Modelling Social Interaction in Information Systems (MSIIS)

Lectures: 14 lectures, every Monday at 08:20 to 09:50 between 31/8/15 and 30/11/15
Location: Irinyi 219, University of Szeged.
Lecturer: Dr David Hales ( e-mail:
MSIIS word cloud

Course Overview

Computer systems are increasingly distributed. Networks link nodes that serve users and carry out computations. Collectively, system level properties emerge rather than being planned. This is similar to how human and animal societies operate. In human societies individual goals and behaviours through interaction generate collective properties such as norms, laws, markets and government. These properties structure and shape our world. In animal societies evolved behaviours can solve complex optimisation problems through individual rule following as evidenced by the social insects (ants, bees and termites).

Recent innovations such as Bittorrent and Bitcoin show how algorithms developed with reference to social, economic and biological theory can change not only the computational networks but also society in general.

In this course we will study both theoretical concepts about social interaction and case studies of successfully deployed systems that embody them. We will also critically consider a set of techniques used to understand and research social interaction such as:
We will also study pioneers in the area such as John Von Neumann, Herbert Simon, John Holland, Robert Axelrod and others.

We will critically discuss what good models are and how to go about constructing them. We will also consider some of the historical theories of social systems as they relate to information systems.

Prerequisites: The course assumes some programming ability but no specific computer language will be mandated. 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.

There will be no formal exam. MSc students will be assessed through a scientific paper reading in which they choose and read a paper of interest and then present the main ideas from the paper to the group. In addition to the paper reading PhD students will be assessed through a simple programming assignment. Specific details about the assessment process can be found here: MSIIS-Assessment.pdf

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


Lecture slides will be listed here as they are delivered. Papers and books listed in the slides can be found in the books and papers sections below the lectures section. Note: the lecture session scheduled for 30/8/2015 was cancelled hence the first lecture took place on 7/9/2015. The materials from last year (2014) can be found here.

1. Introduction and Overview: Aims and objectives of the course; Overview of different kinds of modelling and different kinds of social interaction; Outline of some general concepts such as complexity, emergence, self-organisation, decentralisation power and control. Software NetLogo, Golly. Slides1.pdf
[date: 7/9/2015]

2. Cellular Automata: History of CA’s their motivations and interpretations; Examples of 1D and 2D CA’s. People: John von Neumann, Stephen Wolfram, John Conway, Chris Langdon. Examples: game of life, different 1D CA’s; ideas of chaos; Idea of Turing complete CA. Software: NetLogo/Life & 1D CA's, Golly. Slides2.pdf
[date: 14/9/2015]

3. Evolution of cooperation: Problem of cooperation in general and how it relates to social systems. Some concepts from game theory. Presentation of the Prisoners’ Dilemma game. Detailed look at Axelrod's computer tournaments. People Axelrod. Slides3.pdf
[date: 21/9/2015]

4. Bittorrent and cooperation: Overview of Bittorrent file-sharing protocol; How the protocol relates to cooperation theory; People: Bram Cohen. Software: Bittorrent. Slides4.pdf
[date: 28/9/2015]

5. Social Welfare and Bittorrent credit dynamics: Idea of a social welfare function; some simple examples and the people and ideas that inform them. Rawls' veil of ignorance. Credit dynamics in a bittorrent private community (BitCrunch model). People: Bentham, Pareto, Rawls, Sen. Slides5.pdf
[date: 5/10/2015]

6. Evolution, co-evolution (and artificial life) Part 1: 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. People: Dan Dennett, Nowak & May, John Holland. Slides6.pdf
[date: 12/10/2015]

7. Evolution, co-evolution (and artificial life) Part 2: Games on fixed graphs, cost / benefit formulation of PD, dynamic interaction structures - evolving networks of cooperation, cultural evolution, artificial life, self-replication, open-ended evolution, emerging agents, bootstrapping evolution. People: Martin Nowak, Tom Ray, Richard Dawkins, Chris Langton, John Holland. Slides7.pdf
[date: 18/10/2015]

8. Schelling's Segregation Model: A more detailed look at the segregation model (shown in lecture 1). Exploring the behaviour of the model systematically. Some applications of the model in distributed systems design and modelling of social network evolution. Software: NetLogo/Segregation model. People: Thomas Schelling. Slides8.pdf
[date: 26/10/2015]

9. Riots, Ethnocentrism and Sugar:  Threshold models, Granovetta's riot model, Watts' cascades on graphs, artificial socieity models, Ethnocentrism model, Sugarscape model. Software: Netologo/Ethnocentrism model, Riot model. People: Mark Granovetta, Duncan Watts, Josh Epstien. Slides9.pdf
[date: 2/11/2015]

10. Markets (and Money)
: What is a market? Textbook supply / demand and equilibrium. Real markets. Macro and micro models. Continuous Double Auction electronic markets, ZIP (zero-intelligence-plus) algorithmic trader agents. Non-equilibrium models, speculation, contagion, El Farol Bar,  SFI artificial stock market. Prediction markets. Money - what is it (why don't I have any)? Modern money, central banks and local banks. Theories of value. New P2P money. People: Dave Cliff, Brian Arthur. Slides10.pdf
[date: 9/11/2015]

11. Bitcoin, Incentives and the future: Bitcoin basic architecture, incentive structure, the block chain, mining, mining pools, staged incentives, problems with bitcoin, altcoins, future of block chain technology. Software: Bitcoin. People: Satoshi Nakamoto. Slides11.pdf

12. Student paper reading assignments. Students each give 10 to 15 mins presentation plus 5 mins questions on their chosen paper (max 5 slides if they decide to use slides). A link to the pdf of the slides and paper will be given here. Also the papers are listed in the papers section:
[date: 23/11/2015]

13. Student paper reading assignments. Students each give 10 to 15 mins presentation plus 5 mins questions on their chosen paper (max 5 slides if they decide to use slides). A link to the pdf of the slides and paper will be given here. Also the papers are listed in the paper section:

Support Materials

You do not have to read, use or watch all these things. I will discuss in the lectures what you might wish to look at. Hence they a provided as background that allow you explore a topic mentioned in the lectures that you are interested in.


Papers / Articles

Journals / Conferences / Workshops




Web pages / Blog posts