Lugano, Switzerland

Agent-Based Modelling

when 19 August 2024 - 23 August 2024
language English
duration 1 week
fee CHF 700

Workshop contents and objectives

Macro social dynamics, such as ethnic segregation patterns, socio-economic inequalities, and opinion polarization, are puzzling because they are emerging outcomes of complex, non-linear interactions by a multitude of individuals or organisations. Standard quantitative social research struggles to capture the fundamental micro-macro generative mechanisms behind these complex dynamics, as it cannot explore the effect of heterogeneous agent behaviour and complex social interactions. Qualitative social research explores observed behaviours in realistic social settings but is poorly equipped to discriminate among possible explanations for the emergence of large-scale social patterns. This is what agent-based modelling can offer to any student regardless of their qualitative or quantitative background: Observing the emergence of social dynamics in a computer simulation by specifying heterogeneous rules for agent behaviour and studying the effect of complex spatial/network interaction settings on social aggregates. By using the computer as an experimental laboratory to manipulate various behavioural and sociological parameters (e.g., agent behavioural strategies, social networks, spatial neighbourhoods), students can test alternative micro-macro explanations of large-scale social dynamics.

This workshop aims to introduce students with little or no experience to agent-based modelling using NetLogo as the programming language. The goal is to help students “agentize” their conceptual model, i.e., bring back their social dynamics of interest to agent behaviour and interaction and provide computational foundations for using NetLogo as an easy tool to build their own model. Some canonical models will be introduced and coded step-by-step in the class. After this course, students will be able to design a model of their social dynamics of interest with NetLogo, learn how to incorporate empirical data in important model parameters and use this tool to generate output dataset to be analysed statistically with R, Python, Stata or any other statistics package, and/or exposed visually with graphs and videos.

Workshop design

In the morning sessions, theoretical concepts and examples of models will be presented and discussed in the class. Topics will include residential segregation, social influence, culture dynamics, and opinion polarisation. In the afternoon sessions, students will be guided to code their assigned models and perform individual/team exercises.

Detailed lecture plan (daily schedule)

Day 1.
Morning: Introduction to Agent-Based Modelling
Afternoon: Introduction to NetLogo

Day 2.
Morning: Schelling’s residential segregation model
Afternoon: NetLogo excercises

Day 3.
Morning: Axelrod’s model of cultural dynamics
Afternoon: NetLogo excercises

Day 4.
Morning: Flache & Macy’s model of polarisation & networks
Afternoon: NetLogo excercises

Day 5.
Morning: Model Design and Analysis
Afternoon: Individual/team exercises

Course leader

Flaminio Squazzoni is Professor of Sociology at the Department of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Milan.

Simone Gabbriellini, PhD in Sociology, is a Computational Social Scientist and Data Scientist.

Target group

graduate students, doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, ECRs

Fee info

CHF 700: Reduced fee: 700 Swiss Francs per weekly workshop for students/postdoctoral researchers (requires proof of student status).*

Reduced Fee

To qualify for the reduced fee, you are required to send a copy of an official document that certifies your current student status or a letter from your supervisor stating your actual position as a doctoral or postdoctoral researcher. Send this letter/document by e-mail to

*These fees also include participation in one of the preliminary workshops (a 2/3-day workshop preceding the Summer School). The registration fee for the Preliminary workshop booked on its own is 200 CHF.
CHF 1100: Normal fee: 1100 Swiss Francs per weekly workshop for all others.*

*These fees also include participation in one of the preliminary workshops (a 2/3-day workshop preceding the Summer School). The registration fee for the Preliminary workshop booked on its own is 200 CHF.