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Figure: agent-based model of traffic route choice by Dr Ed Manley, Mechanicity team
Figure: agent-based model of traffic route choice by Dr Ed Manley, Mechanicity team

There has been an growing interest over the past two decades in research methodologies that explore how the behaviour of individual agents interacting both with each other and their environments give rise to particular emergent patterns of outcome. Modelling these dynamic processes is an essential part of beginning to understand the underlying mechanics of complex path-dependent systems. While these methodologies have their roots in the cellular automata models and microsimulation techniques dating from the 1950s, their true potential has only begun to be exploited following more recent advances in computer science and processing power.

Given the power of agent-based modelling and similar generative modelling approaches for explaining the complexity of urban polycentricity and network dynamics, we are utilising these techniques to explore the bottom up way in which urban systems evolve and how fractal morphologies emerge. And we are collaborating with partners in the Santa Fe Institute and the University of Leeds Centre for Spatial Analysis and Policy and others such as in Phoenix and Shanghai to previous work (such as that of the Tyndall Cities initiative) to take this work forward.