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Syllabus -- CSS 605 -- Fall 2010

Syllabus -- CSS 605 -- Fall 2010

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Computational Social Science 605 (3:3:0)
Fall 2010 Semester Handout #1 - SYLLABUSGeorge Mason UniversityInnovation Hall, Room 320Thursdays, 4:30-7:10pm
Object-Oriented Modeling in Social Science
Maksim Tsvetovat, Ph.D.Asst. Professor of Computational SocialSciencemtsvetov@gmu.eduTel. (703) 993–1405Welcome to CSS 605! This is a course about discovery and invention in the socialsciences, so be prepared to learn in a way that may be unlike any previous social sciencecourse you may have taken. We hope you will learn from this course as much as we havelearned in envisioning, designing, developing, and implementing it for you.This syllabus covers the main features of CSS 605—or “attributes” and “methods”, asyou shall soon learn to view and understand these characteristics in the “object paradigm”—while additional information is contained in separate handouts that will bedistributed as the course develops. This Syllabus is Handout #1 and covers coursedescription, assumptions, learning objectives, grading guidelines, material to be covered,and some initial references. Welcome aboard!
Description
: This graduate course presents and applies concepts and principles from theobject-based modeling (OOM) paradigm, specifically applied to social science domains.Emphasis is on the Unified Modeling Language (UML; see OMG 2005) as a tool for modeling the structure and operation of complex adaptive social systems and processes,and using Java as a programming language for implementing such models.
Prerequisites or co-requisites:
CSS 600 Introduction to Computational Social Science,or permission of instructor. This is also a core requirement for candidates in thecomputational social science Ph.D. program, and an elective course for the CSSCertificate.This course assumes basic foundations in computing and some programming language(e.g., BASIC, Fortran, or SAS code).
 Neither 
knowledge of object-oriented programming
 
2(OOP) or advanced mathematics are required. A sample of specific desirable programming skills is explained in Barker (2003: 4). Basic computing skills includeunderstanding simple data types (integer, floating point, string, etc.); variables and their scope (including the notion of global data); control flow (IF-THEN-ELSE statements,FOR/DO/WHILE loops, etc.); what arrays are and how to use them; the notion of afunction/subroutine/subprogram: how to pass data in and get results back out (Barker 2003: 4). These programming assumptions will be discussed the first week.On the first day of class, you will be given a pre-test that will place your knowledge of major programming concepts. The goal is to both understand your abilities and to tailor the course to be neither “over-the-head” nor too easy for all.Speaking of “too easy”... Don’t count on it :-)
Learning Objectives and Grading
The main learning objectives are as follows:1.Learn to think about social dynamics primarily (fundamentally) in terms of “objects” (as opposed to variables, the traditional paradigm);2.Learn to describe and model social objects in terms of their characteristic properties (“attributes”) and behaviors (“methods”), and to represent these usingUML notation;3.Learn Java as a formal programming language with which to simulate social phenomena; and4.Use your skills to develop an interesting model of a simple polity and participatein a final contestGiven these objectives, a student earns an A if s/he1’-understands and can reason in terms of the object-oriented (OO) paradigm in a socialscience context (e.g., anthropology, economics, political science, sociology, or other social science context or interdisciplinary area such as regional systems, human ecology,social network analysis, international relations, war and peace, social dynamics, …, spaceexploration and colonization);2’-can describe significant (nontrivial) social phenomena in terms of objects constituted by attributes and operations, and represent such phenomena using UML;3’- can formalize/instantiate/implement the social phenomenon/system/process of interestin basic Java code, and4’- can use these skills in a practical context, as demonstrated by the final project.The final grade will be calculated on the basis of homework assignments (40%), class project (40%) and class presentations (20%). Attendance and active class participationare expected.
 
3You can submit assignments up to 24 hours late with no penalty, and 10% penalty for each subsequent day.
Final Project
This will be your crowning achievement and your main grade contribution, and thesource of your headaches for the next 15 weeks.We, as a collective, will undertake building an ambitious model of the world politicalsystem, one country at a time.During the course of the semester, we will build from the ground-up a model of a simple polity (SimPol), with governance, resources, and simple manner of relating to itsneighbours. As one of your assignments you will need to demonstrate that a polity youhave implemented is a viable state on its own.After the states have become viable by themselves, it will be your goal to think about andimplement the foreign policy of your state, directed to neighbors near and far, includingeconomic cooperation, simple attempts at diplomacy and wars. You can design anystrategy you want - from world domination to total neutrality, from gregarious trading toisolation.As the end of semester gets closer, we will provide a simulation framework that willintegrate all of our simulated states into a single world-system. At the final presentationsfor the course, we will put all of our simulated states together, and watch in amazementas they battle to the death - or build a peaceful and harmonious world society.What happens at the final battle is up to you.You may work as individuals or in small groups (3 people max.). For groups, you will both receive the same grade. Also, feel free to share information about your strategies tothe other groups (strategic lying is par for the course, naturally).The grades will not depend on whether your agent takes over the world, but rather on thequality of implementation and your understanding of the modeling paradigms, as well ason the realism of your strategies.
Facebook 
In leu of having a formal class website
Schedule of Study: Calendar, Topics, Assignments
(subject to change depending on our progress in the course)
Week 1 (Aug. 30)
Introduction, modeling approaches in the social sciences: statistical,mathematical, and computational (CC). Learn the motivation for OOM in thesocial sciences, or what distinguishes it from other modeling approaches, andsome initial achievements. Overview of the course; “walk through” the syllabus.

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