Engineering with Social Metaphors

A logo showing a cartoon society of people then an arrow, and then nodes and links in the form of a graph

Co-organisers: David Hales and Bruce Edmonds

A one day theme of the Socially Inspired Computing Symposium at the
AISB convention on:  Social Intelligence and Interaction in Animals, Robots And Agents,
University of Hertfordshire, de Havilland Campus, Hatfield, England,
12-15th of April 2005


Ideas from biology have been successfully applied to the design, construction and adjustment of computer systems.  This workshop aims to focus on work which contributes to doing the same with ideas and metaphors originating in social phenomena.

Social systems are complex self-organising and self-regulating systems that emerge certain kinds of properties that would appear to be very useful if they could be instantiated in computer systems. For example, the emergence and maintenance of roles, institutions, power-relations, exchange and trust systems are very much current engineering issues in distributed (network based) decentralised systems. Historically, these kinds of issues have been studied by the social sciences in the context of human societies. More recently, the emerging discipline of computational social science has begun to formalise concepts about social mechanisms algorithmically - i.e. using (often agent-based) simulation. It would appear that there is a great potential for cross fertilisation between researchers trying to solve difficult engineering problems and those producing computational models of complex social phenomena. We hope to foster this process by the exchange of relevant ideas, techniques and problems.

The Papers (or see page of abstracts), in order of presentation:

David Hales Introduction to Theme: Engineering with Social Metaphors
Márk Jelasity
Engineering Emergence through Gossip PDF
Bruce Edmonds Using Localised `Gossip' to Structure Distributed Learning PDF
A.E. Eiben, G.S. Nitschke, M.C. Schut,
Comparison of Reproduction Schemes in an Artificial Society for Cooperative Gathering PDF
Giovanna Di Marzo Serugendo, Michel Deriaz A Social Semantic Infrastructure for Decentralised Systems Based on Specification-Carrying Code and Trust
Virginia Dignum, Frank Dignum, Liz Sonenberg, Vasco Furtado, Adriano Melo Towards a Simulation Tool for Evaluating Dynamic Reorganization of Agent Societies PDF
Paul Guyot, Alexis Drogoul Two-Sides of Emergence in Participatory Simulations PDF
Stefano Cacciaguerra, Matteo Roffilli Agent-based participatory simulation activities for the emergence of complex social behaviours PDF
David Hales Engineering with Sociological Metaphors: Examples and Prospects PDF

Questions for round table discussion


This workshop can be seen as directly following on from the AISB 2000 workshop: Starting from Society - the application of social analogies to computational systems.

This workshop is also closely related to the following:
but is more focussed on the intersection of engineering MAS and social simulation.

More about the Topic:

Ideally ideas and techniques should be demonstrated in implemented software systems or using computational simulation - i.e. a concrete instantiation of the social idea that indicates its potential for application to engineering problems in computing or building useful computational systems. Additionally we solicit papers detailing specific open problems that would appear to be suited to a sociological approach - detailing why conventional mechanisms are hitherto inadequate - and papers that present novel social simulations with properties that the authors believe would be of use to engineers. Finally we encourage vision and position papers covering the current state-of-the-art, future directions and methodological and practical considerations - for example: how applicable are traditional engineering methodologies to constructing emergent systems?; what "roadmaps" can be followed to move techniques from academic playthings to deployable systems; can "killer apps" be identified for the socially inspired approach.

Key questions for the workshop include: How and to what extent are socially-inspired mechanisms effective in the context of the computational system?; Can reliable systems be obtained using socially-inspired mechanisms?;  How can the emergence that is endemic in such systems be controlled and utilised?;  What methods can be utilised in order that one may obtain desirable software systems?.  What sort of problems are amenable to this approach?  We hope these will answered, not in a theoretical way, but rather in a practical way via demonstrations of systems and software.  Negative as well as positive results are welcomed.

About the AISB Convention:

The whole AISB convention included 13 individual symposia of different lengths and topics at the same site.  More details about the convention can be found at their website.  


We are planning that a book of contributions will be published that include revised versions of the above papers, plus those from the workshop on Memetic Theory in Artificial Systems and Societies and those resulting from a call for chapters will be published.  Negotiations are currently underway about this and details will be distributed as soon as we know for certain.

Programme Committee: 

About the organisers:

David Hales is a Post-doctoral Researcher at the Department of Computer Science, University of Bologna.  He co-chaired the MABS 2003 and "model-to-model" workshops, also co-editing the published results (a LNAI volume and special issue) respectively.  He is on the editorial board of JASSS. He is a member of the EU networks of excellence on: complexity (EXYSTENCE) and software agents (AgentLink III).  He works on the EU DELIS (dynamically evolving large scale information systems) project.  His full list of publications can be found at:

Bruce Edmonds is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Modelling, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester.  He has co-chaired workshops on "Socially Situatated Intelligence" and "Starting from Society: the application of social analogies to computational systems" with Kerstin Dautenhahn, and "Model to Model" with David Hales and Juliette Rouchier.  He is a member of the EU networks of excellence on: complexity (EXYSTENCE) and software agents (AgentLink III).  He is just about to start a 4-year,  ESRC-funded "Novel Computation" project with Edinburgh and Manchester Universities on "Novel Approaches To Networks Of Interacting Autonomes" (NANIA). His full list of publications can be found at:


Studentship grants (courtesy of AgentLink)

agentlink logo    delis logo

Contact Details:

David Hales
Dept. of Computer Science,
The University of Bologna,
Mura Anteo Zamboni 7,
40127 Bologna, Italy.
Tel: +39 051 19980461

Bruce Edmonds,
Centre for Policy Modelling,
Manchester Met. University,
Aytoun Bldg.,  Aytoun St.,
Manchester, M1 3GH. UK.
Tel: +44 161 247 6479 
Fax: +44 161 247 6802

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