It’s that conference season again!

This month is just raining interesting conferences again! If you’re into the kind of research I like that is: social simulation, The Connected Past, and Historical Networks Research … Ooooooh Yeeeeaaah! 🙂

Two weeks ago I was in Barcelona for the Social Simulation Conference and the Simulating the Past satellite conference. Reports of this event on my blog did not get beyond part 1. That’s just because Barcelona is so much fun and it would be a shame to sit in a hotel room writing blog posts any longer than I already did. The conference was great overall. There was a surprising number of talks presenting a project outline rather than results. Although conferences are good places to recruit people on such projects, these talks are not always as engaging as others.

Ulrik Brandes giving a keynote presentation at TCP London
Ulrik Brandes giving a keynote presentation at TCP London

Last week I co-organised The Connected Past with Tim Evans and Ray Rivers at Imperial College London, and the rest of the Connected Past team. It strikes me as a wonderful thing how every time we organise an event we attract a truly multi-disciplinary, young, and curious audience. Interestingly there is also always a slight majority of female scholars at The Connected Past events, which is very welcome given that in academia often the opposite is true. Our audience is always a particularly studious bunch. Humanities scholars looking to learn more about what that network thing is all about, and scholars from the hard sciences who want to know if they can jump on a research topic/problem/dataset that is slightly more sexy than gravity. The keynote talks by Alan Wilson, Ulrik Brandes and Joaquim Fort were brilliant! Each drew from their personal experiences of applying a different computation modelling approach to archaeological research: agent-based modelling, network modelling, and statistical modelling. In particular, I can recommend Brandes’co-authored paper entitled ‘what is network science?’, which is definitely required reading for anyone following this blog. I am sure this is not gonna be the last Connected Past event. In fact, I’ll be able to announce some cool TCP news very soon I hope.

This week it’s time for Historical Networks Research, an initiative that already received loads of blogspace here. No need to break the trend: expect reports from the keynotes and talks as the conference progresses over the coming days. I am particularly looking forward to the keynote by Claire Lemercier, who organised a fantastic TCP in Paris in April. Claire is a real pioneer in applying network science in history, and her review article on the subject is a must-read for any historians interested in networks. Stay tuned for more on Historical Networks Research soon!

Thoughts from Connected Pasts 2014 workshop and meeting

Ruth Fillery-Travis wrote a critical positive review of The Connected Past meeting we held Monday-Tuesday at Imperial College London. Although she argues the conference succeeded in fulfilling the promises it made in the advertisements (multi-disciplinary and awesome), Ruth raises an important issue with the use of network science techniques in archaeology. In particular, with how we use network data as a representation of the past phenomena we are interested in understanding. This is a key issue and one that archaeological network analysts commonly struggle with. But I want to emphasise such decisions are motivated by archaeological data critique and theories, they are not inherent in any way to network data as a way of representation or to network analysis techniques. It’s still early days for archaeological network science, we need more creative and experimental archaeological examples, we need more discussion such as that sparked by Ruth’s review…. But it’s gonna be worth it! 🙂
Thanks Ruth for actively participating at the meeting and after, stay in touch with the community!!!!

Ruth Fillery-Travis

This week I spent Monday and Tuesday at the Connected Pasts workshop and meeting in London, learning about network and complexity science and its application to archaeology and the past. The two days consisted of a three hour workshop introducing and exploring one of a number software packages which can be used to analyse networks on Monday morning, followed by talks and key note speeches on Monday afternoon and through Tuesday (full program and abstracts here). The conference was held at Imperial College London, and organised locally by Tim Evans of Imperial, with Tom Brughmans of Konstanz from the wider advisory committee.

The conference was billed as multidisciplinary (within the scope of the past), and largely lived up to that; I chatted to computer scientists, geographers, statisticians, classicists and lots of physicists and archaeologists. It also attracted an international group of speakers and attendees, largely from Central…

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Geeky fun in Barcelona, part 1 #ssc14

This week I am in beautiful Barcelona for the Social Simulation conference. Not that I can really attest to this city’s beauty – I have never been here before and spent the first two days here almost exclusively in my hotel on campus preparing my paper. This will be a very recognisable experience for frequent conference goers. So Barcelona tourist tips will have to wait until blog posts at the end of the week.

I left my hotel room for two conference events only until now (Wednesday morning): the wine reception and the first keynote. The reception was actually a proper wine tasting, including long speeches about whatever happens in your nose as you taste each wine. It was of course not very surprising that the speaker struggled to keep the attention of the people he just served his produce to, who were struggling not to drown the drink straight away. But it was worth it, the wine was amazing. We were given four wines from a local wine producer, I can definitely recommend having a look at their products. The wine farmer is also experimenting with an archaeologically inspired wine, called Amphora. The clays on his land were used to create large ceramic containers (amphorae) which replace the oak barrels in which the wine matures. Apparently, the result is that the oak barrel taste which sometimes masks fruity and terroir flavours is reduced, and makes place for the amphora flavour (although he struggled to describe what an amphora tastes like since it’s a recent experiment and admittedly I asked a weird question). 

Today I attended the second keynote of the conference, Cesareo Hernandez talking about artificial economics. He argues ABM methods are necessary in economics, largely because his definition of economics demands it. Economics is a social science, according to Hernadez economics inherits complexity from the social part and it demands experimentation because it is a science. This is now generally accepted and experimental economics is part of mainstream economics, although this did not happen without a fight. Economic models now need to incorporate instability, change, and heterogeneous agents. Artificial economics tries to do just that, through computational modelling. These models should also not be created merely for their mathematical beauty but need to be socially relevant. This is something I very much agree with, if only because I understand social relevance far better than maths 🙂 Hernandez argues three key elements should be included in all models: Agents, environments, and institutions. By varying the implementation of these elements, different artificial economies emerge.

Stay tuned for more!


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