Not a member yet? Register now and get started.

lock and key

Sign in to your account.

Account Login

Forgot your password?

What’s New?

Above: Bill Kennedy, Annetta Burger, and Breanna Robertson with the project poster presented by Annetta at the poster session of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s annual technical review meeting in June 2018.

In June 2018, our project funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) had a couple of significant events. First, we entered our third year of funding on our project to characterize the reaction of the population of NYC to a nuclear WMD event (Weapon of Mass Destruction). Second, we had two cadets (Breanna Robertson and Allan Luk) from the US Air Force Academy spend a month with us contributing to our project. Third, Annetta Burger, a graduate research assistant in the Center for Social Complexity, presented a poster on our DTRA-funded project. Finally, Bill Kennedy, the Principal Investigator, presented a briefing at DTRA’s annual program review. The annual report on the project was submitted the same week. At the end of our second year, we had extended the development of a synthetic population (including their social networks) to the entire region and had started agents moving following their normal patterns of life prior to the nuclear weapon’s explosion. We are modeling people’s normal patterns so that we know where they are when the weapon explodes. Over the next year we will be modeling their reactive behaviors for a few hours, days, and weeks after the event. Click here for more information on the project.

Kieran Marray, a student at the University of Oxford (St Catherine’s College), is joining the Center for Social Complexity for the summer as part of the Laidlaw Scholarship program. He is from Corby, a town in the middle of the United Kingdom. His research interests are agent-based modeling, decision theory, ethics, formal epistemology, and the economics of climate change. He has previously written on decision theory under radical uncertainty, and the issues raised by the belief structures underlying theoretical economic models. He was also part of a team which built a natural capital evaluation model for Interserve Consulting, and was the first (and only) undergraduate to be invited to give a paper at the Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford. At Mason, he is working under the supervision of Dr. Robert Axtell to build a basic agent-based model that would forecast our ability to automate tasks performed by humans over time. The aim is to produce a basic empirical model which can provide a base for future research.

Email: Kieran Marray

Earlier this year, Dr. Claudio Cioffi, director of the Center for Social Complexity, joined other scientists on-site at Takalik-Abaj, an archaeologial site located in southwest Guatemala some 120 miles from Guatemala City. Takalik Abaj was a sizeable city with the principal architecture clustered into four main groups spread across nine terraces. While some of these were natural features, others were artificial constructions requiring an enormous investment in labor and materials, such as a sophisticated water drainage system and a wealth of sculptured monuments. The site flourished from the 9th century BC through to at least the 10th century AD, and was an important centre of commerce. The variety of architectural styles and iconography suggest that the site was occupied by different ethnic groups. Excavation began there in 1976.

Dr. Claudio Cioffi, Director of the Center for Social Complexity, and GMU PhD student Niloofar Bagheri-Jebelli presented a paper, “A Computational Approach to Initial Social Complexity: Göbekli Tepe and Neolithic Polities in Urfa Region, Upper Mesopotamia, Tenth Millennium BC,” at the 83rd Annual Meeting of the SAA (Society for American Archareology held in Washington, DC in April. Abstract: Extensive archaeological field work and multidisciplinary research in recent decades shows that communities of sedentary hunter-gatherers during the tenth millennium BC built the earliest presently known monumental structures during the PPNA (ca. 9600–8800 BC) at the ceremonial site of Göbekli Tepe and nearby PPNB settlement sites in present-day Urfa province, southeastern Turkey. However, the earliest evidence of agriculture dates to a later period (early PPNB, ca. 8750 BC, terminus post quem) or began farther south (e.g., the Levant). The paper presents a novel computational analysis of initial social complexity in these early Anatolian communities, based on Canonical Theory of politogenesis, evolutionary dynamics, and lines of evidence drawn from Göbekli Tepe and related Urfa sites. Theory and data are then used to create an agent-based model simulating the emergence of worship sites, other diffused cultural patterns, and the emergence of cultivation as may have occurred in the region during the PPNA and initial PPNB periods. The model is implemented in NetLogo.

Andrew Crooks, PhD, returned recently from the Association of American Geographers’ annual meeting in New Orleans. Dr. Crooks presented Innovations in Urban Analytics, a look at new forms of data about people and cities that are fostering research that is disrupting many traditional fields. These new forms of micro-level data have led to new methodological approaches in order to better understand how urban systems behave. Increasingly, these approaches and data are being used to ask questions about how cities can be made more sustainable and efficient in the future. Dr. Crooks is associate professor in Computational and Data Sciences and a member of the Center for Social Complexity.

Annetta Burger, GRA with the Center of Social Complexity and member of the team working on a DTRA-funded project led by Dr. William Kennedy entitled “Response to a WMD in a Mega-City,” recently attended and presented at the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) 2018 Annual Meeting: Sustainable Futures in Philadelphia. Ms. Burger’s presentation, From Networks to Recovery: An Agent-based Model of Community Resilience, suggested that the community resilience and social capital that lead to improved local recovery from disasters are derived from social connections and social network structures that provide informational, financial and other in-kind resources, and that by modeling social network representations for a simulated society it is possible to explore how households recover from disaster. For more on the presentation, click here.

Drs. Qing Tian and Andrew Crooks, cowriting with Zhang, R., Jiang, L., Qi, S. and Yang, R., had a paper published in Land Use Policy (2018) entitled Projecting Cropping Patterns around Poyang Lake and Prioritizing Areas for Policy Intervention to Promote Rice: A Cellular Automata Model. In the paper they explore current land use patterns in the Poyang Lake Region (PLR) of China, focusing specifically on current rice production in the region and what this might look like in the future (especially the impact of farmland consolidation) by using an CA model (built on the DINAMICA EGO platform). For more information including an abstract and models, click here.

Mark Coletti, BSc, MSc, PhD, a Mason alumnus, has recently assumed the position of Geospatial Image Analysis R&D Scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Knoxville, TN. His principal research focus is on using machine learning to identify areas of human habitation in satellite imagery, and he is also involved in research related to Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) and agent-based modeling. Dr. Coletti, who received his Master of Science degree in Computer Science in 2007 from George Mason University and his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Computer Science from Mason in 2014, has been with ORNL since 2015.

While at Mason, Mark was actively involved in a number of projects and developmental initiatives. He was a member of the Center for Social Complexity’s Mason-Yale Joint Project on Climate and Society funded by ONR, and the lead developer of GeoMASON, a geospatial extension to MASON, the widely used Java-based simulation toolkits developed at George Mason University, under the direction of CSC Associate Director Sean Luke. He also developed an evolutionary computation C++ toolkit; a biologically inspired cognitive model for a DARPA Grand Challenge; a Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization related multiagent simulation; and an Office of Naval Research Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative Office sponsored massive multiagent simulation of pastoral and farming behavior in eastern Africa.

He is author of The GeoMason Cookbook, 2013, and of numerous other publications.

Dr. Claudio Cioffi‘s Second Edition of Introduction to Computational Social Science debuted in July and is now available from Springer.

This textbook provides a comprehensive and reader-friendly introduction to the field of computational social science (CSS). Presenting a unified treatment, the text examines in detail the four key methodological approaches of automated social information extraction, social network analysis, social complexity theory, and social simulation modeling. This updated new edition has been enhanced with numerous review questions and exercises to test what has been learned, deepen understanding through problem-solving, and to practice writing code to implement ideas. Topics and features: contains more than a thousand questions and exercises, together with a list of acronyms and a glossary; examines the similarities and differences between computers and social systems; presents a focus on automated information extraction; discusses the measurement, scientific laws, and generative theories of social complexity in CSS; reviews the methodology of social simulations, covering both variable- and object-oriented models.(Description from Springer.)f

Dr. Qing Tian‘s textbook, Rural Sustainability: A Complex Systems Approach to Policy Analysis, is available now from Springer.

This volume applies the science of complexity to study coupled human-environment systems (CHES) and integrates ideas from the social sciences of climate change into a study of rural development amid flooding and urbanization in the Poyang Lake Region (PLR) of China. Author Qing Tian operationalizes the concept of sustainability and provides useful scientific analyses for sustainable development in less developed rural areas that are vulnerable to climatic hazards. The book uses a new sustainability framework that is centered on the concept of well-being to study rural development in PLR. (Description from Springer.)


Visit the website for the DTRA WMD project now underway.

IEEE Pervasive Computing has a special issue on “Smart Cities.” According to Dr. Andrew Crooks, “The articles and departments in the special issue highlight the coming revolution in urban data via some of the different approaches researchers are taking to build tools and applications to better inform decision-making (to reduce energy consumption or improve visitor flows, for example).” Be sure to check out this issue (links to many articles) and then take time to explore the entire GIS and Agent-Based Model site designed by Andrew Crooks.

claudio Dr. Claudio Cioffi, director of the Center for Social Complexity, has been invited to the Summit on Social and Behavioral Sciences for National Security, held at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, under the sponsorship of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), and to review its public report forthcoming in February.

Dr. Cioffi has also been elected to the newly established University Research Advisory Committee (URAC), which will advise the Mason administration on research issues and policies at the university level.

Kennedy Dr. William Kennedy spearheads grant from DTRA enabling modeling of possible response to nuclear event. Mason’s Center for Social Complexity has been awarded a $462,094 grant from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) for a project entitled “A Framework for Modeling the Population’s Response to a Nuclear WMD Event.” This project, which explores a population’s response in the first hours, days, and weeks following a nuclear WMD event, is under the direction of William G. Kennedy (Principal Investigator/PI, Mason Center for Social Complexity; computational social scientist) and Andrew T. Crooks (Mason Center for Social Complexity and Mason’s Department of Computational and Data Sciences, College of Science; computational social scientist). The Center for Social Complexity, a unit in Mason’s Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, will provide core facilities and administrative support in coordination with the Office of Sponsored Programs and College of Science.

The objective of this research is to advance our understanding of the behavioral and social effects of a nuclear weapon of mass destruction (WMD) event on population dynamics. While the physical effects of such an event have been studied, the social effects are not well understood. Such effects may include complex cascading behaviors between and among the myriad of social systems and networks that have been too complex to easily describe using traditional methods. The model will show how an affected population might react to a WMD event in the first 30 days, including both in the short term (e.g., evacuation) and longer term (e.g., finding water, food, and shelters, and migrating), but will not address recovery.

The DTRA Program Officer for this project will be Paul S. Tandy, PhD.

Contact for Additional Information:
William G. Kennedy, Ph.D.
Center for Social Complexity, Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study
George Mason University, Research Hall, Room 380, MSN 6B2
4400 University Drive, Fairfax VA 22030 USA
Tel. (703) 993–1402; (703) 993-9291
E-mail: Bill Kennedy

Center for Social Complexity awarded a two-year contract for $264,678 from the Logistics Management Institute (LMI) for NASA project.

Technological advances in autonomous systems, such as smaller sensors, faster processors, and greater networking capability, have created an explosion of new consumer and commercial products and services. Unfortunately, our ability to clearly specify, effectively design, and then manage these advanced autonomous systems has not always kept pace with the development of the systems themselves.

The goal of the research is to create new language and visualization methods that will create a coherent and shared framework for the specification, design, development, management, and use of what are to a large degree unregulated systems. We will augment existing tools that can test and evaluate mechanical and basic software systems, and will propose a post-research, pre-development environment where we suggest that new approaches are in order, new terminology may be necessary, and new ways to communicate about and on behalf of the new autonomous technology is vital.

William G. Kennedy, Mason Center for Social Complexity, is the Principal Investigator (PI). The LMI program manager for this project is Brant Horio and the NASA Program Officer is Yuri Gawdiak, who is the Associate Director of the Airspace Operations and Safety Program at NASA headquarters.

The project will last one year with one additional year optional.

crooks Dr. Crooks Contributes to Encyclopedia of Geography. Dr. Andrew Crooks was invited to write an entry on “Cellular Automata” for the recently released “The International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology.” Below is the abstract to my chapter, along some of the images I used in my discussion, the full reference to the chapter.

Cellular Automata (CA) are a class of models where one can explore how local actions generate global patterns through well specified rules. In such models, decisions are made locally by each cell which are often arranged on a regular lattice and the patterns that emerge, be it urban growth or deforestation are not coordinated centrally but arise from the bottom up. Such patterns emerge through the cell changing its state based on specific transition rules and the states of their surrounding cells. This entry reviews the principles of CA models, provides a background on how CA models have developed, explores a range of applications of where they have been used within the geographical sciences, prior to concluding with future directions for CA modeling.

Click here for access to encyclopedia entry.