Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gaming and Computational Social Science

Thanks to Bryan Mark who alerted me to the coming game I got into a string of really interesting thoughts and works on the use of games for social awareness and change. This game is a climate change scenario game with some cool looking virtual globe graphics and other wise standard-looking map game components. The virtue of it seems to be the scientific basis on which they claim to have built their simulation engines in order to model the consequences of players' actions on the environment. It then strikes me as strange when one of their bloggers, Ian, comes down hard on academic efforts at at building a global modeling and simulation platform. Critical reviews are necessary to move projects forward but a total slashing of this project seems a bit of an overreaction.

Anyway, this took me through a few papers in Science into the realm of Computational Social Science and Mining Our Reality. Absolutely fascinating stuff and well worth reading for anyone doing social science research in this day and age. The core ideas are that our increasingly wired society carry around gadgets that an many ways can capture information about what do, e.g. "...locating you to within a few meters, an accelerometer that detects when you are walking versus stationary, a microphone that detects both conversations and background noises, a camera that records where each picture was taken, and an interface that observes every incoming and outgoing e-mail and text message. The potential benefits of mining such data are various; examples include reducing traffic congestion and pollution, limiting the spread of disease, and better using public resources such as parks, buses, and ambulance services." (Mitchell, 2009) Obviously with huge implications for things like privacy.

Wow, this will be a great topic for the GEOG880 seminar in Cartography I teach this quarter!

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