The Web Science Trust

Tools for Collective Simulation

Bonanni, Leonardo and Hockenberry, Matthew and Pak, Alex and Ishii, Hiroshi (2009) Tools for Collective Simulation. In: Proceedings of the WebSci'09: Society On-Line, 18-20 March 2009, Athens, Greece. (In Press)

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Abstract

Social networks can leverage collective intelligence toward understanding complex problems such as environmental sustainability, health and policy. This collective simulation relies on trustworthy systems that empower distributed and open investigation. We present a case study of the development of an application for the collective simulation of global product supply chains (Sourcemap.org). Experiential evidence from the development of this application suggests the importance of establishing trust through linked data and the need for a learning component as part of the user experience. Complex simulations can be intuitively understood by a wide audience through the design of multiple experiences based on the expertise and motivation of individual users. Pilot studies with product designers, restaurateurs and regional development agencies suggest that the collective simulation process can affect change in the behaviors of participants at the same time as contributing to a larger social cause. We present guidelines for the design of similar tools which we believe are becoming necessary to address problems with complex measures across the social spectrum. Systems with complex and variable measures – including supply chains and environmental impact assessments – can be nearly impossible to understand or even engage with. As a result many of the actors in these systems are unable to weigh the consequences of their actions, as when a consumer unknowingly engages in an unsustainable purchase. Collective tools aggregate the participation of experts and novices in maintaining an up-to-date model such as an article on Wikipedia. Web-based simulation tools can foster a community of developers to stay relevant and up-to-date with evolving cultural and technological concerns. Tools for collective simulation empower actors in complex systems to research and contribute according to their unique points of view to create a shared awareness. Given the scale of many of the systems in society, collective simulation may be the only way to begin addressing the impact of our roles in the global context. We are building a tool for collective simulation of material and supply chains called Sourcemap. The application is designed to serve the needs of consumers, designers and companies through a life cycle assessment interface with embeddable visualizations and physical export options. Users assemble objects through a data entry interface which specifies materials, processes, provenance and environmental impact. Established tools are incorporated into the system, including an authoritative life-cycle assessment database, geological surveys and conventional map-based visualizations. Users can simulate the supply chain of a product such as a computer or a car; they can calculate the impact of a specific meal based on its ingredients or the impact of shipping people and goods to an event. The social nature of Sourcemap allows it to serve as a tool for investigation, traceability and marketing. Individuals can read, collaborate and comment on each other’s entries. New materials can be added to the site by producers and inventors to expand the options available to designers. Socially conscious companies can publish their sourcing strategies on the site, advertising both their products and their values. Small practitioners can use our tool to approximate the environmental of their practices, using the site as a reference for potential customers. Consumers can use Sourcemap to learn about potential purchases or to investigate undocumented products through estimation. The experience of building Sourcemap and conducting pilot studies has emphasized the importance of designing multiple entry points, taking a constructivist approach to learning, and the need for an open nature and the use of established tools to foster trust in the application. These principles can allow for a productive experience by novices and experts alike, helping to foster an active community around the larger social issue. In addition to populating the site with informative articles on the provenance and impact of specific products and services, our pilot studies suggest that using this tool can change the thinking process and the affect ultimate decisions made by users. We present Sourcemap as an example of a tool for collective simulation that enables a wide audience to engage a vast network with an important impact in today’s world. We believe that several domains can be richly served by applications that allow users to learn about and contribute knowledge about a complex and variable system, especially ecology, health and government. We hope this paper opens a dialogue on these issues and prompts further research and development of tools for collective simulation.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Uncontrolled Keywords:social network, sustainability, collective simulation, design tools, constructivist learning
Subjects:Web Science Events > Web Science 2009
ID Code:206
Deposited By: W S T Administrator
Deposited On:24 Jan 2009 08:45
Last Modified:25 Oct 2011 16:42

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