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Agent-Based Modeling for Communication Research

Fri, May 25, 9:30 to 10:45, Hilton Prague, Floor: LL, Vienna

Session Submission Type: Panel


In communication science, emergent social phenomena – such as the dynamics of public opinion, collective attention, and collective action – are explained by the media use, decisions, and interactions of individuals. While macrosocial theories such as the spiral of silence or cultivation bridge the gap between individual observations on a micro level and emergent social phenomena on a macro level, these theories are mostly inaccessible to empirical testing as a whole. Empirical research instead mainly relies on statistical models for testing more or less isolated hypotheses in observational and experimental designs.
Agent-based modelling (ABM) offers a new actor-oriented systems perspective for understanding the underlying mechanisms bringing about the empirical macro patterns through computer simulations. The approach is particularly apt to drive theory development in our discipline and to push us towards asking the right questions to data.
In the panel, we feature cutting-edge research of seven authors pioneering the application of ABM in communication science in different areas. The goal of the panel is to introduce communication scholars to the main principles of ABM and to propagate this method to further fields of research. We do so by (a) reviewing the types of research questions that can particularly benefit from the use of ABM, (b) giving specific examples of ABM applications in communication research, and (c) show how ABM can be combined with empirical data.

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