CASA Working Paper 214
Agent-Based Models for Geographical Systems: A Review
16 December 2019
This paper charts the progress made since agent-based models (ABMs) of geographical systems emerged from more aggregative approaches to spatial modeling in the early 1990s. We first set the context by noting that ABM explicitly represent the spatial system by individual objects, usually people in the social science domain, with behaviors that we simulate here mainly as decisions about location and movement. Key issues pertaining to the way in which temporal dynamics characterize these models are noted and we then pick up the challenges from the review of this field conducted by Crooks, et al. (2008) some 12 years ago which was also published as a CASA working paper. We then define key issues from this past review as pertaining to a series of questions involving: the rationale for modeling; the way in which theory guides models and vice versa; how models can be compared; questions of model replication, experiment, verification and validation; how dynamics are incorporated in models; how agent behaviors can be simulated; how such ABMs are communicated and disseminated; and finally the data challenges that still dominate the field. This takes us to the current challenges emerging from this discussion. Big data, the way it is generated, and its relevance for ABM is explored with some important caveats as to the relevance of such data for these models, the way these models might be integrated with one another and with different genera of models are noted, while new ways of testing such models through ensemble forecasting and data assimilation are described. The notion about how we model human behaviors through agents learning in complex environment is presented and this then suggests that ABM still have enormous promise for effective simulations of how spatial systems evolve and change.
Author/s: Alison Heppenstall, Andrew Crooks, Nick Malleson, Ed Manley, Jiaqi Ge and Michael Batty