Two-day Methodology Workshop | Modeling Emergence: Computer Simulation in the Social Sciences | James Kitts

Monday, December 16, 2019 - 9:00am to 4:00pm
Tuesday, December 17, 2019 - 9:00am to 4:00pm
Lederle Graduate Research Center (LGRC) A210 | UMass Amherst

Description: Much quantitative social science and behavioral research has focused on identifying statistical relationships in cross-sectional data. While rigorous and tractable, this research typically assumes the objects of study are independent of one another, and thus assumes away the complex social processes that we hope to understand. Qualitative (ethnographic and comparative-historical) lenses have allowed us to view the social world as a web of interdependent and contingent processes, with macro-level cultures, communities and organizations emerging from and constraining the micro-level interactions of individuals, relationships and families. An explosion of recent work has used computational models to think systematically and rigorously about these complex social dynamics. Simulation research can offer rich, nuanced process models similar to qualitative work, but employs a rigorous, transparent and replicable framework that can be extended to other research contexts, similar to statistical approaches.

Theorists use computer models to elucidate, extend, integrate and validate social theory. Policy analysts use computer models to predict outcomes of policy scenarios in complex and interactive domains. Managers use computer models to design efficient and robust organizational operations. Health agencies use computer models to explore strategies for population interventions. This proliferation of simulation work has generated great interest in computer modeling methods, but few disciplinary departments presently offer general training in this area. This introductory workshop will allow attendees to understand some of the overall goals and techniques of social simulation, give them hands-on experience in experimenting on computational models, and point them to resources to begin using these tools in their own work.

We will explore a range of modeling domains including social networks, social influence, individual and social learning, and social norms. We will draw substantive applications mostly from the science of organizations (e.g. models of organizational culture and turnover, dynamics of collective action in teams, and intergroup conflict) and public health (e.g. understanding and resolving health disparities, transmission of disease on contact networks, social contagion and diffusion of health or risk behaviors).

This is a self-contained standalone workshop for all interested students and faculty. Note that this workshop is required for students taking the semester-long graduate seminar on computational modeling with Kitts in 2019-20.

Instructor: James Kitts joined the UMass Department of Sociology in 2012 and served as the Director of the Computational Social Science Institute until this year. He has previously held faculty appointments at Columbia Business School (Management), Dartmouth College (Sociology), and the University of Washington (Sociology). He has taught computational modeling Ph.D. seminars at Columbia, the University of Arizona, and the University of Washington, and has led modeling workshops for government agencies, universities and research institutes around the world. His research recently appeared in American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Social Forces, Social Psychology Quarterly, and Demography.

Questions? For more information about this or any of the ISSR Methodology Workshops, please contact our Director of Research Methods Programs, Jessica Pearlman (

Registration is closed for this workshop.

Five College Students and Faculty

  • Five College Undergraduate and Graduate Students…………………………..$150/person
  • Five College Faculty………………………………………………………………....$300/person

Non-Five College Students and Faculty

  • Non-Five College Undergraduate and Graduate Students…………………………..$300/person
  • Non-Five College Faculty………………………………………………………………....$425/person

Registration note: The Five Colleges include: UMass Amherst, Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, and Smith College. Registration closes for each workshop 2 full business days prior to the start date. Please note: payment of registration does not guarantee a spot in these space-limited workshops. You will receive an email confirming the names of workshops for which your registration has been accepted. If a workshop you have registered for is over-subscribed, you will be refunded and offered placement on a wait-list.. If paying with departmental funds or personal checks, contact Karen Mason (

Cancellation note: In cases where enrollment is 5 or less, we reserve the right to cancel the workshop.  In cases where the registrant cancels prior to the workshop, a full refund will be given with two weeks notice, and 50% refund will be given with one week notice.  We will not be able to refund in cases where registrant does not notify us of cancellation at least one week prior to the beginning date of the workshop.