Mason-Yale Joint Project on Computational Modeling of Complex Crises in East Africa

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Mission: To develop new agent-based spatial simulation models for analyzing scenarios of societal consequences of disasters in the East Africa region. Principal Investigator: Dr Claudio Cioffi-Revilla, George Mason University


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 16 of 16
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    Comparing Agent-Based Computational Simulation Models in Cross-Cultural Research
    (SAGE, 2011-05) Cioffi-Revilla, Claudio
    Mel Ember was co-Principal Investigator in the Mason-HRAF Joint Project on Eastern Africa, a multiyear project aimed at developing and analyzing advanced computational agent-based models of human societies across 10 countries and 12 ecosystems. A major unsolved challenge in this kind of social science research is to devise a systematic way to compare, contrast, and communicate different models of social dynamics along relevant dimensions and characteristics, given the inherent complexity of most computational agent-based models. This article proposes a viable systematic framework for comparing models and illustrates its application using some of the models that Mel helped inspire and develop as senior project participant.
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    Evolutionary Computation and Agent-based Modeling: Biologically-inspired Approaches for Understanding Complex Social Systems
    (Kluwer, 2012-06-18) Cioffi-Revilla, Claudio; De Jong, Kenneth; Bassett, Jeffrey
    Computational social science in general, and social agent-based modeling (ABM) simulation in particular, are challenged by modeling and analyzing complex adaptive social systems with emergent properties that are hard to understand in terms of components, even when the organization of component agents is know. Evolutionary computation (EC) is a mature field that provides a bio-inspired approach and a suite of techniques that are applicable to and provide new insights on complex adaptive social systems. This paper demonstrates a combined EC-ABM approach illustrated through the RebeLand model of a simple but complete polity system. Results highlight tax rates and frequency of public issue that stress society as significant features in phase transitions between stable and unstable governance regimes. These initial results sug- gest further applications of EC to ABM in terms of multi-population models with heterogeneous agents, multi-objective optimization, dynamic environments, and evolving executable objects for modeling social change.
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    Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Spatial Agent-Based Model (ABM) Simulations for Sustainable Development
    (Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), 2011-10) Cioffi-Revilla, Claudio; Roger, J. Daniel; Hailegiorgis, Atesmachew
    In recent years the interdisciplinary field of Computational Social Science has developed theory and methodologies for building spatial Agent-Based Social Simulation (ABSS) models of human societies that are situated in ecosystems with land cover and climate. This article explains the needs and demand for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in these types of agent-based models, with an emphasis on models applied to Eastern Africa and Inner Asia and relevance for understanding and analyzing development issues. The models are implemented with the MASON (Multi-Agent Simulator Of Networks and Neighborhoods) system, an open-source simulation environment in the Java language and suitable for developing ABSS models with GIS for representing spatial features.
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    Mason-Yale Joint Project on Computational Modeling of Complex Crises in Africa Bibliography
    Bibliography of published and presented resources from the Mason-Yale Joint Project on Computational Modeling of Complex Crises in Africa. The bibliography identifies materials produced as a result of this research project. When available, access information has been added to each entry. Because of copyright and rights restrictions, the Mason Archival Repository Service (MARS) cannot make materials listed in this bibliography publicly available. Bibliography entries have been archived off-line. For questions about these resources, contact MARS at
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    An Agent-Based Model of Climate Change and Conflict among Pastoralists in East Africa
    (International Environmental Modelling and Software Society (iEMSs), 2010) Hailegiorgis, A.B.; Kennedy, W.G.; Balan, G.C.; Bassett, J.K.; Gulden, T.
    Presented is an agent-based model of human-environment interaction and conflict in East Africa using the MASON agent-based simulation environment. The model focuses on the complex interaction of pastoral groups with their environment and other emerging external actors. The model supports the observation that increased seasonal rainfall variability and droughts create tremendous stress on pastoralists groups and challenges their long-term resilience and adaptive response mechanisms.
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    MASON HerderLand: Origins of Conflict in East Africa
    (2010-11) Kennedy, W.G.; Hailegiorgis, A.B.; Rouleau, M.; Bassett, J.K.; Coletti, M.; Balan, G.C.; Gulden, T.; Cioffi-Revilla, C.
    HerderLand is an agent-based model of the people and environment in the Mandera Triangle area of Eastern Africa developed to address the causes of conflict in the area. With it we have conducted three sets of experiments varying the major environmental parameters we believed would affect conflict in the region.
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    Conflict in Complex Socio-Natural Systems: Using Agent-Based Modeling to Understand the Behavioral Roots of Social Unrest within the Mandera Triangle
    (Human Behavior-Computational Modeling and Interoperability Conference, 2009-06) Rouleau, Mark; Coletti, Mark; Bassett, Jeffrey K.; Hailegiorgis, Atesmachew B.; Gulden, Tim; Kennedy, William G.
    Conflict resolution research relies upon a deep understanding of human behavior within highly complex socionatural systems. Scholars must isolate the source of conflict among individuals reacting to the feedback of changing socionatural conditions. Fortunately, the oft-obscured roots of conflict typically surface at critical points of change within the system. We use the Mandera Triangle region of East Africa as an example of this surfacing of behavioral drivers. Our research fuses a wide range of backgrounds to construct a simulation model of Mandera and to gain a better understanding of the roots of human behavior in relation to social conflict.
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    An Agent-Based Model of Conflict in East Africa and the Effect of Watering Holes
    (Conference on Behavior Representation in Modeling and Simulation, 2010-03) Kennedy, W.G.; Hailegiorgis, A.B.; Rouleau, M.; Bassett, J.K.; Coletti, M.; Balan, G.C.; Gulden, T.
    An agent-based model conflict between herdsmen in east Africa using the MASON agent-based simulation environment is presented. Herders struggle to keep their herds fed and watered in a GIS-based, spatially diverse environment with data-driven seasonal cycles. The model produces realistic carrying capacity dynamics and basically plausible conflict dynamics. With the rather basic set of behaviors, herders come into conflict over limited resources and one clan is eventually eliminated. We find that greater environmental scarcity leads to faster domination by a single group. At the same time, we note that there is tremendous variability from run to run in the rate and timing of the transition from a conflict-prone, multi-clan environment to hegemony of a single group.
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    Integrating Fast and Slow Cognitive Processes
    (International Conference on Cognitive Modeling, 2010-08) Kennedy, William, G.; Bugjska, Magdalena
    Human reactions appear to be controlled by two separate types of mental processes: one fast, automatic, and unconscious and the other slow, deliberate, and conscious. With the attention in the literature focused on the taxonomy of the two processes, there is little discussion of how they interact. In this paper, we focus on modeling the slower process’s ability to inhibit the fast process. We present computational cognitive models in which different strategies allow a human to consciously inhibit an undesirable fast response. These general strategies include (a) blocking sensory input, (b), blocking or interrupting the fast process’s response, and (c) slowing down or delaying processing by introducing additional task. Furthermore, we discuss an approach to learning such strategies based on the inference of the causes and effects of the fast process.
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    GeoMason: Geospatial Support for MASON
    (Department of Computer Science, George Mason University, 2010) Sullivan, Keith; Coletti, Mark; Luke, Sean
    MASON is a free, open-source Java-based discrete event multi-agent simulation toolkit that has been used to model network intrusions, unmanned aerial vehicles, nomadic migrations, and farmer/herder conflicts, among others. Many multi-agent models use georeferenced data which represent such things as road networks, rivers, vegetation coverage, population, and topology. However, MASON does not directly support georeferenced data. Therefore practitioners using MASON must hand craft such support, which may be difficult and error prone. In this paper we describe newly added geospatial functionality in MASON that addresses this problem. We discuss the design of this functionality, called GeoMASON, and its use and limitations. Finally, we give examples on how to import and manipulate georeferenced data.
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    MASON AfriLand: A Regional Multi-Country Agent-Based Model with Cultural and Environmental Dynamics
    (2009-06) Cioffi-Revilla, C.; Rouleau, M.
    Agent-based models of regions of the international system composed of several countries are few and not as advanced as other classes of spatial computational models on a comparable scale. Most relevant extant models are of a single country or polity, or they model an entire international system putatively comprising all countries as in a world system. Here we present AfriLand, a new agentbased model for developing a large-scale and more detailed model of the geographic region of contemporary Eastern Africa. AfriLand is part of the Mason-HRAF Joint Project on Eastern Africa funded by a multi-year ONR-MURI grant. We present the motivation and challenges behind the AfriLand agent-based model design and a description of the model architecture and dynamics. AfriLand offers a useful scale for analyzing socio-cultural and environmental dynamics that transcend national boundaries, such as refugee flows, transnational conflict and crime (narcotics, trafficking in persons, smuggling) and natural hazards across national frontiers. AfriLand also presents visualization challenges that call for a range of solutions from software to hardware.
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    The "Fast and Frugal" Cognitive Architecture for Computational Social Simulations
    (Behavior Representation in Modeling & Simulation (BRIMS) Conference 2011, 2011-03) Kennedy, William G.; Bassett, Jeffrey K.
    Computational social simulations involving humans require models of human behavior but their behavior can be represented and modeled in many ways. The two dimensions of this challenge we are interested in are the degree of cognitive plausibility in the representation of the behavior of humans and the computational intensity involved.
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    MASON RebeLand: An Agent-Based Model of Politics, Environment, and Insurgency
    (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010-03) Cioffi-Revilla, Claudio; Rouleau, Mark
    Social simulation models from computational social science are beginning to provide significant advances in terms of implementing more complex social, human, and natural dynamics that are characteristic of how countries operate in the real world. In particular, increasingly realistic agent-based models can improve capacity for early warning, understanding, and prediction. The MASON RebeLand model presents three innovations over earlier models: (i) an explicit polity model with politically complete structure and processes; (ii) social and natural model components within an integrated socio-natural system; and (iii) generative dynamics where insurgency and the state of the polity (stable, unstable, failing, failed, and recovering) occur as emergent phenomena under a range of social and environmental conditions. Three scenarios are demonstrated, showing stable, unstable, and failing polity conditions. The MASON computational system for agent-based and network modeling also permits additional experiments and extensions.
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    MASON RebeLand: An Agent-Based Model of Politics, Environment, and Insurgency
    (2010-02) Cioffi-Revilla, Claudio; Rouleau, Mark
    Problem overview: explore the complex relationship between Society, Government, and Issues, using an explicit polity (political system) model; understand the feedback amongst Citizen Satisfaction, Issue Management, and Government Legitimacy; and generate emergence of civil unrest and polity instability from the “Bottom Up” within an Agent-Based Model.
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    Complex Polities in the Age of Modern States
    (International Studies Association, 2011-03-16) Cioffi-Revilla, Claudio
    Complex polities are political systems composed of both official "vertical" state institutions as well as one or more alternative set of "horizontal" institutions, such as religious, economic, paramilitary, or even criminal organizations. Both vertical and horizontal polities that compose complex polities have policy-making capacity engaged in the provision of public (and in some cases private) goods aimed at addressing various societal needs. While complex polities have existed since early antiquity, from a world historical perspective it is only since ca. 1500 CE and the formation of modern European states that contending vertical and horizontal polities have produced specialized institutions in competition and collaboration with the state. Moreover, complex polities for global governance also appear in the world system since ca. 1500 CE. This paper will present a theory of complex polities based on a computational perspective that is implemented in agent-based models of coupled socio-techno-natural systems - i.e., systems of governance that integrate societies and natural environments through artificial systems that mediate between the two at many scales, from local to global.
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    Pandemonium in Silico: Individual Radicalization for Agent-Based Modeling
    (International Studies Association, 2011-03) Cioffi-Revilla, Claudio; Harrison, Joseph F.
    How do individuals become radicalized, turning into terrorists, insurgents, violent actors.Computational agent-based models of irregular warfare, internal war, domestic political violence, and related conflicts require violent agents capable of carrying out attacks. Rather than introducing such agents as an exogenous process, as a Deus ex machina, this paper presents an agent-based model where radicalization is generated as an emergent phenomenon from within a population of individuals. The model (tentatively called “MASONRadicalAgent’’) is based on a new process-based theory of individual radicalization and is implemented in the MASON simulation system. Our paper describes the underlying theory, model structure, and some preliminary results intended for demonstration.This modeling effort is part of a broader project for modeling conflict in complex polities by combining computational simulations and network models.
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