Changing Neighborhoods—Neighborhoods Changing: A Framework for Spatially Explicit Agent-Based Models of Social Systems

David O’Sullivan Changing Neighborhoods—Neighborhoods Changing: A Framework for Spatially Explicit Agent-Based Models of Social Systems Sociological Methods & Research 2009 37: 498-530.

The nature of urban neighborhoods, neighborhood effects, and the dynamics of residential segregation are important themes in contemporary sociological inquiry. Agent-based models ofsocial systems have been widely applied in this context. However, both applied and model-based research in these areas suffer from weaknesses in underlying conceptualizations and representations of spatial context. Drawing on human geography and the sociospatial perspective in urban sociology, a framework that enables richer and more realistic representation of urban neighborhoods in agent-based simulation models is proposed and outlined. The framework relies on a graph representation of the spatial relations among spatial locations and can accommodate welldefined administrative zones, vague or ill-defined neighborhoods, hierarchically nested spatial zoning systems, overlapping neighborhoods, and changing relations among neighborhoods. Results from a preliminary application of the framework demonstrate its utility and possibilities forresearch into the effects of neighborhood structure on social processes.

Key Words: neighbourhoods • segregation • agent-based models • residential location

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