Introduction to Computational Modeling of Social Systems (851-0593-00)

Introduction to Computational Modeling of Social Systems (851-0593-00)

Thanks to the revolution in information technology, computational modeling is increasingly used as a tool to study social systems. This seminar focuses exclusively on agent-based modeling, which is a particular type of computational methodology that allows the researcher to create, analyze, and experiment with artificial worlds populated by agents that interact in non-trivial ways. In such “complex adaptive systems,” computation is used to simulate the cognitive processes and behavior of agents in order to explore emergent macro phenomena, i.e., structural patterns that are not reducible to, or even understandable in terms of, properties of the micro-level agents.

The course starts with an introduction to the rationale and principles of agent-based modeling, followed by a brief survey of object-oriented programming in Java. The remainder of the semester focuses on a Java-based simulation framework called RePast. Throughout the semester, examples drawn from political science, economics, and sociology will be covered.

Seminar available as elective course (“Pflichtwahlfach”) or as a PhD course.

Time: Winter Semester 2005/2006; Tuesday 17:00-19:00
Place: NO C 2


Prior knowledge of programming is not required but will be helpful for this course.

Performance evaluation

Students will be required to complete a series of four assignments handed out throughout the course. A minimum score of 50% in _each_ assignment is required to get the credit points for the course.


The course material is based on Java and RePast.

Learning environment


The course will be taught using the WebCT learning environment provided by ETH NET. WebCT will serve as a an online platform to get the course slides, take tests and discuss matters related to the course. An AAI-compatible account at a swiss academic institution is required to sign up. Self-registration for the course is no longer possible, please contact Nils Weidmann if you would like to participate. As a registered user you can access the course through

Important: News and announcements will be distributed to the students only by means of the WebCT e-mail tool ("Mail" in the left menu bar). If you do not want to check this internal account regularly, please adapt the mail tool's "Message settings" to have the course e-mail forwarded to your personal account.


Prof. Lars-Erik Cederman (D-GESS)
International Conflict Research
Seilergraben 49
8092 Zurich
lcederman AT (replace AT by @)
01-632 67 59

Nils Weidmann (D-GESS)
International Conflict Research
Seilergraben 49, Room E.3
8092 Zurich
weidmann AT (replace AT by @)
01-632 63 81