[Humanist] 27.564 model, modelling, simulation

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Nov 27 08:05:40 CET 2013

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 564.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Wed, 27 Nov 2013 06:55:25 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: model, modelling, simulation

Thanks to Peter van Kranenburg in Humanist 27.558 for pointing out that 
simulations are tinkered with between runs, or simulation-games after 
the playing is done, and to Paul Fishwick for pointing out that 
modelling extends to much of what we do with our tools. The latter has 
essentially been my argument all along -- that modelling is basically 
what we do most of the time.

To pick up on Peter's summary, that a simulation is "a specific kind of 
model, namely one that represents a process", let me ask, when would you 
be modelling a process rather than a thing? The answer I keep coming up 
with is, when you can only know about the components of something and 
cannot observe or predict what the thing will do. So, I could model a 
particular game of Monopoly, tweaking, say, the prices of houses on a 
particular patch of the board, but a model of Monopoly itself, with some 
(pseudo-)randomization, when run is a simulation of capitalist activity. 
Carolyn Lougee Chappell's Would-Be Gentleman, from the mid 1980s and 
still going, is an instructional simulation-game of the 
petite-bourgeoisie in 17C France. SimCity from the late 1980s, also 
still going, is likewise a simulation -- a game that models urban 
entities but whose outcome in any play is unknown to a significant degree.

Can we say that the difference is between simple and complex, linear and 
non-linear systems? What other examples do we have in the humanities? 
Are VR applications essentially visualised simulations?

Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Research Group in Digital
Humanities, University of Western Sydney

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