Friday, February 10, 2012

GeoGames for research on land use change in Cyprus (Guest blogger: David Massey)

This is David Massey, a MA student of Ola Ahlqvist here at Ohio State, guest blogging about my upcoming presentation at the AAG conference later this month.   

This past summer I was in the eastern Mediterranean on the island of Cyprus working fulfilling my GIS duties on the Athienou Archaeological Project, but also doing field work for my MA thesis which involves using games to simulate data and examine land use change. 

Researchers have long examined the causes of land use and land cover change through the use of Cellular Automata (CA), Agent-Based Models (ABM), or Multi-Agent Simulations (MAS).   In particular, MAS are useful because the agents in a simulation can resemble the actual interactions and decision making processes of people in stakeholder positions.   Most notably, CIRAD researchers have conducted several participatory modeling projects that incorporate stakeholders into all stages of model development in order to understand complex environments in the form of a game (e.g. see Bousquet et al.2007; Castella et al. 2007). 

Games have been used by researchers in many disciplines, but as demonstrated by the Green Revolution Geo-Game, it is increasingly possible use design games with GIS to incorporate real-world geographic locations and to play out hypothetical scenarios.  Several conferences are now devoted entirely to games, including the Games + Learning + Society conference, and the smaller ThatCamp Games “un-conference”.  

Having individuals play a game to simulate data very similar to using Agent Base Modeling or Monte Carlo simulations, but in my opinion, more accurate because the key stakeholders are making decisions and acting, not necessarily based on rational or logical algorithms, but on how they would react in real life.

My research focuses on agriculture in Athienou, a village located in the UN Buffer Zone in Cyprus.  As a result of the 1974 Turkish invasionAthienou lost nearly all of its farmland and the local farmers were forced to develop new farming strategies.  Today, Athienou is dominated by dairy, chicken, and cereal farms but land ownership issues due to the invasion remain at hotly contested issue, as seen in recent highprofile court cases.

I followed the Companion Modeling (ComMod) approach developed by CIRAD researchers for this case study.  This methodology involves a cyclical progression of field work, modeling, and simulation with the stakeholders.   Accordingly, first, I established the “rules” for farming in this region though background research and from conducting interviews with Greek-Cypriot farmers from Athienou.  Following examples from other ComMod research, I developed these rules into a role playing game (RPG), a tool which also represents the conceptual model of the agricultural system.  

My research question involved simulating a scenario in which the Turkish Occupied land to the north of Athienou becomes available for farming again.  This question was used in two ways.  

I had the Greek-Cypriot farmers who helped establish the rules, also play the RPG to see how they would develop the land.  Then I had undergraduate students play the RPG to see how they would develop the land.   This created two outcomes based on different types of knowledge about the agricultural system.  In this study, I used “expert” and “non-expert” to refer to specific types of knowledge about a system.  Here, the Greek-Cypriot farmers are the “experts” because they provide the (insider) native perspective of farming in Athienou.  The undergraduate students are “non-experts” because they bring their own outsider non-native observations and understandings farming in Athienou.

So, the purpose of the simulation was to first, determine how the Greek-Cypriot farmers would indeed develop their land, and second, in surveying the gaming strategies and results from both the “expert” and “non-expert” outcomes, examine ways to potentially crowd-source information.

I’ll be presenting on Sunday the 26th at 10:00am in JenniferMiller’s session ‘Using Spatially Explicit Simulated Data for Modeling and Geovisualization’.

To see more about what I research, check out my page!

No comments:

Post a Comment