Simulate It Yourself (SIY)

As in so many other areas, computer-based tools combined with public web platforms for sharing designs, have opened-up the field of agent-based simulation . NetLogo is an integrated development environment for making, playing with and using these simulations in the most accessible manner upto the present time. This system is based upon the computer language Logo that was designed by an educational psychologist (Semour Papert, a student of Piaget's). It is designed to be more like a language than a traditional computer language, with a relatively high number of built-in primitives, a visually intuitive interface and a clean syntax that approaches natural language in terms of clairty. However the language is a full computer programming language with many advanced features. It comes with a large library of example models and has excellent and readable documentation. The system is free to download and open source.

The upshot of this is that many new academics and the general public are now able to explore and play around with agent-based simulations. There are at least a couple of public model archives where simulations (and sometimes their documentation) can be freely downloaded and experimented with:

  • Modelling Commons, an large archive of simulations of all kinds from amateur to professional
  •, a small archive of better documented simulations but completely open to the public

A corpus of helpful material has built around this system, tutorials, extensions to the language (e.g. for interfacing with Arduino or making sounds), courses, books etc. Most of which are linked from the NetLogo site.

Simple examples of simulations made using this system from the built in model library, include the following...

Ants looking for sugar and laying down pheremones

Membrane formation

Flocking of birds

Grand Canyon Style Erosion Patterns

But also more complex models such as mine...

A model of social networks and voting behaviour