Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Bots Fired: Examining Social Bot Evidence in Online Mass Shooting Conversations

Building upon our work with respect to how bots impact online conversations pertaining to global events and  health,  we have extended this research to see what role bots play in mass shooting events. In our new paper published in Palgrave Communications entitled "Bots Fired: Examining Social Bot Evidence in Online Mass Shooting Conversations" we examine four mass shooting events (i.e., Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Parkland, and Santa Fe) and find that social bots participate and contribute to online mass shooting conversations in a manner that is distinguishable from human contributions. Below we provide the abstract, along with some figures from the paper that highlight our methodology and main results. Finally at the bottom of the post, we provide the full reference to the paper. 

Abstract:
Mass shootings, like other extreme events, have long garnered public curiosity and, in turn, significant media coverage. The media framing, or topic focus, of mass shooting events typically evolves over time from details of the actual shooting to discussions of potential policy changes (e.g., gun control, mental health). Such media coverage has been historically provided through traditional media sources such as print, television, and radio, but the advent of online social networks (OSNs) has introduced a new platform for accessing, producing, and distributing information about such extreme events. The ease and convenience of OSN usage for information within society’s larger growing reliance upon digital technologies introduces potential unforeseen risks. Social bots, or automated software agents, are one such risk, as they can serve to amplify or distort potential narratives associated with extreme events such as mass shootings. In this paper, we seek to determine the prevalence and relative importance of social bots participating in OSN conversations following mass shooting events using an ensemble of quantitative techniques. Specifically, we examine a corpus of more than 46 million tweets produced by 11.7 million unique Twitter accounts within OSN conversations discussing four major mass shooting events: the 2017 Las Vegas concert shooting, the 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting, the 2018 Parkland school shooting and the 2018 Santa Fe school shooting. This study’s results show that social bots participate in and contribute to online mass shooting conversations in a manner that is distinguishable from human contributions. Furthermore, while social bots accounted for fewer than 1% of total corpus user contributors, social network analysis centrality measures identified many bots with significant prominence in the conversation networks, densely occupying many of the highest eigenvector and out-degree centrality measure rankings, to include 82% of the top-100 eigenvector values of the Las Vegas retweet network.

Keywords: Social bots, mass shootings, school shootings, online social networks, computational social science.

 Overview of social bot analysis framework illustrating methodological steps taken to analyze social bots within online social network conversations involving mass shooting events

Overall tweet corpus volumes and suspected social bot contributions for each associated OSN mass shooting 215 event conversation.

Intra-group and cross-group retweet interaction rates among and between human (blue) and suspected social bot (red) user accounts for a one-month period following the (a) Las Vegas, (b) Sutherland Springs, (c) Parkland and (d) Santa Fe shooting events.

Social bot accounts in the top-N, where N = 1000/100/10, (a) eigenvector, (b) in-degree, (c) out-degree and (d) PageRank centrality measurement rankings within OSN mass shooting retweet networks discussing the Las Vegas (red), Sutherland Springs (green), Parkland (blue) and Santa Fe (purple) shooting events.

Full Reference:
Schuchard, R., Crooks, A.T., Croitoru, A. and Stefanidis, A. (2019) Bots Fired: Examining Social Bot Evidence in Online Mass Shooting Conversations, Palgrave Communications, 5: 158. Available at https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-019-0359-x. (pdf)

Monday, December 09, 2019

Modeling Homeowners Post-flood Reconstruction Decisions

In the past we have developed agent-based models to explore a wide variety of applications and even to explored at humanitarian assistance after a natural disaster, however we have not explored how people might decide to rebuild or not after a natural disaster. Well that was until now. In a new paper with Kim McEligot, Peggy Brouse and myself entitled "Sea Bright, New Jersey Reconstructed: Agent-Based Protection Theory Model Responses to Hurricane Sandy" which was published as part of the 2019 Winter Simulation Conference. In the paper we use a hindcast (aka backtesting) of Hurricane Sandy’s damage to Sea Bright, NJ and explore homeowners post-flood reconstruction decisions. Below we provide the abstract to the paper, a short movie of the model running, along with a link to access the source code and data of the model, and finally a link to the full paper.

Abstract:
Coastal flooding is the most expensive type of natural disaster in the United States. Policy initiatives to mitigate the effects of these events are dependent upon understanding flood victim responses at an individual and municipal level. Agent-Based Modeling (ABM) is an effective tool for analyzing community-wide responses to natural disaster, but the quality of the ABM’s performance is often challenging to determine. This paper discusses the complexity of the Protective Action Decision Model (PADM) and Protection Motivation Theory (PMT) for human decision making regarding hazard mitigations. A combined (PADM/PMT) model is developed and integrated into the MASON modeling framework. The ABM implements a hind-cast of Hurricane Sandy’s damage to Sea Bright, NJ and homeowner post-flood reconstruction decisions. It is validated against damage assessments and post-storm surveys. The contribution of socio-economic factors and built environment on model performance is also addressed and suggests that mitigation for townhouse communities will be challenging.
The model source code (utilizing MASON Version 17) and data is available on CoMSES.net: http://bit.ly/SEABrightABM.

Our adaptation of the Protection Motivation Theory and Protective Action Decision Model.


Full Reference:
McEligot, K. Brouse, P. and Crooks A.T. (2019), Sea Bright, New Jersey Reconstructed: Agent-Based Protection Theory Model Responses to Hurricane Sandy, in Mustafee, N., Bae, K.-H.G., Lazarova-Molnar, S., Rabe, M., Szabo, C., Haas, P. and Son, Y-J. (eds.), Proceedings of the 2019 Winter Simulation Conference, National Harbor, MD, pp 251-262 (pdf)

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Simulating Urban Patterns of Life: A Geo-Social Data Generation Framework

At the ACM SIGSPATIAL'19 conference, Joon-Seok Kim, Hamdi Kavak, Umar Manzoor, Dieter Pfoser, Carola Wenk, Andreas Züfle and myself have a paper entitled "Simulating Urban Patterns of Life: A Geo-Social Data Generation Framework." The general idea behind the paper is that while trajectory data is being used to capture human mobility in many applications (e.g. traffic prediction, ride-sharing applications), the use of real-world trajectory data raises serious concerns with respect to the privacy of users who contribute such information. 

To overcome privacy concerns we have created a geo-social data generator by utilizing agent-based modeling. The notion behind this generator is to allow users to develop and customize the logic of agent behaviors for different applications domains (e.g. commuting around a city). Once the basic model is created, the simulation can then be run and  geo-social data is generated which can then be used as a substitute to real-world trajectory data to study human mobility. If you wish to find out more about this paper, below is the abstract to the paper, along with some figures of the framework architecture and a link to the paper. Further supplementary materials including a demo video (which is also below) and sample data can be found at: http://sigspatial19demo.joonseok.org.

Abstract:
Data generators have been heavily used in creating massive trajectory datasets to address common challenges of real-world datasets, including privacy, cost of data collection, and data quality. However, such generators often overlook social and physiological characteristics of individuals and as such their results are often limited to simple movement patterns. To address these shortcomings, we propose an agent-based simulation framework that facilitates the development of behavioral models in which agents correspond to individuals that act based on personal preferences, goals, and needs within a realistic geographical environment. Researchers can use a drag-and-drop interface to design and control their own world including the geospatial and social (i.e. geo-social) properties. The framework is capable of generating and streaming very large data that captures the basic patterns of life in urban areas. Streaming data from the simulation can be accessed in real time through a dedicated API. 
Keywords: Agent-based simulation, trajectory data, data generator, spatial network, human behavior.
Causality in human behavior

Architecture of framework

Layout of model builder and sample model




Full Reference:
Kim, J-S., Kavak, H., Manzoor, U., Crooks, A.T., Pfoser, D., Wenk C. and Züfle, A (2019), Simulating Urban Patterns of Life: A Geo-Social Data Generation Framework, in Banaei-Kashani, F., Trajcevski, G., Güting, R.H., Kulik, L. and Newsam, S. (eds.), Proceedings of the 27th International Conference on Advances in Geographic Information Systems (ACM SIGSPATIAL 2019), Chicago, IL. (pdf)

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

New Paper: Assessing the Placeness of Locations through User-contributed Content

In the past we have written about how one can use crowdsourced data to gain a collective sense of place from Twitter contributions and also from corresponding Wikipedia entries (e.g. here). In a new paper with Xiaoyi Yuan, we extend this work to explore how user-contributed data can be used to explore if urban places are becoming inauthentic due to urban commodification and standardization by chain stores such as restaurants. To this end, at the at 3rd ACM SIGSPATIAL International Workshop on AI for Geographic Knowledge Discovery (GeoAI) we have a paper entitled: "Assessing the Placeness of Locations through User-contributed Content"

In the paper we attempt to understand the relationship between restaurants and urban identities via user-contributed content. We extracted and analyzed information from over 3 million Yelp reviews from 37,000 restaurants using a Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) model in order to study places from the bottom up. Specifically we were interested to what extent cities share similarities or differences in their Yelp restaurant reviews. Furthermore, we wanted to explore how opinion aspects (i.e. what reviewers care about the most) are mentioned differently in urban chain and independent restaurants. Through the analysis of the Yelp reviews we find that online geo-tagged text data is fruitful for understanding places and aspect-based sentiment analysis helps us understand the large volumes of text. Not only did we discover that cities show homogeneity in terms of restaurant reviews, but for chain restaurants, “location” often emphasizes the differences between different stores of the same chain whereas for independent restaurant reviews, the aspect “location” reflects the characteristics of the places the restaurants are situated. If this is of interest to you, below we provide the abstract to the paper, along with some of the key findings and a link to the paper.

Abstract
Previous research has argued that urban places are becoming “placeless” and inauthentic. Many local policies have also proposed to encourage more independent stores in order to restore urban identity. Others argue, however, that chain stores provide affordable merchandise and different locations of the same chain may have different meanings to an individual. The research presented in this paper uses a Convolutional Neural Networks model to extract opinion aspects from more than 3 million user-contributed Yelp restaurant reviews. The results show high homogeneity among cities in terms of the average proportions of aspects in restaurant reviews. In addition, for fast food chains, “location” is the only aspect category reviewed proportionally higher than independent fast food restaurants. An analysis of the co-occurrences of “location” indicates that the identity of chain restaurants stems from the comparison between the same chain of different locations whereas the identity of the independent restaurants is more diverse, implying the intricacies of placeness of urban stores. This research demonstrates that fine-grained sentiment analysis (i.e., opinion aspect extraction and analysis) with geo-tagged text data is fruitful for studying nuanced place perceptions on a large scale.
KEYWORDS: Urban Places, Convolutional Neural Networks, Aspect-based Sentiment Analysis
Figure 1: Illustration of an example of a CNN layer.
Figure 3: Mapping restaurants in NV, AZ, PA, NC, WI, IL. Not all cities are shown in each state. Only cities have data that accounts for the majority of the restaurants in that state are mapped, for the sake of visual clarity.
Figure 6: Average proportions of aspect categories for chain and independent fast food restaurants for two kinds of cuisine (American, Mexican) in Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Charlotte, normalized by dividing the mean for comparison.
Reference:
Yuan X. and Crooks A.T. (2019), Assessing the Placeness of Locations through User-contributed Content, in Gao, S., Newsam, S., Zhao, L., Lunga, D., Hu, Y., Martins, B., Zhou, X. and Chen, F. (eds.), Proceedings of the 3rd ACM SIGSPATIAL International Workshop on AI for Geographic Knowledge Discovery (GeoAI), Chicago, IL. pp. 15-23. (pdf)

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Talk: Utilizing Agent-based Models and Open Data to Examine the Movement of People and Information

Earlier this month I was invited to give a talk as part the Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis Center (CINA) Distinguished Speaker Series. As readers of the blog might expect, I chose to talk about how open data (e.g. OpenStreetMap, Twitter) can be utilized in agent-based models to study a variety of applications (many of which can be found over on my research page). The talk itself was entitled: "Utilizing Agent-based Models and Open Data to Examine the Movement of People and Information: A Gallery of Applications." Below you can read the brief abstract of the paper and if this peaks your interest, CINA recorded my talk and highlighted (short) version  is given below (while the full talk can be found at: https://youtu.be/iIvSnE-IBZI).

Abstract: 
Today we are awash with many new forms of open data (e.g. crowdsourced, social media), but we are still challenged with how individuals make decisions and how this leads to more aggregate patterns emerging. One way to explore how individuals make decisions, or are impacted by information and their resulting consequences, is via agent-based modeling. Agent-based modeling allows for simulating heterogenous actors and their decision-making processes within complex systems. Through a series of example applications ranging from the small-scale movement of pedestrians over seconds, to that of the movement of people over borders over hours and days, I will demonstrate how open data can be leveraged within the agent-based building process. Specifically, the examples will show that by focusing on individuals, or groups of individuals and the networks that connect them, more aggregate patterns emerge from the bottom up.


Friday, October 25, 2019

Papers at CSSSA Conferece

At the  2019 Computational Social Science Society of Americas (CSSSA) Conference, we have two papers being presented which relates to our interests in urban simulation. Full citations and links to them are provided at the bottom of this post, while what follows provides a brief overview to them. Turning first to the the paper entitled "Capturing the Effects of Gentrification on Property Values: An Agent-Based Modeling Approach," co-authored with Niloofar Bagheri-Jebelli and Bill Kennedy explores how agents choices for specific locations within a city leads to gentrification occurring. The  model and data that accompanies the paper can be found at: https://github.com/niloofar-jebelli/UrbanDynamics, while below we provide the abstract of the paper, the graphical user interface of the model along with movie of one simulation run with default model settings.

Abstract:
Cities are complex systems which are constantly changing because of the interactions between the people and their environment. Such systems often go through several life cycles which are shaped by various processes. These may include urban growth, sprawl, shrinkage, and gentrification. These processes affect the urban land markets which in turn affect the formation of a city through feedback loops. Through models we can explore such dynamics, populations, and the environments in which people inhabit. The model proposed in this paper intends to simulate the aforementioned dynamics to capture the effect of agents’ choices and actions on the city structure. Specifically, this model explores the effect of gentrification on population density and housing values. The proposed model is significant in its integration of ideas from complex systems theory which is operationalized within an agent-based model stylized on urban theories to study gentrification as a cause of increased in land values. The model is stylized on urban theories and results from the model show that the agents move to and reside in properties within their income range, neighboring agents that have similar economic status. The model also shows the role of gentrification by capturing both the supply and demand aspects of this process in the displacement and immobilization of agents with lower incomes. This is one of the first models that combines several processes to explore the life cycle of a city through agent-based modeling.

Keywords: Urban Dynamics, Land Markets, Gentrification, Urban Growth, Urban Shrinkage, Urban Sprawl.

Model graphical user interface at default settings.


Gentrification by demand in the 10th neighborhood of the inner-city.

Turning to our second paper which was presented as a poster, entitled "Modeling Social Networks in an Agent-Based Model of a Nuclear Weapon of Mass Destruction Event" we discussed our continuing  work on disasters. Specifically our project on how people might react in an event of  Nuclear Weapon of Mass Destruction (NWMD) in New York City when one integrates social networks into an agent-based model. In the paper we discuss preliminary results which demonstrate how we can integrate  household social networks explicitly into a spatially explicit model. Furthermore we demonstrate and benchmark agent commuting patterns for the New York City Commuter Region with a sample population  (as we show in one of the movies below) along with demonstrating agents initial reactions post NWMD detonation.

Abstract:
Connections between human beings often influence where people go and how they behave, yet their representation as social networks are rarely modeled as a factor of human behavior in agent-based models. Social networks are increasingly being used to study human behavior in disasters, and empirical work has shown that human beings prioritize the safety of themselves and loved ones (i.e., households) before helping neighbors and coworkers. In this poster, we briefly present our agent-based model being used to characterize the New York City area population’s reaction to a Nuclear Weapon of Mass Destruction (NWMD) event. The model methodology demonstrates how social networks can be integrated into an agent-based model and act as a basis for decision-making during a disaster. Preliminary simulations show how agents potentially respond to a NWMD event with measurable changes in location and network formations over space and time.
Keywords: Agent-Based Model, Human Behavior, Social Networks, Emergency, Disaster Response, Nuclear Weapon of Mass Destruction.







References
Bagheri-Jebelli, N., Crooks, A.T. and Kennedy, W.G. (2019), Capturing the Effects of Gentrification on Property Values: An Agent-Based Modeling Approach, The 2019 Computational Social Science Society of Americas Conference, Santa Fe, NM. (pdf)

Burger, A. G., Kennedy, W.G., Crooks, A.T., Jiang, N. and Guillen-Piazza, D. (2019), Modeling Social Networks in an Agent-Based Model of a Nuclear Weapon of Mass Destruction Event, The 2019 Computational Social Science Society of Americas Conference, Santa Fe, NM. (paper pdf) (poster pdf)

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Communities, Bots and Vaccinations

Following on from our work on bots and health discussions in relation to online social networks (OSNs), Xiaoyi Yuan, Ross Schuchard and myself have just published a paper entitled "Examining Emergent Communities and Detecting Social Bots within the Polarized Online Vaccination Debate in Twitter" in Social Media + Society. Within the paper we explore the communication patterns of vaccine discussions in Twitter. More specifically we ask three questions:
  1. Do vaccine discussions on Twitter show a highly clustered pattern in the sense that users tend to communicate more often with those who have same opinions towards vaccination than those who do not? 
  2. If the communication is highly clustered, to what extent do pro-vaccine users reach out to anti-vaccine users and vice versa? 
  3. How much do social bots, computer algorithms designed to mimic human behavior and interact with humans in an automated fashion, contribute to the conversation as previous research has shown that social bots can have certain impact on human communication in social media?
In order to answer these questions, we use a variety of machine learning techniques (e.g.  logistic regression, support vector machine (e.g. linear and non-linear kernel), k-nearest neighbors, nearest centroid, and Naïve Bayes) trained with labeled data (which is available at https://github.com/XiaoyiYuan/vaccination_online_discussion) to categorize each user’s vaccination stance. By exploring a combination of opinion groups and retweet networks we discovered that pro- and anti-vaccine users retweet predominantly from their own opinion group, while users with neutral opinions are distributed across communities. In addition, our bot analysis (using the  open-source DeBot detection platform) discovered that 1.45% of the corpus users were identified as likely bots and these produced 4.59% of all tweets within our data set. If you wish to find out more about our paper, below you can read the abstract along with seeing some figures including a sketch of our methodology, a selection of results and a link to the paper.

Abstract:
Many states in the United States allow a “belief exemption” for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines. People’s opinion on whether or not to take the vaccine can have direct consequences in public health. Social media has been one of the dominant communication channels for people to express their opinions of vaccination. Despite governmental organizations’ efforts of disseminating information of vaccination benefits, anti-vaccine sentiment is still gaining momentum. Studies have shown that bots on social media (i.e., social bots) can influence opinion trends by posting a substantial number of automated messages. The research presented here investigates the communication patterns of anti- and pro-vaccine users and the role of bots in Twitter by studying a retweet network related to MMR vaccine after the 2015 California Disneyland measles outbreak. We first classified the users into anti-vaccination, neutral to vaccination, and pro-vaccination groups using supervised machine learning. We discovered that pro- and anti-vaccine users retweet predominantly from their own opinion group. In addition, our bot analysis discovers that 1.45% of the corpus users were identified as likely bots which produced 4.59% of all tweets within our dataset. We further found that bots display hyper-social tendencies by initiating retweets at higher frequencies with users within the same opinion group. The article concludes that highly clustered anti-vaccine Twitter users make it difficult for health organizations to penetrate and counter opinionated information while social bots may be deepening this trend. We believe that these findings can be useful in developing strategies for health communication of vaccination.

Keywords: Anti-vaccine Movement, Twitter, Social Media, Opinion Classification, Bot Analysis




Full Reference:
Yuan, X.,  Schuchard, R.  and Crooks, A.T. (2019), Examining Emergent Communities and Detecting Social Bots within the Polarized Online Vaccination Debate in Twitter, Social Media + Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305119865465 (pdf)

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Updates to the MASON

For those who are not on the MASON list-serve, the other day Sean Luke posted a message regarding the a new release (MASON 20) which is part of our NSF CI-EN: Enhancement of a Large-scale Multiagent Simulation Tool project. In this new release (apart from bugfixes) there are some new features. The first is a new distributed parameter sweep package which enables you to run many simulations in parallel with different parameter settings (similar to BehaviorSpace in NetLogo). Next up is an update to GeoMASON, not only are there new demos (as shown below) but changes in the code to enable demos and other applications to be loaded from jar files. The third update is Distributed MASON,  jointly developed with ISISLab at the University of Salerno (it's not D-MASON ). The objective of distributed MASON is to make it possible to port MASON applications to run in cloud computing architectures (more details and example models including distributed HeatBugs, Flockers, and CampusWorld can be seen in Wang et al., 2018). For more details check out the MASON webpage: http://cs.gmu.edu/~eclab/projects/mason/.

A selection of GeoMason Models included in the new release.

Publications relating to the project:
  • 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, in Besada, E., Polo, Ó.R., De Grande, R. and Risco J.L (eds.). Proceedings of the 22nd International Symposium on Distributed Simulation and Real Time Applications, Madrid, Spain, pp. 135-144. (pdf)
  • Luke, S., Simon, R., Crooks, A.T., Wang, H., Wei, E., Freelan, D., Spagnuolo, C., Scarano, V., Cordasco, G. and Cioffi-Revilla, C. (2018), The MASON Simulation Toolkit: Past, Present, and Future, in Davidsson P. and Verhagen H. (eds.), Proceedings of the 19th International Workshop on Multi-Agent-Based Simulation, Stockholm, Sweden, pp. 75-87. (pdf

Friday, August 30, 2019

Message Quality on Entity Location and Identification Performance

At the recent SPIE Optics + Photonics Conference we had a paper entitled "The Impact of Message Quality on Entity Location and Identification Performance in Distributed Situational Awareness." In the paper we discuss the importance of detecting a person or object in complicated and dynamic environments (such as for search and rescue or law enforcement). However, with the growth in sensors and the resulting information from them, the identification and tracking of objects is becoming more difficult. As a result, in this  paper we provide and assess a method to identify objects and the interactions between agents (human or technological) within a collaborative system for improving situational awareness. Below we provide the abstract to the paper, some images of the system along with some results and a link to the paper.

Abstract 
Location and time are critical to the success of many organizations’ missions. Sensors, software, processors, vehicles, and human analysts work together to accomplish these tasks of detecting and identifying specific entities as quickly as possible for these missions. This work aims to make a contribution by providing a team-based detection and identification performance model incorporating the theory of Distributed Situational Awareness (DSA) and its effect on completing a specific task. The task being the ability to detect and identify a specific entity within a complex urban environment. Conditions to accomplish the task is the utilization of two unmanned aerial vehicles mounted with electro-optical sensors, operated by two analysts, creating a team to execute this task. Our results provide an additional resource on the how technology and training might be utilized to find the best performance given these certain conditions and missions. A highly trained team might improve their performance with this technology, or a team with low training could perform at a high level given the appropriate technology in limited time scenarios. More importantly, the model presented in this paper provides an evaluation tool to compare new technologies and their impact on teams. Specifically, it enables answering questions, such as: is an investment in new technology appropriate if investing in additional training produces the same performance results? Future performance can also be evaluated based on the team’s level of training and use of technology for these specific tasks.

Keywords: Situational Awareness, Identification, Detection, Sensors, Training, Team.

Snapshot from FOCUS depicting the flight paths of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and sensor field of view in green.

LiDAR map of the city of Samarra, Iraq utilized in FOCUS for this experiment.

Identification of Situational Awareness (SA) level data sets - baseline. Histogram and distribution curve.

Full Reference:
Bates, C.T., Croitoru, A., Crooks, A.T. and Harclerode, E. (2019), The Impact of Message Quality on Entity Location and Identification Performance in Distributed Situational Awareness, Proceedings of the SPIE Optics + Photonics, San Diego, CA. Paper 11137-64 (pdf)

Monday, August 26, 2019

Call for Papers: Humans, Societies and Artificial Agents - SpringSim


At the upcoming 2020 Spring Simulation (SpringSim) Conference being held at George Mason University, Philippe Giabbanelli and myslef are organizing a tract entitled Humans, Societies and Artificial Agents. 

Aims and Scope:

In the Humans, Societies and Artificial Agents (HSAA) Track, you will see that artificial societies have typically relied on agent-based models, Geographical Information Systems (GIS), or cellular automata to capture the decision-making processes of individuals in relation to places and/or social interactions. This has supported a wide range of applications (e.g., in archaeology, economics, geography, psychology, political science, or health) and research tasks (e.g., what-if scenarios or predictive models, models to guide data collection). Several opportunities have recently emerged that augment the capacity of artificial societies at capturing complex human and social behavior. Mixed-methods and hybrid approaches now enable the use of ‘big data’, for instance by combining machine learning with artificial societies to explore the model’s output (i.e., artificial societies as input to machine learning), define the model structure (i.e. machine learning as a preliminary to designing artificial societies), or run a model efficiently (i.e. machine learning as a proxy or surrogate to artificial societies). Datasets are also broader in type since artificial societies can now be built from text, or generate textual as well as visual outputs to better engage end-users. Authors are encouraged to submit papers in the following areas:
  • Artificial agents and societies (e.g., case studies, analyses of moral and ethical considerations)
  • Participatory modeling and simulation
  • Policy development and evaluation through simulations
  • Predictive models of social behavior
  • Simulations of societies as public educational tools
  • Mixed-methods (e.g., analyzing or generating text data with artificial societies, combining machine learning and artificial societies)
  • Models of individual decision-making, mobility patterns, or socio-environmental interactions
  • Testbeds and environments to facilitate artificial society development
  • Tools and methods (e.g., agent-based models, case-based modeling, soft systems)

Important Dates
  • Paper Submission: December 16, 2019 
  • Author Notification: February 17, 2020 
  • Camera-Ready: March 4, 202

For more information, including submission guidelines can be found at https://scs.org/springsim/.  

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Bot stamina: Examining the influence and staying power of bots in online social networks

Following on with our work on bots we just had a paper published in Applied Network Science entitled "Bot Stamina: Examining the Influence and Staying Power of Bots in Online Social Networks" which is significant extension of a previous conference paper. In the paper we look at thee global Twitter conversions in 2016. Specifically the 2016 U.S. presidential election primary races (February 1–28, 2016), the ongoing Ukrainian conflict (August 1–28, 2016), and the Turkish government’s implementation of censorship (December 1–28, 2016) and the influence of Bots on these conversations.

Tweets were classified as Bots using DeBot and then we explore the relative importance and persistence of social bots in online social networks by looking at retweet networks and centrality rankings (i.e. degree, in-degree, out-degree, eigenvector, betweenness and PageRank). We find through such centrality measurements that even though Bots made up less than 0.3% of the total user population, they displayed a profound level of structural network influence.  If you would like to know more about this work, below we provide the abstract to the paper, along with some figures, including one that describes our methodology, and some initial results. Finally at the bottom of the page we provide the full reference and a link to the paper.

Abstract
This study presents a novel approach to expand the emergent area of social bot research. We employ a methodological framework that aggregates and fuses data from multiple global Twitter conversations with available bot detection platforms and ultimately classifies the relative importance and persistence of social bots in online social networks (OSNs). In testing this methodology across three major global event OSN conversations in 2016, we confirmed the hyper-social nature of bots: suspected social bot accounts make far more attempts on average than social media accounts attributed to human users to initiate contact with other accounts via re-tweets. Social network analysis centrality measurements discover that social bots, while comprising less than 0.3% of the total corpus user population, display a dis-proportionately high profound level of structural network influence by ranking particularly high among the top users across multiple centrality measures within the OSN conversations of interest. Further, we show that social bots exhibit temporal persistence in centrality ranking density when examining these same OSN conversations over time.

Keywords: Social bot analysis, computational social science, social network analysis, online social networks




Full Reference:
Schuchard, R., Crooks, A.T., Stefanidis, A. and Croitoru, A. (2019), Bot Stamina: Examining the Influence and Staying Power of Bots in Online Social Networks, Applied Network Science, 4: 55. Available at https://doi.org/10.1007/s41109-019-0164-x. (pdf)

Friday, July 26, 2019

Location-Based Social Simulation

At the upcoming 16th International Symposium on Spatial and Temporal Databases (SSTD) we have vision paper entitled "Location-Based Social Simulation" accepted. In the paper we discuss issues such as data sparsity and privacy concerns with using real world location-based social networks (LBSNs) like Foursquare and Yelp. To overcomes these issues, we describe how one can employ geospatial simulation (i.e. an agent-based model) to create artificial, but socially plausible LBSN data sets which overcomes some of the limitations with respect to LBSNs.

ABSTRACT:
Location-based social networks (LBSNs) have been studied extensively in recent years. However, utilizing real-world LBSN datasets in such studies has severe weaknesses: sparse and small datasets, privacy concerns, and a lack of authoritative ground-truth. Our vision is to create a large scale geosimulation framework to simulate human behavior and to create synthetic but realistic LBSN data that captures the location of users over time as well as social interactions of users in a social network. While existing LBSN datasets are trivially small, such a framework would provide the first source of very large LBSN benchmark data which would closely mimic the real world, containing high-fidelity information of location, and social connections of millions of simulated agents over several years of simulated time. Therefore, it would serve the research community by revitalizing and reshaping research on LBSNs by allowing researchers to see the (simulated) world through the lens of an omniscient entity having perfect data. These evaluations will guide future research allowing us to develop solutions to improve LBSN applications such as user-location recommendation, friend recommendation, location prediction, and location privacy.

KEYWORDS: Agent-based simulation, location-based social network, data generator, spatial network, human behavior

Full Reference: 
Kavak, H., Kim, J-S., Crooks, A.T., Pfoser, D., Wenk C. and Züfle, A (2019), Location-Based Social Simulation, Proceedings of the 16th International Symposium on Spatial and Temporal Databases, Vienna, Austria, pp 218-221. (pdf)

Update: Our paper was selected as runner-up  for best Vision Paper.






Thursday, July 04, 2019

Challenges and Opportunities of Social Media Data for Socio-environmental Systems Research

SES diagram with examples of topics that
have been researched using social media data
While I have written about how one can use social media data to study cities, health issues etc... more recently we have been looking into how such data can be used to aid  Socio-environmental Systems (SES) research. SES are defined as tightly linked social and biophysical subsystems that mutually influence one another through positive and negative feedbacks.  To this end, Bianca Lopez, Nick Magliocca and myself just ahd a paper published in Land entitled "Challenges and Opportunities of Social Media Data for Socio-environmental Systems Research." 

In this paper we discuss SES and how research into them poses many challenges, not least of which are collecting or compiling data at the appropriate scales and aligning social and environmental data to address SES questions.  We discuss how SES have been studied using more traditional sources of data (e.g. census data, remote sensing etc.) and explore how social media can be used in the context of SES research. Specifically we ask three specific questions. 1) How can feedback between social and environmental systems be meaningfully studied using social media data? 2) How can using social media data re-frame or compliment current SES research questions and methods? and 3) Are there best practices for collecting and validating social media data for use in SES research? If these questions sound interesting to you, we encourage you to read the abstract below or the full paper.

Abstract:
Social media data provide an unprecedented wealth of information on people’s perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors at fine spatial and temporal scales and over broad extents. Social media data produce insight into relationships between people and the environment at scales that are generally prohibited by the spatial and temporal mismatch between traditional social and environmental data. These data thus have great potential for use in socio-environmental systems (SES) research. However, biases in who uses social media platforms and what they use them for create uncertainty in the potential insights from these data. Here, we describe ways that social media data have been used in SES research, including tracking land-use and environmental changes, natural resource use, and ecosystem service provisioning. We also highlight promising areas for future research and present best practices for SES research using social media data.

Keywords: social media; socio-ecological systems; human-environment interactions; geospatial analysis; crowdsourced data.
Example of information provided by social media posts and how it is used in analyses. A single post from a social media user.

Example of information on people’s use of natural resources from social media data based on key word searches fish and oyster from Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare.

Full Reference:
Lopez, B., Magliocca, N. and Crooks, A.T. (2019), Challenges and Opportunities of Social Media Data for Socio-environmental Systems Research, Land, 8(7), 107; https://www.mdpi.com/2073-445X/8/7/107/htm  (pdf)

Monday, July 01, 2019

Modeling Society Reacting to a Nuclear Weapon of Mass Destruction Event

https://www.dropbox.com/s/mid39pfgvu1vr8l/SBPBrims_2019_Poster.pdf?dl=0
Over the last couple of years we have been working on generating synthetic human populations with realistic social networks with respect to the New York mega-city and surrounding region. This is being done for a variety of modeling applications such as the spread of a disease or exploring peoples reactions to disasters (which was a topic of a recent post on Computational Social Science of Disasters).

To this end, at the upcoming International Conference on Social Computing, Behavioral-Cultural Modeling and; Prediction and Behavior Representation in Modeling and Simulation (or SBP-BRiMS for short) we have a short working paper outlining some of our initial efforts to how people might react following a Nuclear Weapon of Mass Destruction (NWMD) event. In the paper we show some preliminary simulation results relating on  how we are able to simulate basic commuting patterns and initial movement away from the affected area after the NWMD event (like those in the movies below). By using a synthetic population we are able to create an artificial world populated by agents with sufficient heterogeneity to create realistic movement patterns and the social networks which play a vital role in disaster situations. If you want to know more about this work, feel free to read the abstract below or read the paper. 

Abstract:
Individual connections between human beings often dictate where people go and how they behave, yet their representation through social networks are rarely used as measures of human behavior in agent-based models. Social networks are increasingly used for study of human behavior in disasters, and empirical work has shown that human beings prioritize the safety of themselves and loved ones (i.e., households) before helping neighbors and coworkers. Based on this assumption we have created a set of heuristics for modeling how agents behave in an emergency event and how the individual behavior aggregates into a variety of patterns of life. In this paper will present briefly our agent-based model being used to characterize the population’s reaction to a Nuclear Weapon of Mass Destruction (NWMD) event in the New York City region. Agents are modeled commuting on work-day schedules before the explosion of a small (10Kt) nuclear device. After the explosion, agents respond to signals in their environment and make decisions based on prioritization of safety for themselves and those in their networks. The model methodology demonstrates how social networks can be integrated into an agent-based model and act as a basis for decision-making, and preliminary simulations show how agents potentially respond to a NWMD event with measurable changes in location and network formations over space and time. 

Keywords: Agent-Based Model, Human Behavior, Social Networks, Emergency, Disaster Response, Nuclear Weapon of Mass Destruction.
Various patterns of commuting behavior representing daily routines of the individual agents.





Full Reference:
Burger, A. G., Kennedy, W.G., Crooks, A.T., Jiang, N. and Guillen-Piazza, D. (2019), Modeling Society Reacting to a Nuclear Weapon of Mass Destruction Event, 2019 International Conference on Social Computing, Behavioral-Cultural Modeling and Prediction and Behavior Representation in Modeling and Simulation, Washington DC. (pdf)

Saturday, June 08, 2019

A Semester of CSS 645: Spatial Agent-based Models of Human-Environment Interactions

This last Spring semester I taught a class entitled "Spatial Agent-based Models of Human-Environment Interactions". As with many of my courses, students were expected to complete a end of semester project, in this case, develop an agent-based model that explores some aspect of related to the course theme of human-environment interactions.  For several of the students this was their first exposure to either agent-based modeling or utilizing geographical information in the modeling process. In the movie below a selection of these projects can be seen. The projects ranged from migration, evacuation modeling during a natural disaster, gerrymandering, the spread of diseases, recidivism, Commons problems to that of urban decline. As can be seen the models ranged from abstract spatial representations to those utilizing geographical information as a foundation of their artificial worlds. Many of the models where created using NetLogo.



I would like to thank the Students of CSS 645: Spatial Agent-based Models of Human-Environment Interactions for their participation in the class.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Urban Simulation

The George Mason University, Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science (GGS), in the College of Science invites application for a Postdoctoral Research Fellow position beginning August 1st, 2019. The project, which is supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is jointly conducted by Andreas Züfle, Dieter Pfoser, and Andrew Crooks at GMU, and by Carola Wenk at Tulane. George Mason University has a strong institutional commitment to the achievement of excellence and diversity among its faculty and staff, and strongly encourages candidates to apply who will enrich Mason’s academic and culturally inclusive environment.

Responsibilities: 

The primary job responsibilities of this position consist of the design, development and refinement of an agent-based simulation framework of urban areas. For this purpose, we are using the existing Multiagent Simulation Toolkit (MASON) platform (written in Java) that has been developed at GMU. Using MASON, new agent logic will have to be implemented, thus creating agents that use socially plausible rules to traverse their simulated world, and to interact with other agents. This project has started in Spring 2018, and such a simulation has already been developed. A main responsibility will be to implement more complex agent logic efficiently, thus allowing more agents to make more complex decisions, find shortest paths between locations, and interact with their simulated world, at the same time. For this purpose, implemented algorithms will need to be highly parallelizable, thus allowing to scale simulation via distribution among computing clusters located at GMU and Tulane. The successful candidate will also supervise graduate-level research assistants, collaborate with fellow scholars, and promote the department’s accomplishments through publications, presentations, and other public events.

Required Qualifications:
  • Ph.D. in computer science, modeling and simulation, or closely related field;
  • Experience with Agent-Based Modeling and social science simulation;
  • Excellent written communication skills demonstrated by prior publications; and
  • A track record that demonstrates the ability to work well with interdisciplinary research teams.
Preferred Qualifications:
  • Strong programming skills in Java.
More Details: 

For more details and how to apply see: https://jobs.gmu.edu/postings/45722

Friday, May 24, 2019

Call for Papers: GeoSim 2019

https://www.geosim.org/

The 2nd International Workshop on Geospatial Simulation (GeoSim) focuses on all aspects of simulation as a general paradigm to model and predict spatial systems and generate spatial data. New simulation methodologies and frameworks, not necessarily coming from the SIGSPATIAL community, are encouraged to participate. Example topics include, but are not limited to:
  • Urban Simulation
  • Agent Based Models for Spatial Simulation
  • Multi-Agent Based Spatial Simulation
  • Big Spatial Data Simulation
  • Spatial Data/Trajectory Generators
  • Road Traffic Simulation
  • Environmental Simulation
  • GIS using Spatial Simulation
  • Interactive Spatial Simulation
  • Spatial Simulation Parallelization and Distribution
  • Geo-Social Simulation and Data Generators
  • Social Unrest and Riot Prediction using Simulation
  • Spatial Analysis based on Simulation
  • Behavioral Simulation
  • Verifying, and Validating Spatial Simulations
  • Applications for Spatial Simulation
The workshop seeks high-quality full (8 pages) and short (4 pages) papers that will be peer-reviewed. Once accepted, at least one author is required to register for the workshop and the ACM SIGSPATIAL conference (which will be in Chicago, Illinois), as well as attend the workshop to present the accepted work which will then appear in the ACM Digital Library. 

This workshop should also be of interest to everyone who works with spatial data. The simulation methods that will be presented and discussed in the workshop should find a wide application across the community by producing benchmark datasets that can be parameterized and scaled. Simulated data sets will be made available to the community via the website.

More information about the workshop along with key dates is available at: https://www.geosim.org/  

https://www.geosim.org/

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Guest Editorial for Spatial Agent-based Models: Current Practices and Future Trends

Over the last few years we have seen spatial agent-based modeling beginning to bridge the gap from cautious early adoption towards general acceptance within the geographical sciences. One of the key features that has contributed to this is its ability to represent individual characteristics and behaviors.

In order to capture this evolution a while ago, Alison Heppenstall and myself  put out a call for papers that not only asked for papers that looked at current trends in agent-based modeling but also  for those  that highlighted and addressed the advances and challenges that researchers working within the area of spatial agent-based models face. We are happy to say this call is now over and in the current issue of GeoInformatica there are 6 great papers (full citations and links are provided below) and along with a editorial. The papers present not only a great synthesis of the current practices but also several of the key advances and challenges within the realm of spatial agent-based modeling are brought to bare. 

Several common themes will become apparent when reading the articles. All the authors were in agreement that while there has been a noticeable uptake in agent-based modeling, more work is needed to bridge the gap to acceptance as a standard tool within the spatial sciences (e.g. Polhill et al., 2019). Data (variable quality and availability) was an issue that was discussed by almost all of the authors, particularly how to translate high quality data into models to create behavioral rules and the use of novel forms of data to calibrate an empirical model (e.g. Crols and Malleson, 2019). How to represent and simulate behavior in agent-based models was also a recurrent issue with two papers discussing how approaches borrowed from machine learning can be used to improve the representation of behavior (e.g. Runck et al., 2019; Abdulkareem et al., 2019). How to create models that could scale from the micro to macro was another theme with the point being made that current agent-based modeling architectures do not foster models that are easily translatable to a regional or global context (e.g. Taillandier et al., 2019), nor are interactions across scales adequately addressed in most models (e.g. Lippe et al., 2019). The papers also highlight that to cross the bridge from novel tool to full acceptance as a standard tool within the geographical sciences, spatial agent-based modeling still has some way to go. However, the papers in this special issue can therefore be seen as a stepping stone towards this.

Papers in the Special Issue:

Our Editorial:
Heppenstall, A. and Crooks, A.T. (2019), Guest Editorial for Spatial Agent-based Models: Current Practices and Future Trends, GeoInfomatica. 23(2): 243-268 (pdf)