Reporting Complexity (with Complexity)
Mar 31st, 2010 by Tom Johnson

“Reporting Complexity (with Complexity): General Systems Theory, Complexity and Simulation Modeling

See the PPT slides from a vid-conference lecture from Santa Fe to

School of Public and Environmental Affairs
School of Journalism 
COURSE: Mass Media & Public Affairs
March 31, 2010

Applied Complexity in Havana
Mar 28th, 2010 by Tom Johnson

In January, Team Santa Fe (Tom Johnson, Steve Guerin, Nick Bennett, and Alfredo Covaledo [Bogota]) rolled up in Havana to attend the 10th Congress of Complexity Studies in Cuba. (Steve, Nick and Alfredo also taught a day-long workshop on Netlogo and simulation modeling following the conference.)

One of the conference attendees from the Univ. of Guanajuato (Mexico) shot some footage of Steve's Simtable demos and also a lecture by Dr. Niles Eldredge. Those videos can be seen here:

-tom johnson

Can Game Theory Predict When Iran Will Get the Bomb?
Aug 16th, 2009 by analyticjournalism

Good NYTimes profile of NYU/Hoover Institute professor Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, who has spent 40+ years developing predictive models of socio-political activity. (Also a nice bit of promo for “The Predictioneer’s Game,” Bueno de Mesquita's book scheduled to come out next month.)

“Of course, a somewhat high profile always proves to be an attractor.  For example, see “The New Nostradamus.” 

“Can a fringe branch of mathematics forecast the future? A special adviser to the CIA, Fortune 500 companies, and the U.S. Department of Defense certainly thinks so.

“If you listen to Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, and a lot of people don’t, he’ll claim that mathematics can tell you the future. In fact, the professor says that a computer model he built and has perfected over the last 25 years can predict the outcome of virtually any international conflict, provided the basic input is accurate. What’s more, his predictions are alarmingly specific. His fans include at least one current presidential hopeful, a gaggle of Fortune 500 companies, the CIA, and the Department of Defense. Naturally, there is also no shortage of people less fond of his work. “Some people think Bruce is the most brilliant foreign policy analyst there is,” says one colleague. “Others think he’s a quack.”

Still, we think the articles and approach are well-worth your reading time.



The Coming Phase
Sep 23rd, 2007 by Tom Johnson

We were pleased to see last week (via the NICAR listserv) that multiple newspapers, at least in the U.S., have discovered they can get public records data bases, create specialized look-up tools for their frontends and post it/them on their web site. Let's keep on keeping on with this.
It seems quite possibly that the next phase of bringing bits and bytes to the people might well be in the realm of 3D, mapping and simulation modeling. To that end, take a look at the “Terrain Tools & Software Packages” jumpstation. This is a nifty collection of commercial and open-source apps that just make your job easier and more interesting.

Simulation modeling
Jul 21st, 2007 by JTJ

Assoc. Prof. Paul M. Torrens, at Arizona State University's School of Geographical Sciences (torrens at geosimulation dot com) continues to turn out interesting simulation models. Most recently they are about crowd movement, but the methods are applicable to many venues. See his work at


Doing urban modeling with real data
Jul 3rd, 2007 by JTJ

Once again, O'Reilly's Radar tips us to an interesting application of cell phone GPS data, this time to illustrate daily traffic activity in Rome.

Real Time Rome: Using Cellphones To Model a City's Movements

Posted: 02 Jul 2007 01:14 PM CDT

By Brady Forrest

rome at different times of the day

MIT's Senseable City Lab is using cellphone data to model Rome's populations. The project is called Real Time Rome. It is an exhibit at architecture conference La Biennale di Venezia's show Global Cities (shown Sept 10 – Nov 19 2006).

There are descriptions about the exhibit from an MIT article about the exhibit:

Real Time Rome features seven large animations, projected on transparent plexiglass screens. One screen shows traffic congestion around the city, while another screen shows the exact movements of all the city's buses and taxis. Another screen is able to track Romans celebrating major events like the World Cup or the city's annual White Nights festival (Notte Bianca, which will happen on Sept. 9, the evening before the Biennale's architecture exhibition opening). Additional screens show how tourists use urban spaces and how cars and pedestrians move about the city.

and how the data was collected:

Ratti's team obtains its data anonymously from cell phones, GPS devices on buses and taxis, and other wireless mobile devices, using advanced algorithms developed by Telecom Italia, the principal sponsor of the project. These algorithms are able to discern the difference between, say, a mobile phone signal from a user who is stuck in traffic and one that is sitting in the pocket of a pedestrian wandering down the street. Data are made anonymous and aggregated from the beginning, so there are no implications for individual privacy.

This certainly would be a more cost-effective method of gathering traffic data for determining commute times. Imagine if predictive systems could prepare us for the onslaught of traffic from a baseball game just letting out by watching the fans head towards there care. Or let us know that a highway is about to be flooded by traffic from a side road. Would you put up with your location being (formally) tracked in exchange for this service?

[BBC via Data Mining]


Impact of feedback in mass media message.
Jun 30th, 2007 by JTJ

A recent article worth a look over by the journalism community. What we do DOES have impact.

Juan Carlos González-Avella, Mario G. Cosenza, Konstantin Klemm, Víctor M. Eguíluz and Maxi San Miguel (2007)

Information Feedback and Mass Media Effects in Cultural Dynamics

Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation vol. 10, no. 3 9

PDF at
Received: 11-Jan-2007 Accepted: 18-May-2007 Published: 30-Jun-2007

We study the effects of different forms of information feedback associated with mass media on an agent-agent based model of the dynamics of cultural dissemination. In addition to some processes previously considered, we also examine a model of local mass media influence in cultural dynamics. Two mechanisms of information feedback are investigated: (i) direct mass media influence, where local or global mass media act as an additional element in the network of interactions of each agent, and (ii) indirect mass media influence, where global media acts as a filter of the influence of the existing network of interactions of each agent. Our results generalize previous findings showing that cultural diversity builds up by increasing the strength of the mass media influence. We find that this occurs independently of the mechanisms of action (direct or indirect) of the mass media message. However, through an analysis of the full range of parameters measuring cultural diversity, we establish that the enhancement of cultural diversity produced by interaction with mass media only occurs for strong enough mass media messages. In comparison with previous studies a main different result is that weak mass media messages, in combination with agent-agent interaction, are efficient in producing cultural homogeneity. Moreover, the homogenizing effect of weak mass media messages is more efficient for direct local mass media messages than for global mass media messages or indirect global mass media influences. Keywords: Agent Based Model, Culture, Dissemination, Mass Media

The NYT gets in the gaming biz. Well, sorta.
Jun 21st, 2007 by JTJ

 From Ian Bogost's site, Watercooler Games:


The New York Times Publishes Our Newsgames

May 24, 2007 – by Ian Bogost

NY Times NewsgamesToday, one of my videogames is on the front page of the Gray Lady.

Almost four years ago, Gonzalo suggested “newsgames” as a genre that intersects videogames and political cartoons. Last year, my studio Persuasive Games took our own take on this genre with The Arcade Wire series (Airport Security, Oil God, Bacteria Salad, Xtreme Xmas Shopping), published by Those games enjoyed considerable success, tallying at least 10 million plays or so. But Shockwave is still a gaming site, reaching gamers, not necessarily reaching ordinary citizens more broadly. And that's what news and editorial should do.

Today, I'm excited to announce that Persuasive Games has a new publishing relationship with The New York Times, in which they will be publishing newsgames we create on their op-ed page, as editorial content, not just as games. This is unprecedented, and at the risk of tooting my own horn, I think it represents another important shift in videogames as a medium. This is news/editorial in videogame form, rather than videogames trying to make news fun. The fact that the Times is often considered the national newspaper of record makes this moment even more notable, and gratifying.

The first game is Food Import Folly. The game is about the experience of extremely limited FDA inspection on food imports, and just what that scarcity of resources actually feels like. To play, you have to be a paid TimesSelect subscriber (NY Times puts all their editorial content behind the TimesSelect subscription wall). There's more info and screenshots on the Persuasive Games website.

Like most of our newsgames, timeliness was an important consideration. Food Import Folly was created in a week's time. Congrats to my team at Persuasive Games for their hard work. And look for more of our newsgames in the newspaper, in the near future.


Some imaginative election "gaming" from USC and the Annenburg Center
Jun 19th, 2007 by JTJ

From All Points Blog

Monday, June 18. 2007

The Redistricting Game

University of Southern California students developed the online game for the Annenburg Center for Communications to teach about the challenges (and partisanness) of redistricting. Along the way players learn that to keep their candidates elected they may need to examine ethical issues. The game is Flash-based.

From the [original News 10] site: The Redistricting Game is designed to educate, engage, and empower citizens around the issue of political redistricting. Currently, the political system in most states allows the state legislators themselves to draw the lines. This system is subject to a wide range of abuses and manipulations that encourage incumbents to draw districts which protect their seats rather than risk an open contest.


Lake Arrowhead Conference on Human Complex Systems
Dec 17th, 2006 by Tom Johnson

A number of friends and associates, for whom we have the greatest respect, say this is one of the best, most enriching conferences in the U.S.  It is not cheap, but there are vacation condos to be found in the area that would help to make this affordable.

The IAJ plans to be there.  Hope to see you there.

4th Lake Arrowhead Conference on Human Complex Systems

conference syllabus

We are back with our 4th UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference on Human Complex Systems.
from Wednesday April 25, 2007 through Sunday April 29, 2007.

We look forward to
another cross-disciplinary gathering of social scientists who employ
cutting-edge agent-based computational modeling and related
computational ideas and methods in their research and teaching. As in
past years, dozens of presenters from numerous disciplines are
presenting. We are also hosting evening panels, a live simulation, and
opportunities for networking and relaxation amid gorgeous surroundings.

Advancing Agent Modeling in the Social Sciences

The conference is a forum for sharing the most recent advances — in
theory, methodology and application – in the area of agent modeling
throughout the social sciences (e.g., Anthropology, Communication
Studies, Economics, Geography, History, Political Science, Sociology,
Urban Planning). We also welcome social scientists in professional
schools (e.g., Business, Education, International Relations, Public
Health, Public Policy, Social Welfare) and in the public and private
sectors. Researchers and theorists in Psychology, Media Studies and
social aspects of Cognitive Science, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics
and related disciplines also welcome!

For a paper presentation, authors present for 20 minutes and receive an
additional 10 minutes for Q&A. We also welcome 90-120 minute
symposium proposals consisting of 3-4 individual papers on a related
topic of inquiry. Finally, we are open to someone wishing to organize
an evening panel discussion on a �hot topic� in agent modeling.

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