Modelling Social Interaction in Information Systems (MSIIS)

10 sessions over one week: Monday 3/7/17 to Friday 7/7/17.
Comprising 2hr morning session + 3hr afternoon session every day (timings to be arranged).
Location: University of Szeged, room to be arranged.
Lecturer: Dr David Hales ( e-mail:
MSIIS word cloud

Course Overview

In human societies individuals, through social interaction, generate collective properties such as norms, cooperation and exchange. In animal societies evolved behaviours can solve complex optimisation problems through individual rule following. Computer systems are increasingly distributed. Networks link nodes that serve users and carry out computations. Collectively, system level properties emerge rather than being centrally controlled. This is similar to how human and animal societies operate.  Recent innovations such as Bittorrent and Bitcoin employ distributed algorithms that relate to social, economic and biological models.

In this course we will study both theoretical concepts about social interaction and models that embody them including:
Ideas will be illustrated by running, and experimenting  with, agent-based models, which students can download and run on their own machines.

Schedule: The course will take an intensive form over one week (5 days). Most days will comprise a 2hr morning (lecture / theory) session and a 3hr afternoon (practical / task orientated) session.

Prerequisites: The course assumes a basic understanding of computer programming concepts (in any programming language) . It is also assumed that students will be open to ideas traditionally outside of computer science such as social science and economics but no prior knowledge will be assumed of these areas. Students should have access to a laptop on which NetLogo should be installed (which they should bring to all sessions). NetLogo can be installed from:

Assessment: There will be no formal exam. Students will be assessed based on worksheets completed during the last two days in the practical sessions.

Aims (the course aims to):
Objectives (by the end of the course students will be able to):

Background reading and software:

Software (these should be installed on the student laptop and brought to all lectures and practical sessions):

Papers (these should be read by students before the course starts):

Books (these are not required reading but provide wider background and will be referred to in some of the lectures):


The course will take an intensive form over one week (5 days). Most days will comprise a 2hr morning (lecture / theory) session and a 3hr afternoon (practical / task orientated) session. Slides and other materials will appear here closer to the course start.

Day 1. Introduction and overview.
Lecture: Some basic concepts. Emergence, self-organisation, agent-based models, cellular automata, NetLogo.
Practical: Explore discussed models in Netlogo library (guided by some questions).

Day 2. Schelling’s segregation model.
Lecture: A detailed look at the segregation model. Exploring the behaviour of the model systematically.
Practical: Experiment with model in NetLogo and complete worksheet tasks.

Day 3. Cooperation and Bittorrent (a double lecture day)
Lecture: The problem of cooperation and how it relates to social / computer systems. Some concepts from game theory.  The Prisoners’ Dilemma game. Axelrod’s tournaments. Bittorrent and how it uses incentives.
Lecture: Overview of Bittorrent file-sharing protocol; How the protocol relates to cooperation theory.

Day 4. Evolution, co-evolution and artificial life.
Lecture: Evolution in general, evolutionary algorithms, genetic algorithms, co-evolutionary systems, interaction structures other than mean-field, concept of an ESS, evolving cooperation on a cellular automata. Nowak lattice model.
Practical: Experiment with lattice model to complete worksheet tasks (assessment 1)

Day 5. Riots and Ethnocentrism.
Lecture: Granovetta’s riot model. Axelrod and Hammond’s Ethnocentrism model. Other recent ethnocentrism models.
Activity: Experiment with models to complete worksheet tasks (assessment 2)