Agent Street: An Environment for Exploring Agent-Based Models in Second Life
Urban models can be seen on a continuum between iconic and symbolic. Generally speaking, iconic models are physical versions of the real world at some scaled down representation, while symbolic models represent the system in terms of the way they function replacing the physical or material system by some logical and/or mathematical formulae. Traditionally iconic and symbolic models were distinct classes of model but due to the rise of digital computing the distinction between the two is becoming blurred, with symbolic models being embedded into iconic models. However, such models tend to be single user. This paper demonstrates how 3D symbolic models in the form of agent-based simulations can be embedded into iconic models using the multi-user virtual world of Second Life. Furthermore, the paper demonstrates Second Life's potential for social science simulation. To demonstrate this, we first introduce Second Life and provide two exemplar models; Conway's Game of Life, and Schelling's Segregation Model which highlight how symbolic models can be viewed in an iconic environment. We then present a simple pedestrian evacuation model which merges the iconic and symbolic together and extends the model to directly incorporate avatars and agents in the same environment illustrating how 'real' participants can influence simulation outcomes. Such examples demonstrate the potential for creating highly visual, immersive, interactive agent-based models for social scientists in multi-user real time virtual worlds. The paper concludes with some final comments on problems with representing models in current virtual worlds and future avenues of research.
Volume (Year): 12 (2009)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
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