Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cormas and ComMod

Following on from the UVA Bay Game post I thought it was about time to blog about Cormas and the ComMod (Companion Modeling Approach) which focus on participatory agent-based modeling for resource management.

Why the interest? Take ecosystem management as an example, there are often many actors (stakeholders) who influence and control ecosystem management. For example, in the Chesapeake Bay there are farmers, local policy-makers, watermen, and developers. Such stakeholders have many different goals, associated feedbacks, negotiations etc... The question is how does one build models of such interactions?

Often when we build models of such interactions we do not always engage with stakeholders directly. Participatory modeling approaches such as companion modeling offers one way for such engagement. It uses various techniques, including role playing games in the sense that models are built with the direct involvement of stakeholders. Where modelers develop and validate model rules in conjunction with those one is modeling. Such a direct involvement of stakeholders focuses our attention on how decisions are made and what are the problems rather than just simulating the effects (e.g. Gimblett et al., 2002).

This brings me back to the ComMod approach and Cormas (an agent-based simulation framework, often used in conjunction with the ComMod approach). In the sense that ComMod is a iterative modeling process from the “bottom up.” ComMod provides an endless cycle of "field work and data analysis -> role playing games -> agent-based model development and implementation -> simulation -> field work again (Barreteau, 2003) as depicted below:

Some references for further reading:
  • Barreteau, F.O. and others (2003), 'Our Companion Modelling Approach', Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 6(1), Available at
  • Etienne, M. (2003), 'SYLVOPAST: A Multiple Target Role-Playing Game to Assess Negotiation Processes in Sylvopastoral Management Planning', Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 6(2), Available at
  • Gilbert, N., Maltby, S. and Asakawa, T. (2002), 'Participatory Simulations for Developing Scenarios in Environmental Resource Management', in Urban, C. (ed.), Third Workshop on Agent-Based Simulation, SCS European Publishing House, Passau, Germany, pp. 67-72.
  • Ramanath, A.M. and Gilbert, N. (2004), 'The Design of Participatory Agent-Based Social Simulations', Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 7(4), Available at

To see some Cormas examples (Click here). Click here to see the ComMod program at work and here for the ComMod site. While the movie below shows one application of Cormas:

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