Researchers in the social sciences currently employ a variety of mathematical/computational models for studying complex systems. Despite the diversity of these models, the majority can be grouped into one of three types: agent (rule-based) modeling, dynamical (equation-based) modeling and statistical (aggregate-based) modeling. The purpose of the current paper is to offer a fourth type: case-based modeling. To do so, we review the SACS Toolkit: a new method for quantitatively modeling complex social systems, based on a case-based, computational approach to data analysis. The SACS Toolkit is comprised of three main components: a theoretical blueprint of the major components of a complex system (social complexity theory); a set of case-based instructions for modeling complex systems from the ground up (assemblage); and a recommended list of case-friendly computational modeling techniques (case-based toolset). Developed as a variation on Byrne (in Sage Handbook of Case-Based Methods, pp. 260–268, 2009), the SACS Toolkit models a complex system as a set of k-dimensional vectors (cases), which it compares and contrasts, and then condenses and clusters to create a low-dimensional model (map) of a complex system’s structure and dynamics over time/space. The assembled nature of the SACS Toolkit is its primary strength. While grounded in a defined mathematical framework, the SACS Toolkit is methodologically open-ended and therefore adaptable and amenable, allowing researchers to employ and bring together a wide variety of modeling techniques. Researchers can even develop and modify the SACS Toolkit for their own purposes. The other strength of the SACS Toolkit, which makes it a very effective technique for modeling large databases, is its ability to compress data matrices while preserving the most important aspects of a complex system’s structure and dynamics across time/space. To date, while the SACS Toolkit has been used to study several topics, a mathematical outline of its case-based approach to quantitative analysis (along with a case study) has yet to be written–hence the purpose of the current paper.
Modeling Complex Systems Macroscopically: Case/Agent‐Based Modeling, Synergetics, and the Continuity Equation11/01/2012
Recently, the continuity equation (also known as the advection equation) has been used to study stability properties of dynamical systems, where a linear transfer operator approach was used to examine the stability of a nonlinear equation both in continuous and discrete time (Vaidya and Mehta, IEEE Trans Autom Control 2008, 53, 307–323; Rajaram et al., J Math Anal Appl 2010, 368, 144–156). Our study, which conducts a series of simulations on residential patterns, demonstrates that this usage of the continuity equation can advance Haken's synergetic approach to modeling certain types of complex, self‐organizing social systems macroscopically. The key to this advancement comes from employing a case‐based approach that (1) treats complex systems as a set of cases and (2) treats cases as dynamical vsystems which, at the microscopic level, can be conceptualized as k dimensional row vectors; and, at the macroscopic level, as vectors with magnitude and direction, which can be modeled as population densities. Our case‐based employment of the continuity equation has four benefits for agent‐based and case‐based modeling and, more broadly, the social scientific study of complex systems where transport or spatial mobility issues are of interest: it (1) links microscopic (agent‐based) and macroscopic (structural) modeling; (2) transforms the dynamics of highly nonlinear vector fields into the linear motion of densities; (3) allows predictions to be made about future states of a complex system; and (4) mathematically formalizes the structural dynamics of these types of complex social systems.