Contribution to Geocomp 2017 Keynote

One of the Geocomputation keynotes is going to be crowdsourced.  This is the first time that this has happened at Geocomputation.  The brave souls pulling this together are:  Dr Adam Dennett and Dr Dianna Smith.  I’ve added my thoughts/musing – copied below (please note these were written off the top of my head).  Do get involved and give your opinions on the subject, you will be credited on the keynote – go here.

Thoughts / questions / musings / predictions / observations and things that are getting you all excited about the future of GeoComputation as a sub-discipline

“As I’m from Yorkshire, I can’t just post ‘excited’ things about Geocomputation – I have to start with some whinging to get comfortable. My area of Geocomputation, individual-based modelling, has several very important methodological issues to overcome; understanding patterns in spatio-temporal data, simulating (human) behaviour and most importantly robustly calibrating and validating simulation models. With the heralding of ‘big data’, we have a real opportunity to use new forms of micro data to both improve the realism of our models, but also to give the rigor to calibration and validation. However, this hasn’t happened? Why? Personally I think that researchers have got distracted from the big issues in IBM (and Geocomp more broadly) through both these new forms of data and the easy DIY IBM frameworks that are abundantly available. I feel that IDEs (e.g. Netlogo, perhaps not so much Repast) that allow ABMs to be rapidly thrown together are having a negative effect. Journals are full of models that have little engagement with theory and are poorly calibrated and validated. Why is this important? Well, as academics we want our work to have a positive societal impact and be taken up by policymakers. There are innumerable challenges that now face us e.g. dealing with an ageing population, creating smart and sustainable cities etc etc. Technologies such as IBM can provide valuable insight that can help policy-makers etc in solving some of these issues. But without robust calibration and validation of these approaches (comparable to that found in climate models), these models remain academic playthings. IBM, especially ABM is a bit of an anomaly as its developed rapidly in several silo’s over the past 20 years – there is no centrally held ‘best’ practice and the discipline certainly needs input from other areas such as maths (error quantification), physics (handling non-linearity and complexity), computing (large simulations), sociology, human geography and psychology (behavioural frameworks and theory) to progress. To move ABM forward, the community needs to work together – but where to start?
Geocomputation is a rapidly moving subject and I feel the definition is very dynamic, changing with the current fad e.g. most people would associated ABM with Geocomp rather than other approaches e.g Bayesian. However, if we strip it back to basics, its as Andy Evans describes “the art of solving complex problems with computers” – increasing computer power, technology (sharing and dissemination platforms) and more data give us the opportunity to solve (and contribute to) these problems, and this is possibly the most exciting part of Geocomputation. But as a community will we ever get our act together and realise this potential?”

Geocomputation 2017: Workshop Invitation


In preparation for GeoComputation 2017, we’re now open for volunteers who would like to put on workshops. We welcome applications and suggestions in any GeoComputational area, new and more established. The main day for workshops will be the 3rd Sept 2017, just before the conference.

However, we would also like to run some little mini-hackathon things during some of the breaks/lunches, so if anyone has any ideas for short and sweet little interactive training bursts, or other activities that engage people in exciting technologies, please get in touch. All ideas welcome. Email Andy Evans on, or

Conference website here.


Call for Papers – Symposium on Human Dynamics in Smart and Connected Communities: Agents – the ‘atomic unit’ of social systems?

Call for Papers – Symposium on Human Dynamics in Smart and Connected Communities: Agents – the ‘atomic unit’ of social systems?

We welcome paper submissions for our session(s) at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting on 5-9 April, 2017, in Boston.

Session Description:

By defining a social system as a collection of agents, individuals and their behaviors/decisions become the driving force of these systems. Complex global phenomena such as collective behaviors, extensive spatial patterns, and hierarchies are manifested through agent interaction in such a way that the actions of the parts do not simply sum to the activity of the whole. This allows unique perspectives into the inner workings of social systems, making agent-based modelling (ABM) a powerful and appealing tool for understanding the drivers of these systems and how they may change in the future.

What is noticeable from recent applications of ABM is the increase in complexity (richness and detail) of the agents, a factor made possible through new data sources and increased computational power. While there has always been ‘resistance’ to the notion that social scientists should search for some ‘atomic element or unit’ of representation that characterizes the geography of a place, the shift from aggregate to individual mark agents as a clear contender to fulfill the role of ‘atom’ in social simulation modelling. However, there are a number of methodological challenges that need to be addressed if ABM is to fully realize its potential and be recognized as a powerful tool for policy modelling in key societal issues. Most pressing are methods to accurately identify, represent, and evaluate key behaviors and their drivers in ABM.

We invite any papers that contribute towards this wide discussion ranging from epistemological perspectives of the place of ABM, extracting behavior from novel and established data sets to new, intriguing applications to establishing robustness in calibrating and validating ABMs.

Please e-mail the abstract and key words with your expression of intent to Andrew Crooks ( by 22nd October, 2016 (one week before the AAG session deadline). Please make sure that your abstract conforms to the AAG guidelines in relation to title, word limit and key words and as specified at:

An abstract should be no more than 250 words that describe the presentation’s purpose, methods, and conclusions.

Timeline summary:

  • 20th October, 2016: Abstract submission deadline. E-mail Andrew Crooks by this date if you are interested in being in this session. Please submit an abstract and key words with your expression of intent.
  • 24th October, 2016: Session finalization and author notification
  • 26th October, 2016: Final abstract submission to AAG, via All participants must register individually via this site. Upon registration you will be given a participant number (PIN). Send the PIN and a copy of your final abstract to Andrew Crooks. Neither the organizers nor the AAG will edit the abstracts.
  • 27th October, 2016: AAG registration deadline. Sessions submitted to AAG for approval.
  • 5-9th April, 2017: AAG Annual Meeting.


  • Andrew Crooks, Department of Computational and Data Sciences, George Mason University.
  • Alison Heppenstall, School of Geography, University of Leeds.
  • Nick Malleson, School of Geography, University of Leeds
  • Paul Torrens, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Tandon School of Engineering, New York University.
  • Sarah Wise, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), University College London.

ABM and urban economics

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New paper just published… Olner D; Evans A; Heppenstall A (2015) An agent model of urban economics: Digging into emergence, Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, . doi: 10.1016/j.compenvurbsys.2014.12.003 Abstract This paper presents an agent-based ‘monocentric’ model: assuming only a fixed location for firms, outcomes … Continue reading