Thursday, November 08, 2018

Refugee Camps and Volunteered Geographical Information

Fig. 7. Stimulus-Awareness-Activism (SA2) framework
Previously we have posted on how one can use new sources of data  (e.g. Volunteered Geographical Information) to explore and understand the world around us, such as mass migration, urban form and function, or be used for the basis of a model. Continuing on with this research theme we recently had a paper published in PLoS ONE entitled: "News Coverage, Digital Activism, and Geographical Saliency: A Case Study of Refugee Camps and Volunteered Geographical Information."

In this paper we explore the relationship between news coverage (via Google news), search trends (via Google trends) and user edit contribution patterns in OpenStreetMap and  Wikipedia for refugee camps from around the world. Specifically we are interested in how news media coverage (and in particular digital media) impacts digital activism (i.e.  volunteers who contribute content to online communities). Based on our analysis we find that digital activism bursts tend to take place during periods of sustained build-up of public awareness deficit or surplus.

These findings are in line with two prominent mass communication theories: agenda setting and corrective action, and suggest the emergence of a novel Stimulus-Awareness-Activism (SA2) framework in today’s participatory digital age. We argue that this paper brings us one step closer to understanding the underlying mechanisms that drive digital activism in particular in the geospatial domain. Below you can read the abstract of the paper, see the refugee camps we studied and some of the results. At the bottom of the post we also provide the full reference and a link to the paper.

Abstract:
The last several decades have witnessed a shift in the way in which news is delivered and consumed by users. With the growth and advancements in mobile technologies, the Internet, and Web 2.0 technologies users are not only consumers of news, but also producers of online content. This has resulted in a novel and highly participatory cyber-physical news awareness ecosystem that fosters digital activism, in which volunteers contribute content to online communities. While studies have examined the various components of this news awareness ecosystem, little is still known about how news media coverage (and in particular digital media) impacts digital activism. In order to address this challenge and develop a greater understanding of it, this paper focuses on a specific form of digital activism, that of the production of digital geographical content through crowdsourcing efforts. Using refugee camps from around the world as a case study, we examine the relationship between news coverage (via Google news), search trends (via Google trends) and user edit contribution patterns in OpenStreetMap, a prominent geospatial data crowdsourcing platform. In addition, we compare and contrast these patterns with user edit patterns in Wikipedia, a well-known non-geospatial crowdsourcing platform. Using Google news and Google trends to derive a measure of thematic public awareness, our findings indicate that digital activism bursts tend to take place during periods of sustained build-up of public awareness deficit or surplus. These findings are in line with two prominent mass communication theories: agenda setting and corrective action, and suggest the emergence of a novel stimulus-awareness-activism framework in today’s participatory digital age. Moreover, these findings further complement existing research examining the motivational factors that drive users to contribute to online collaborative communities. This paper brings us one step closer to understanding the underlying mechanisms that drive digital activism in particular in the geospatial domain.

Figure 1. Study areas  (centroid location of camp).

Figure 5. OSM, Wikipedia, Google News, and Google Trends time series during a -/+4 months period around the strongest extremum point of each camp. The figures show that whereas OSM and Wikipedia entries tend to come in bursts, Google News and Trends display a more sustained type of activity.

Figure 6. The public awareness curve versus the cumulative OSM and Wikipedia edit activity during a -/+4 months period around the strongest extremum point of each camp. For camps such as Nyarugusu, OSM and Wikipedia bursts overlap with public awareness surplus. In other camps, such as Bidibidi, OSM edit activity bursts coincide with public awareness deficit.  

Full Reference: 
Mahabir, R., Croitoru, A., Crooks, A.T., Agouris, P. and Stefanidis, A. (2018), News Coverage, Digital Activism, and Geographical Saliency: A Case Study of Refugee Camps and Volunteered Geographical Information, PLoS ONE, 13(11): e0206825.   https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0206825 (pdf)

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

ABM platform developers from CoMSES 2018

There are many reviews of agent-based modeling platforms (e.g. Abar et al., 2017; Kravari and Bassiliades, 2015; Castle and Crooks, 2006) but rarely do you see movies  describing how such platforms have developed or where they are heading. Recently CoMSES Net (home of many great resources for agent-based modeling) held their second virtual conference: CoMSES 2018. During this virtual conference, the were presentations from Repast, Cormas and MESA to name but a few and I thought theese were worth sharing. If you click on the links below your can go directly to their threads (discussion) on from the conference.

Repast:
 

Cormas:


Mesa:


On a slightly different note, I just came across a series of podcasts by Jacob Ingalls and Benjamin Schumann (http://brokenjars.xyz/simtalk/) who have interviewed a number of practitioners carrying out simulation modeling including the CEO of AnyLogic. Similar to the movies above, these podcasts provide a different way of learning more about simulations.

Friday, October 19, 2018

New Paper: Scalability in the MASON Multi-agent Simulation System

Previously we posted about our work on advancing MASON, part of which we briefly discussed making it distributed in order to  run large scale models including geographical explicit ones along for optimization and validation purposes. To this end we recently had a paper accepted and presented at the  22nd International Symposium on Distributed Simulation and Real Time Applications (DS-RT 2018),  entitled "Scalability in the MASON Multi-agent Simulation System". 

In this paper we describe a distributed version of the MASON, and use three existing MASON models: HeatBugs, Flockers, and CampusWorld, to demonstrate how Distributed MASON achieves highly scalable performance, in terms of linear performance increases as the size of the simulations grow using Amazon Web Services.  Below you can read the abstract of the paper, see  some figures relating to how we go about data management and some of the results. Finally, at the bottom of the post you can see the full reference and access the paper itself.

Abstract:
This paper describes Distributed MASON, a distributed version of the MASON agent-based simulation tool. Distributed MASON is architected to take advantage of well known principles from Parallel and Discrete Event Simulation, such as the use of Logical Processes (LP) as a method for obtaining scalable and high performing simulation systems. We first explain data management and sharing between LPs and describe our approach to load balancing. We then present both a local greedy approach and a global hierarchical approach. Finally, we present the results of our implementation of Distributed MASON on an instance in the Amazon Cloud, using several standard multi-agent models. The results indicate that our design is highly scalable and achieves our expected levels of speed-up.




Full Reference:
Wang, H., Wei, E., Simon, R., Luke, S., Crooks, A.T., Freelan, D. and Spagnuolo, C. (2018), Scalability in the MASON Multi-agent Simulation System, The 22nd International Symposium on Distributed Simulation and Real Time Applications, Madrid, Spain. (pdf)

This research is supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant 1727303).

Friday, September 21, 2018

Exodus 2.0: Crowdsourcing Geographical and Social Trails of Mass Migration

Readers of the blog might know we have an interest in volunteered geographic information, social media and Web 2.0 technologies and how they can be used to explore urban systems. Recently however, we turned our focus on how such information and technologies can be used to explore and understand mass migrations.

To this end we recently had a paper published in the Journal of Geographical Systems entitled "Exodus 2.0: Crowdsourcing Geographical and Social Trails of Mass Migration". We adopt the term Exodus 2.0 to refer to this new migration paradigm in the digital age, whereby information is a commodity in the migration process.

Given the nature of migration processes, it is possible to explore them across two key dimensions: geographical and situational. The geographical dimension is associated with the physical migration pathways migrants take from a country of origin to a destination site (often through a number of intermediate “stop” sites). The situational dimension is associated with the social connectivity of moving migrant populations, the conditions on the ground, and the activities that take place as part of migration efforts (including the root conditions, proximate conditions and triggering events).
Factors that potentially cause refugee production and
 mass movement based on identified factors detailed by
Clark (1989) and Zottarelli (1998).
In the paper, we use the ongoing Syrian humanitarian crisis as a case study to to explore how the factors that potentially causes refugee production and mass movement  can be gleamed from new sources of data. Specifically, the potential of crowd-generated data—especially open data, volunteered geographic information and social media content (e.g. OpenStreetMap, Flickr, Twitter and Instagram)  to provide information about migration processes.  Through a series of case studies  we show how such data (when combined with more traditional data sources) offers a new lens to study such the geographical and situational dimensions of mass migration. Finally we discuss  how such data could be used to inform migration modeling. If we have not bored you yet and you are interested in finding out more about this line of inquiry, below we provide the abstract to the paper, some of the figures which go along with our analysis for studying the refugee production and movement. Finally, we also provide the full reference and a link to the paper. 

Abstract:
The exodus of displaced populations is a recurring historical phenomenon, and the ongoing Syrian humanitarian crisis is its latest incarnation. During such mass migration events, information is an essential commodity. Of particular importance is geographical (e.g., pathways and refugee camps) and social (e.g., refugee activities and networking) information. Traditionally, such information had been produced and disseminated by authorities, but a new paradigm is emerging: Web 2.0 and mobile computing technologies enable the involved stakeholder communities to produce, access, and consume migration-related information. The purpose of this article is to put forward a new typology for understanding the factors around migration and to examine the potential of crowd-generated data—especially open data and volunteered geographic information—to study such events. Using the recent wave of migration to Europe from the Middle East and northern Africa as a case study, we examine how migration-related information can be dynamically mined and analyzed to study the migrants’ pathways from their home countries to their destination sites, as well as the conditions and activities that evolve during the migration process. These new data sources can provide a deeper and more fine-grained understanding of the migration process, often in real-time, and often through the eyes of the communities affected by it. Nevertheless, this also raises significant methodological and technical challenges for their future use associated with potential biases, data quality issues, and data processing.

Keywords: Refugees, Forced migration, Humanitarian crisis, Volunteered geographic information, Crowdsourcing, Social media, GIS, Web 2.0.
Cumulative flow (2011–2015) illustrating Syrian forced migration to neighboring countries and other destination countries. Line thickness indicates increasing number of persons migrating.

Retweet network of geolocated Twitter microblogs that are discussing opinions, news and retweeting information related to “refugee” in multiple languages from May to August 2017.

A concept graph illustrating the associations between a keyword related to root factors of mass migration such as poverty (“welfare”) to other keywords, as they appear in our Twitter data corpus. The color of the node refers to specific themes: locations (green), actors (dark red), topics (red), entities and individuals (blue), concepts (white), and events (yellow). Red edges represent active associations between terms; gray edges represent inactive associations between terms.

An agent-based model of migration: top: the spatial environment, where the lines represent migration pathways, and the nodes represent number of migrants. Purple nodes represent final destination sites, red nodes show migrant deaths, and green nodes show migrants en route (source: Hu 2016).

Full Reference: 
Curry, T., Croitoru, A., Crooks, A.T. and Stefanidis, A. (in press), Exodus 2.0: Crowdsourcing Geographical and Social Trails of Mass Migration, Journal of Geographical Systems. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10109-018-0278-1 (pdf)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

An Agent-Based Model of Rural Household Adaptation to Climate Change

Geographical location of the South Omo Zone of Ethiopia
While many of the recent posts on the site have focused on social media, social networks and volunteered geographical information, we have not forgotten or moved away from agent-based modeling (as you can probably gather from the title of this post).  To this end, Ates Hailegiorgis, Claudio Cioff-Revilla and myself recently had a paper published in the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation entitled: An Agent-Based Model of Rural Household Adaptation to Climate Change

The purpose of the model is to explore how climate change could impact rural societies in less developed countries whose livelihoods rely on subsistence agriculture. It has been suggested that climate change will place unprecedented stress on rural communities, as it will alter their resource base without giving them sufficient time for adaptation. While rural systems have developed various adaptive strategies over many generations in order to survive, the alteration of any resources can significantly affect even highly regarded and accepted customs, and may lead to the displacement of populations along with other severe humanitarian consequences.

In this paper we focus on the South Omo Zone of Ethiopia which covers an area of 2.3 million hectares and is located in the southern part of Ethiopia. Climate change is expected to play a significant role in shaping the future socio-ecological setting of the region and to explore this we devlepd a model  in the MASON simulation system, including its geographical information system (GIS) extension, GeoMASON called OMOLAND-CA (OMOLAND Climate Change Adaptation). Results from the model show that successive episodes of extreme events (e.g., droughts) can affect the adaptive capacity of households in the region, causing them to migrate from the region. While at the same time the rural communities manage to endure in spite of such harsh climatic change conditions.

Below you can read the abstract of the paper, see some of the figures including the models high-level architecture, along with the household decision-making process, some results from various scenarios and a link to the model and the full reference of the paper.

Abstract: 
Future climate change is expected to have greater impacts on societies whose livelihoods rely on subsistence agricultural systems. Adaptation is essential for mitigating adverse effects of climate change, to sustain rural livelihoods, and ensure future food security. We present an agent-based model, called OMOLAND-CA, which explores the impact of climate change on the adaptive capacity of rural communities in the South Omo Zone of Ethiopia. The purpose of the model is to answer research questions on the resilience and adaptive capacity of rural households with respect to variations in climate, socioeconomic factors, and land-use at the local level. Our model explicitly represents the socio-cognitive behavior of rural households toward climate change and resource flows that prompt agents to diversify their production strategy under different climatic conditions. Results from the model show that successive episodes of extreme events (e.g., droughts) affect the adaptive capacity of households, causing them to migrate from the region. Nonetheless, rural communities in the South Omo Zone, and in the model, manage to endure in spite of such harsh climatic change conditions.

Keywords: Climate Change Adaptation, Agent-Based Modeling, Socio-Cognitive Behavior

High-level architecture of the OMOLAND-CA model.

Household decision-making sequence for each time period in the model.

Population migration over time with different climatic conditions: a) 50% reduction, b) 70% reduction, c) 90% reduction of rainfall with different drought frequencies.

Livestock growth over time with different climatic conditions: a) 50% reduction, b) 70% reduction, c) 90% reduction of rainfall with different drought frequencies.
Simulation results of the frequency of crop planted per hectare.

In keeping with many of our agent-based models that we have created, a full description of the model (using the Overview, Design concepts, and Details plus Decision (ODD+D) protocol), along with its source code and data needed to run the model can be found at: https://www.openabm.org/model/5734/ .

Full Reference:
Hailegiorgis, A.B., Crooks, A.T. and Cioff-Revilla, C. (2018), An Agent-Based Model of Rural Households’ Adaptation to Climate Change, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 21 (4): 4. Available at http://jasss.soc.surrey.ac.uk/21/4/4.html.