Town Planning Review

Agent-based models and self-organisation: addressing common criticisms and the role of agent-based modelling in urban planning

Town Planning Review (2016), 87, (3), 321–338.

Abstract

While planners have long been aware that the world they act upon is complex, there is now growing interest in using concepts from the complexity sciences – such as self-organisation – to explain cities and urban change. Agent-based models (ABMs) can be invaluable tools in this quest, but they are often met with mistrust, and face some valid objections. This paper attempts to address some of the criticism, namely that ABMs offer simplistic, individualist and trivial explanations for urban processes, that they cannot be validated and that they represent the view that top-down planning is unnecessary. The paper argues that if ABMs are to be used in a new science of cities they need to be designed as part of a conversation between practitioners, policy-makers and academics.

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