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Hamburg University of Technology, Germany
The authors state:
"The world that we experience is multifaceted, dynamic, unique, and mostly hidden from direct view. At a most basic level, individuals cope with this complexity by forming and using concepts to assign meaning to (i.e., to identify and describe) their experiences. People place concepts into relationships with other concepts and use these conceptual system as guides to organizing and explaining the world they experience. (...) In order to share and interact with others regarding these conceptualizations, people (scientists) translate their internal concepts into external symbols of language. When both the symbols and the underlying conceptualizations to which they refer are reasonably well shared, the exchange of meaning from one individual to another can take place." (p. 18).
In the second chapter, the instantiation of focusing concepts to delimitate and narrow theoretical definitions is elaborated. Again, the authors provide practical and useful suggestions, such as explaining concepts as simple and exact as possible. Common pitfalls are mentioned as well. For example, authors suggest not to define theory by an example, but to specify it on a general level. In their view, using examples should be seen as a refinement of the definition, by stressing the key properties of the concepts in question. The authors point out the importance of clear construct definitions for the value of theories and present possible strategies to tackle this challenge.
The third chapter concerns clarifying relationships using thought experiments, where the authors present thought experiments as a means to articulate constructs and (expected) theoretical relationships between constructs. For the definition of relationships, variable tables (e.g. contingency tables) are introduced and scatterplots are presented as graphical representations for relations. In the ODD protocol for simulation models (e.g., Grimm et al. 2006), variable tables are a means to identify model structures. The variable tables serve as a link between general theory construction and model specification for simulation models.
The next sections of this part introduce strategies for theory construction in very detail:
The section simulation as a theory development method describes simulation as a suitable tool for construction of theories, in particular in case of complex and dynamic systems. Moreover, the advantages of simulation in respect to laboratory experiments are presented. The book states that simulation models have the potential to deal with a larger set of variables, whereas the number of variables in laboratory experiments must be dramatically reduced. For instance, the contribution of simulation to theory construction is such that it can provide tests for a variety of hypothetical criterion systems and feedbacks on the process of conceptualization in iterations.
In sum, the book is highly recommendable for social science students, is a good lecture for young and open minded researchers and locates simulation at the core of the scientific endeavour.
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© Copyright Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 2010