Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce ...
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Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis

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Networks are an abstraction of complex social processes. Albeit themselves formal, the social processes on which they are based can be researched using both quantitative and qualitative methods. The problem in combining these approaches comes from the very different natures and levels on which they are based. Here we describe an approach which uses agent-based modelling (ABM) as a stepping stone towards the more abstract network models. These ABMs are more in the nature of complex and dynamic descriptions than general theories, and are ideally suited for integrating a variety of kinds of evidence into a coherent fashion - including quatitative evidence to inform the micro-level behaviours of agents, and quantitative evidence about the macro, aggregate levels. The assumptions behind these kinds of ABM are relatively transparent, and the ABMs used to generate networks in a precise manner. Thus this "staging" of the abstraction process allows a well-founded mixed-methods approach to social network research. A worked example of this on voting behaviour is presented.

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Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis

  1. 1. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 1 Using Agent-based Simulation to Integrate Micro/Qualitative Evidence, Macro- Quantitative Data and Network Analysis Bruce Edmonds Centre for Policy Modelling Manchester Metropolitan University Slides available at: http://slideshare.net/BruceEdmonds
  2. 2. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 2 The SCID Project The Social Complexity of Immigration and Diversity is a 5-year project with the Institute for Social Change and the Department of Theoretical Physics at University of Manchester. It is funded under the “Complexity Science for the Real World” initiative of the EPSRC and will last until August 2015. Staff involved are: Nick Crossley, Louise Dyson, Bruce Edmonds, Ed Fieldhouse, Alan McKane, Ruth Meyer, Luis Fernandez Lafuerza, Laurence Lessard-Phillips, Yaojun Li, Nick Shryane, Gennaro Di Tosto, and Huw Vasey. The project is applying the techniques and tools of complexity science to real world issues: (1) why people bother to vote and how social influence within/across communities affects this (2) how the impoverished networks of immigrants may limit effective job search and (3) inter-community trust. Project Website: http://scid-project.org/
  3. 3. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 3 Example problems in mixed-methods (including some SNA) research • It is often quite ad hoc, and hence hard to repeat • It can be difficult to tell if qualitative and quantitative elements are consistent with each other • Models in mixed-methods research can have elements whose meaning is not completely clear • If models from mixed-methods research do not work it can be difficult to tell what part of it might be wrong • Validation can be very weak – it can sometimes not be clear if the model was, in fact, successful/useful • It is not always clear when it is helpful to use one method/tool on the results from another method/tool
  4. 4. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 4 Some Guiding Principles Unlike some areas of qualitative and quantitative science, mixed methods has not been formalised. So here are some principles I use to guide my practice: • In science one should not ignore evidence without a very, very, very good reason. – including available qualitative and quantitative evidence • As far as possible, in any model the reference of its elements should be as clear as possible – what parts of a model mean should not be fudged/vague • The more drastic/heroic the abstraction, the more the resulting model needs validating • Modelling choices/steps should be as transparent and replicable as possible – including reasons for choices
  5. 5. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 5 Staging Abstraction Data-Integration Simulation Model Micro-Evidence Macro-Data Abstract Simulation Model 1 Abstract Simulation Model 2 SNA Model Analytic Model IncreasingAbstraction
  6. 6. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 6 Data Integration Models • Are a particular style of agent-based simulation • You may be aware of some simple, abstract simulation models that purport to be a theory… • …this is at the opposite end of the spectrum. • Intended more as a computational description of a particular case than a (generalistic) theory • Aims to represent as much of the relevant evidence as possible in one coherent and dynamic simulation • Provides a precise target for abstraction (which are then checkable against it) • Thus it separates representation and abstraction
  7. 7. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 7 Agent-Based Simulation • Is a kind of computer simulation… • …where individual social actors and their interactions are separately represented (agents) • The heterogeneity of actors is represented, different: characteristics, behaviours and contexts • What happens is not centrally determined, but rather emerges from the interactions of the agents • Both “top-down” constraint and “bottom-up” emergence can occur simultaneously in models Representations of OutcomesSpecification (incl. rules)
  8. 8. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 8 Aims and Objectives of DIM • To develop a simulation that integrates as much as possible of the relevant available evidence, both qualitative and statistical (a Data-Integration Model – a DIM) • Regardless of how complex this makes it • A description of a specified kind of situation (not a general theory) that represents the evidence in a single, consistent and dynamic simulation • This simulation is then a fixed and formal target for later analysis and abstraction
  9. 9. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 9 Using Qualitative Behaviour to Inform the Agent Specification • Narrative data (from semi-structured interviews, observations etc.) can be used to inform the behavioural rules of agents within these simulations • This can be done in an informal or semi-formal manner (e.g. using techniques extended from GT) • This can provide a broader “menu” of possible behaviours and strategies that are used and thus import some of the “messiness” of social reality instead of overly neat formulations (e.g. economic) • Meso-level outcomes can be fed back using participatory techniques to aid validation • Macro-level measures can also be extracted and compared to known quantitative data
  10. 10. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 10 The “54” Causal Stories • Reviewing the literature we extracted different “causal stories” impacting on whether people vote • Examples: – Out of a feeling of civic duty – Due to sheer habit, “its what I have always done” – Interest in politics due to discussions within household, partner and friends – Due to participation in higher education – Evaluation of past efficacy of voting – Member of household taking them with them to vote • Some of these confirmed via a small qualitative survey • These provided the skeleton for the “menu” of behaviours that were programed into the agents
  11. 11. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 11 Overall Structure of Model Underlying data about population composition Demographics of people in households Social network formation and maintenance (homophily) Influence via social networks • Political discussions Voting Behaviour Input Output
  12. 12. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 12 Discuss-politics-with person-23 blue expert=false neighbour-network year=10 month=3 Lots-family-discussions year=10 month=2 Etc. Memory Level-of-Political-Interest Age Ethnicity Class Activities AHousehold An Agent’s Memory of Events Etc. Changing personal networks over which social influence occurs Composed of households of individuals initialised from detailed survey data Each agent has a rich variety of individual (heterogeneous) characteristics Including a (fallible) memory of events and influences
  13. 13. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 13 Example Output: why do people vote (if they do) Intervention: voter mobilisation Effect: on civic duty norms Effect: on habit- based behaviour
  14. 14. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 14 Example Output: Simulated Social Network at 1950 Established immigrants: Irish, WWII Polish etc. Majority: longstanding ethnicities Newer immigrants
  15. 15. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 15 Example Output: Simulated Social Network at 2010
  16. 16. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 16 Example Output: Psuedo-Narrative Output Following a single, randomly chosen agent… 4: (person 578)(aged 5) started at (school 1) 17: (person 578)(aged 18) stops going to (school 1) 21: (person 578)(aged 22) moved from (patch 11 3) to (patch 12 2) due to moving to an empty home 21: (person 578)(aged 22) partners with (person 326) at (patch 12 2) 24: (person 578)(aged 25) started at (workplace 8) 24: (person 578)(aged 25) voted for the blue party 29: (person 578)(aged 30) voted for the blue party
  17. 17. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 17 Retaining Maximally Clear Reference Data-Integration Simulation Model Micro-Evidence Macro-Data Abstract Simulation Model 1 Abstract Simulation Model 2 SNA Model Analytic Model
  18. 18. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 18 Context-Dependency • In the simulation (as in our social life) decisions, adaption, communication, learning all take place within a local context • Both “upwards” (emergent) and “downwards” (social control) forces operate within local contexts allowing social embeddedness • Abstraction to aggregates (e.g. averages) only takes place post-hoc (just as in social statistics) • The DIM allowed the formal representation of context- dependent behaviour, albeit within a more specific “descriptive” simulation, that can be itself hard to understand • Thus opening the way to the study of context itself!
  19. 19. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 19 Fixing “Weaknesses” of SN Models In much social network research: • The definition of links is often unclear and/or inconsistent • The machinery of social network models do not explain changing networks • Validation of social network models is often weak • Network measures are often used as if it is known that they give reliable indicators (e.g. centrality) • How to apply narrative data is not clear However, all of these are at least partially fixable as an abstraction of a well-founded simulation model
  20. 20. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 20 Conclusions • Complex agent-based models are good vehicles for integrating different kinds of data • In particular qualitative data can very usefully inform the “menu” of micro-level behaviours, importing some of the “mess” of social reality • Data Integration Models can provide consistent pictures including dynamics, albeit complicated • Staging abstraction into more gentle steps can help retain meaning reference in the modelling • Network models are useful, but with other very abstract models, higher up the abstraction “chain” with the qual/quat integration occuring “lower down” • Sometimes macro-level phenomena needs to be explained from micro-level detail and embedding
  21. 21. Using Agent-Based Simulation to integrate micro/qualitative evidence, macro-quantitative data and network analysis, Bruce Edmonds, London, May 2014. 21 The End! Bruce Edmonds: http://bruce.edmonds.name Centre for Policy Modelling: http://cfpm.org The SCID Project: http://www.scid-project.org Slides available at: http://slideshare.net/BruceEdmonds

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