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 2006/2007; Tuesday 17:00-19:00
Place: HG D 1.1


Programming experience in at least one object-oriented programming language is required.

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.
As a registered user you can access the course through

(- obsolete -)

Please note: Free signing up is no longer possible. If you do not have access through the link above but would still like to join the course, please send an email to Christa Deiwiks (deiwiks AT

Browser setup for WebCT

Only the following browser have been validated with the use of WebCT CE 6:
- Microsoft IE 6.0 SP1; 6.0 SP2 (XP SP2)
- Netscape 7.2
- AOL 9
- Mozilla 1.7
- Firefox 1.0, 1.5

You will need to perform the following adjustments to optimize your browser for use with WebCT:
1. Enable Java
2. Enable JavaScript
3. Enable Cookies
4. Disable Pop-Up Blocking for WebCT


Prof. Lars-Erik Cederman (D-GESS)
International Conflict Research
Seilergraben 49
8092 Zurich
lcederman AT (replace AT by @)
044-632 67 59

Christa Deiwiks (D-GESS)
International Conflict Research
Seilergraben 49, Room E.3
8092 Zurich
deiwiks AT (replace AT by @)
044-632 51 95