW, this is an important question and one whose answer you will return to for the rest of the semester.)

Other background

Here are some other pages, articles, and books that I'm not expecting you to read but that I've gathered for your further perusal if you're interested.

  1. "Computer simulation: The third symbol system", by Thomas Ostrum. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 24:381-92, 1988. This book is referred to frequently by Troitzsch.
  2. Chapters 1-2 of Simulation for the social scientist, by Nigel Gilbert and Klaus Troitzsch, Open University Press, 1999.
  3. "Simulation: An emergent perspective", by Nigel Gilbert, October 27-29, 1995. This is the text of a lecture given at the conference on New Technologies in the Social Sciences in Bournemouth, UK.
  4. "Computer simulation of social processes", by Nigel Gilbert, Social Research Update, 6, March 1993.
  5. "The power of simulation by Katherine Hayles.
  6. "Computational models from A to Z", by Scott E. Page. For UM students, the published version in ''Complexity''.
  7. "Why is economics not a complex systems science?", by John Foster. Discussion Paper No. 336, December 2004, School of Economics, The University of Queensland.
  8. Slides for the class
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