Simulation

The extended use of data visualisation technologies and virtual reality techniques in simulation research methods is often seen as one of the hallmarks of e-science (Berman, Fox et al. 2003). Computer based simulation and modelling has become a standard repertoire in the natural and technical sciences and is increasingly used in the life sciences and medicine (Fishwick 1995; Banks 1998). In a number of social sciences and humanities, models have been a standard tool for decades (eg. economics, sociology, archeology) (Gilbert and Troitzsch 1999; Burenhult 2002; Schweitzer 2002). The use of simulation is however a more recent phenomenon in these fields. Moreover, the value of simulating and modelling as a research method is often not undisputed.

The aim of the research in the methodological focus Simulation in the Studio is to develop further expertise in simulations and systematic reflection on the heuristic value of modelling and simulation for theory building in the social sciences and humanities. The research will not focus primarily on the creation of new models since there is already a large variety of models and simulation techniques available. Instead, the respecification of general models for research questions in the social sciences and humanities will be central. Both agent-based and network-oriented models and simulations will be included in the research agenda. The study of the heuristic and epistemic value of modelling and simulating as a research strategy is intrinsic part of this respecification. For example, from the perspective of social theory one might wish to give agents in large systems as many individual traits as possible. However, this easily leads to an exponential increase of the degrees of freedom of the model. This raises the question how low-dimensional approaches can be combined with individualisation of agents in multi-agent models and simulations.

The research in this methodological focus will focus on evolutionary modelling (including the modelling of innovation), the application of evolutionary strategies as heuristic concept and as mathematical tools, and the diffusion of simulation into the humanities (Scharnhorst 1998; Scharnhorst 2001; Ratto and Scharnhorst 2004). We expect that this might also lead to a toolbox of simulation principles in combination with principles for the reflection on the conceptual implications of such models (which are often not explicitly discussed in the literature). The simulation will moreover be developed in close collaboration with domain-specific experts in the social sciences and humanities. This may also produce interactive simulations that can be used in different contexts in research and teaching.