Ana Maria Ramanath and Nigel Gilbert (2004)
The Design of Participatory Agent-Based Social Simulations
Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation
vol. 7, no. 4
To cite articles published in the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, reference the above information and include paragraph numbers if necessary
Received: 13-Jul-2003 Accepted: 21-Jul-2004 Published: 31-Oct-2004
Table 1: Advice from previous studies on practice in developing participatory simulations Stakeholders
- Participatory agent-based simulations are useful for the exploration of scenarios involving multiple stakeholders (see Parunak et al. 1998; Purnomo et al. 2002; Hare et al. 2001; Gilbert et al. 2002; d'Aquino et al. 2002; Lynam et al. 2002; Barreteau et al. 2001).
- Effective communication between stakeholders and putting decision-making into the hands of stakeholders are key for collaboration throughout all of the stages of participatory projects. However, stakeholders need to be aware of the tangible and intangible costs and benefits of cooperating (see Purnomo et al. 2002; d'Aquino 2002; Lynam et al. 2002)
- Lack of motivation can result in stakeholders losing interest or even dropping out of a project. A good structure, organisation and a certain degree of formality of activities contribute to maintaining stakeholder motivation throughout projects. As Barreteau et al. (2001:11) argue, during role-playing, for example, the focus needs to be on achieving a balance "between the extremes of a 'stage' play (if the sessions are too slow, or the players too neutral), and too much uncontrolled drift". Other factors favouring motivation reported in the literature (Asakawa and Gilbert, 2002; Gilbert et al. 2002; Hare et al. 2001; d'Aquino et al. 2002; Barreteau et al. 2001) include good time management, a desire to learn among stakeholders, and user-friendly software interfaces (where applicable).
- Achieving the 'right mix' of stakeholders for these projects is important. Stakeholder/player homogeneity needs to be taken into account too, as the mixing of superiors and subordinates may at times be problematic (Parker and Swatman 1999; Hare et al. 2001; Asakawa and Gilbert 2002; d'Aquino et al. 2002; Bousquet et al. 2002; Barreteau et al. 2001).
- There can be a number of sources of bias and data problems in the design process. Irvine et al. (1998), for example, list 29 possible sources of what the authors call "judgemental biases" grouped into three main categories: biases related to data (e.g. adjusting and anchoring; availability; conservatism; data saturation; spurious cues etc.); biases related to decision-makers (e.g. desire for self-fulfilling prophecies, expectations, fact value confusion; habit; hindsight, wishful thinking etc.); and decision-maker use of data (data presentation context, law of small numbers, representativeness etc.).
- In the design of Internet-mediated simulations (e.g. games) aspects such as: synchronicity (of play), support for technical or training problems, security (copyright, passwords, login names) and communication (sensitivity to cultural and language differences, sharing of sensitive data/information), are important for designers to consider. With regards to synchronicity, decisions about, for instance, how participants in different locations and time schedules will play with each other (e.g. over the Internet, or via video-conferencing, or person-to-person, etc.) need to be made early (see Asakawa and Gilbert 2002).
- The use of high level, structured programming tools assists in publishing simulation results and aids replication. These high level tools (for a review, see Tobias and Hofman 2004), can help to make writing the software easier and less prone to error (Terna 1998).
- Using programming languages such as Java and running the resulting simulation software as applets on client machines may place great demands on these machines and can make maintenance of the code tricky. With recent Web-enabled languages (such as PHP) that make it easier to generate web pages dynamically, all the code remains on the server. This can also have advantages for inter-player communication during gaming simulations, for example, because all players' actions are stored on the server for later analysis (see Gilbert et al. 2002).
- Another tool that has been used for building multi-agent based applications is XML (Extensible Mark-up Language). XML is an open standard for the representation of information that can be processed by machines and read by people. It supports data representations in a way that is generic enough and yet sufficiently feature-rich to allow for a range of concepts to be modeled. It also allows information to be stored in structured files and ported across different platforms (see Erl 2004).
- There can be significant differences between simulation results and reality. This can be due to software errors, but also to omission of key (social) aspects during the initial conceptualisation and modeling stages (see Purnomo et al. 2002; Edmonds and Hales 2003).
- The potential for undesirable as well as desirable results in multi-agent based simulations can be a side effect of emergent behaviour that arises as a result of interactions between the system components (see Bousquet et al. 2002; Kearney and Merlat 1999). This can pose a problem for the more engineering-oriented simulation researchers. As Edmonds and Hales (2003) point out: "If we are to be able to trust the simulations we use, we must independently replicate them. An unreplicated simulation is an untrustworthy simulation".
- Parker and Swatman (1999) suggest that simplified documentation which places emphasis on a step-by-step, rather than an explanatory approach, can reduce the time and costs associated with activities such as training, briefing/debriefing, role-playing, and dissemination of results; and, that use of email as a tool for communication and as substitute for certain types of detailed documents has been effective. However, those authors also conclude that, despite the benefits of using the Web, stakeholders continue to favour face-to-face communication, particularly for briefing and debriefing purposes.
|Goal:||Workshop(s) to explore future possibilities by developing scenarios|
|Structure:||Half-day workshop with agenda and minutes|
|Inputs:||Literature review about the state-of-the-art of the online news and music sectors|
|Participants:||Researchers and Board representatives from end-user organisations (between 10 and 12 people per session)|
|Outputs:||Summary report; video and audio recording of the meeting|
|Goal:||Workshop for software conceptualisation and design that involves both developers and end-users|
|Structure:||Day workshops with agenda, minutes, presentations by participants (as starting points for some of the topics for group discussion) and use of visual aids (e.g. flipcharts) for team design/brainstorming|
|Inputs:||Executive summaries or reports resulting from the previous scenario analysis. Brief, initial descriptions of the online news and music markets derived from literature reviews, face-to-face or telephone interviews with market players, survey data analysis, etc.|
|Rough (prototype) software design. The prototype was presented to the JAD audience for feedback as a presentation from a projected laptop|
|Participants:||End-users representing the sectors and developers (between 7 and 10 people)|
|Outputs:||An initial list of the main entities (whether animate or inanimate) which will make up the model structure (e.g. software agents: key attributes and properties, their interactions, etc.)|
|Goal:||Building a quick and rough version of a desired software/system involving designers and end-users|
|Structure:||The number of software developers involved in prototyping tends to vary depending upon the size and needs of each project. In Simweb's case, for example, the prototypes were built by small teams (3 to 5 software developers) based at different locations.|
|Inputs:||Reports and software releases derived from previous activities (e.g. scenario analysis, JAD meetings, emails, surveys, web site documentation, etc.), but mainly the initial model structure, draft simulation software requirements, and initial software prototype releases.|
|Participants:||Simulation designers and developers with input from relevant stakeholders (researchers, end-users)|
|Outputs:||Up-to-date prototype software release. Prototypes are functional software but with an incomplete model and reduced features. They may or may not evolve into the final simulation software product as required by stakeholders. The software may consist of, for example, of a graphical input/output interface plus a core background application.|
|Goal:||Demonstration and discussion among developers and users|
|Structure:||A full day meeting with agenda and minutes. Given time constraints and a need to capture as much feedback from end-users as possible during these panel meetings, roles were assigned to participants prior to these meetings (e.g. chair/time keeping, facilitator, minute-taker).|
|Inputs:||Prototype software presentation(s) by relevant stakeholders|
|A list of unresolved issues usually provided by the prototype developers (e.g. behavioural rules for the agent-based software; software implementation issues, data related issues, etc.)|
|Participants:||Between 10 and 12 people including representatives from all the research partners, and representatives from end-user organisations|
|Outputs:||Hand-written (or electronic) notes about software refinements required based mainly on user feedback|
The authors are indebted to the anonymous reviewers of the article for their suggestions and to all the members of the project, who not only provided the inspiration for using rapid prototyping, but also consented to be guinea pigs, being observed as subjects for our study while wrestling with the trials of gathering data in a fast moving business sector which changed as we studied it, and also producing complex software to schedule. The following in particular contributed to this study: Kornelia van der Beek, Mary Ebeling, Cornelia Krüger, Barbara Llacay, Maite López, Xavier Noria, Gilbert Peffer, Stephan Schuster, Paula Swatman and Miguel Varela.
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