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Contested Modelling

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  • 1. Contested Modelling Dr Mike Yearworth1, Dr Sarah Cornell2 [1] Reader in Engineering Systems, Faculty of Engineering University of Bristol, UK[2] Coordinator – Planetary Boundaries Collaboratory, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden 17th July 2012
  • 2. !   Starting points•  Over-mathematisation of models and reliance on simulation has led to a loss of narrative and representations  essentially black-box approaches•  Ownership and control of models is in conflict with processes that might make them debatable with publics•  Need for specialised techniques also limits debate to between experts and narrow falsifiability as a validation technique•  Focus on nomothetic approaches – universal models 17th July 2012 2
  • 3. !   Method•  Can we get better at sustainability interventions given our starting point in expert modelling? •  RQ: Do we (the authors) understand the relationship between expert modelling and its publics? •  SRQ: Do we understand each other? •  Data sources – project experience (Sympact, HalSTAR, CONVERGE, IHOPE) •  Theoretical lens – ontology, praxis and reflexivity 17th July 2012 3
  • 4. !   Ontologies•  Geels§ identifies seven ontologies in analysing social-technical transitions towards sustainability •  Rational choice, evolutionary theory, structuralism, functionalism, interpretivism, conflict and power structure, relationism•  cf Burrel & Morgan (Sociological Paradigms and Organisational Analysis: Elements of the Sociology of Corporate Life)•  Questions: Is there an underpinning project ontology? Is there diversity? Made explicit?§Geels,F. W. (2010) Ontologies, socio-technical transitions (to sustainability), and the multi-levelperspective. Research Policy, 39(4), pp. 495-510. 17th July 2012 4
  • 5. !   OntologiesOntology Causal Agent Causal MechanismRational Choice Self interested individuals Decentralised choiceCo-Evolution Populations Search, selectionStructuralism Belief systems ‘Deep structures’Interpretivism Individuals, interpretations Shared meaning, sense- making, debateFunctionalism Elements of a social system Enacting roles, feedbackConflict and Power Groups with conflicting Struggle between groups interestsRelationism Networks InteractionAdapted from Geels, F. W. (2010) Ontologies, socio-technical transitions (to sustainability), and themulti-level perspective. Research Policy, 39(4), pp. 495-510. 17th July 2012 5
  • 6. !   Praxis & Purpose of Modelling•  Way in which theoretical knowledge of the expert modeller(s) is enacted through intervention•  Modelling purpose is bound to the question of enactment of intervention•  Questions: Is there a stated purpose to modelling? Best mode of expressing the models? Prediction (action outside scope) or guide to action? If action, then is action research explicit? 17th July 2012 6
  • 7. !   Reflexivity•  Translating ideas of reflexivity into context of environmental governance•  Sensitivity to inputs from diverse perspectives•  Recognising alternative ways of seeing issues of concerns•  Questions: How does modelling support reflexivity? Support stakeholder engagement? Longer term engagement? 17th July 2012 7
  • 8. !   Projects•  Sympact •  Generate predictions/scenarios around GHG emissions in the digital media industry to inform strategy. LCA and SD models. •  Functionalism •  Future intent to support wider engagement•  HalSTAR •  Grounded, holistic approach to assessing sustainability options of civil engineering projects •  Functionalism, initially, moving towards interpretivism •  Latter leads to better reflection on original modelling task 17th July 2012 8
  • 9. !   Projects•  CONVERGE •  Global sustainability, conceptualising equity within the Earth’s natural biophysical limits •  Functionalism and structuralism with some interpretivist, conflict/ power structures •  Models intended to guide action, explicit action research •  Long term relationships with communities. And not…•  IHOPE •  Linking social and environmental sciences to understand human-environment interactions over multiple timescales •  Functionalism, but some debate •  Recognises need to link to wide social and environmental sciences communities to improve current Earth systems models 17th July 2012 9
  • 10. Engagement of model users in process for action Direct HalSTARSustainability Action: Indirect Sympact CONVERGE None IHOPE None Indirect Direct Knowledge Building: Engagement of stakeholders in model construction 17th July 2012 10
  • 11. !   Validation – after Barlas§•  White box vs. black box modelling •  black box  quality of the predictions: do they match observational data? [data-driven, correlational , possible abductive fallacies] •  white box  structure of the model: does the model explain how observed behaviour is obtained? [theory-like, causal descriptive ]•  How do we validate explanations (structural validity) i.e. get right behaviour for the right reason ? •  Functionalist worldview  objective representation of real world  model is either correct or incorrect. Possibly true of other ontologies •  Praxis view  one possible representation  continuum of usefulness §Barlas, Y. (1996) Formal aspects of model validity and validation in system dynamics. ! System Dynamics Review, 12(3), pp. 183-210. 17th July 2012 11
  • 12. !   Towards wider stakeholder engagement?  this is not about open data, or open access to publications (both are necessary but not sufficient), and not really open source either…•  Possible approaches •  Argumentation (Toulmin, De Liddo, 2010) •  Participatory Action Learning (Perkons and Brown, 2010) •  Issue Based Information Systems (IBIS) (Buckingham Shum, 2006, Conklin, 2003) •  Social Learning (Senge, 2005) 17th July 2012 12
  • 13. !   Discussion Points•  If ultimately praxis is about behaviour change then what is more important: accuracy or method of coupling with change processes?•  Difficult for non-scientific public to make distinctions between ignorance, uncertainty and contingent findings expressed as testable hypotheses•  Predominately functionalist worldview of expert modellers is mismatched to intervention generally – who has the view of the “real” world?•  Ironically, in the area of sustainability this disconnect is ultimately untenable (obviously?)•  Paradoxically, over-attention to being scientific closes avenues for scientifically informed but systemic solutions 17th July 2012 13
  • 14. Questions? mike.yearworth@bristol.ac.uksarah.cornell@stockholmresilience.su.se 17th July 2012 14

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