SemesterSpring Semester, 2021
DepartmentGeneral Education Courses in Social Sciences
Course NameA Primer on Complexity: The First Look of ComputationalSocial Science
Course TypeSelectively
Course Objective
Course Description
Course Schedule

General Specification:

(a). The student is expected to spend 9 hours per week on this course, which means a 6-hour preparation and review work plus  3-hour class attendance.

(b). The assignment (the reading and the computer simulation exercises) will be given at the end of each ppt of the lecture.

(c). The student is required to reflect upon the lecture received the week and propose questions, comments, or observations before the lecture of the next week. This “weekly report” needs to be submitted to the web as indicated in the class. The late

submission will not be accepted. 


Week One (Lectured on Feb 24, 2021)

Background, History, and All Warm-Ups

(a) Let us begin the story with a genius, John von Neumann (1903-1957)

(b) When did Social Science become computational and Computer Science become


(c) A fascinating history of computational social science

Week Two (Lectured on  March 3, 2021)

John Conway and His Game of Life: CSS coming to the 1970s

(a) How simple things get so complex and hard to predict?

(b) Can Life extend without limit? Can you win the award?

(c) It is all in NetLogo

Week Three (Lectured on  March 10, 2021)

Stephen Wolfram and New Kind of Science: CSS coming to the 1980s

(a) Butterfly Effect: Sensitivity to small changes

(b) Small is Big: There is nothing unimportant.

(c) Identify new types of social phenomena: Systematic way of doing social science

(d) The first simulation for interesting social dynamics: On the edge of chaos

(e) NetLogo, Computer Science, Cellular Automata

Week Four (Lectured on March 17, 2021):

Sustainable Development and Ecological Balance

(a) Uri Wilensky and his perception of science education: Low threshold and high ceiling

(b) Wolves and sheep in meadows

(c) Alfred Lotka (1880-1949) and Vito Volterra (1860-1940)

(d) Predatory-and-Prey Dynamics: Lotka-Volterra Equation3

(e) NetLogo Models Library: Sample Models/Biology, Wolf Sheep Predation

Week Five (Lectured on March 24, 2021)

Segregation in Metropolitan Areas

(a) Thomas Schelling: The 2005 Nobel Laureate in Economics

(b) Why people with different ethnic groups choose a different residential concentration?

(c) Thomas Schelling and his Segregation Models

(d) NetLogo Models Library: Sample Models/Social Science, Segregation

Week Six (Lectured on March 31, 2021):

Tutorial on Netlogo Programming (lectured by Dr. Tina Yu). Please bring your own computer.

Week Seven (Lectured on  April 7, 2021):

Public Health and Epidemiology

(a) AIDS, SARS, and Bird Flu

(b) NetLogo Models Library: Sample Models/Social Science, AIDS

Week Seven (Lectured on April 14, 2021)

Efficiency and Equity: The El Farol Bar Problem

(a) Brian Arthur and the El Farol Bar

(b) Congestion and idle capacity: Too much and too little

(c) Social Exclusion

(d) NetLogo Models Library: Sample Models/Social Science, El Farol

Week Nine (April 21, 2021)

Midterm Exam

Week Ten (Lectured on April 28, 2021)

Traffic on the HighWay

(a) Driver behavior and Traffic

(b) NetLogo Models Library: Sample Models/Social Science, Traffic Basic, Grid, 2 lines

Week Eleven (Lectured on May 5, 2021)

Gossip and Social Networks

(a) Gossip: Everybody like it so long as it is not about you

(b) Social network: Your Facebook, Skype,...

(c) How fast gossip can go: Significance of social networks

(d) NetLogo Models Library: Sample Models/Social Science, Rumor Mill

Week Twelve (Lectured on May 12, 2021)

Time and Hero: Who Made Whom?

(a) Reynold Boyd and His Flocking Project

(b) Who made a hero? Nobody, it is all self-organizing!

(c) NetLogo Models Library: Sample Models/Biology, Flocking

Week Thirteen (May 19, 2021)

NCCU Anniversary's Celebration.  No class. 

Week Fourteen  (Lectured on May 26, 2021)

Great Minds Think Alike

(a) It is all done by tacit agreements

(b) What we can learn from Fireflies?

(c) NetLogo Models Library: Sample Models/Biology, Fireflies

Week Fifteen (Lectured on June 2, 2021)

From Gossip Network to Financial Stability

(a) If you don't do it now, you will regret it.

(b) Stock market, foreign exchange market, should the government intervene?

(c) Natural of intervention

(d) NetLogo User Community Models: Artificial Financial Markets

Week Sixteen (Lectured on June 9, 2021)

From Interpersonal Relation to the Formation of Culture

(a) Robert Axtell, one of the BACH group

(b) Homophily: Which classmates you are most close to, why?

(c) Cultural Formation: Schelling-Axtell Model

(d) NetLogo Models Library: Sample Models/Social Science, Party

(e) NetLogo User Community Models: Dissemination of Culture

Week Seventeen (Lectured on June 16, 2021):

Tutorial on Netlogo Programming II (lectured by Dr. Tina Yu). Please bring in your own computer.

(a) Sakoda's Social Interaction Models

Week Eighteen (Lectured on June 23, 2021):

Final Exam: In-Class Presentation 







Teaching Methods
Teaching Assistant

The teaching assistant shall help the instructor to supervise and assist students' term project progress. The assistant shall assist the instructor in classroom preparation, such as the projector, internet connection, etc. The assistant shall help the instructor to grade the term project and help answer various administration problem associated with the class, such as classroom

change (if needed), information announcement, lecture notes upload, etc.


The evaluation of the student performance will be based on the following three mainstays.

(a) In-class participation (30%): The student is expected to submit comments or questions during the lecture online, and

their questions and comments will be used to motivate and encourage further in-class discussions

(a) Midterm Exam (30%): The midterm exam will be designed as an explorative take-home exam. The questions will be essay

style, and the student is expected to surf over the internet using various google engine to prepare their answers to the


(c) In-class presentation of the group projects (40%): The students are expected to form their own group, with no more

than 3 team members, for working on the term project. The term project is characterized by the social simulation

demonstrations of the corresponding social phenomena. The students can apply NetLogo or any other social simulation tool

to model and simulate any social phenomenon which interests them. In case that students cannot ?nd anything that they are

capable of modeling and simulating, the last resort will be a set of defaults with easily-modifiable codes supplied by the

instructor. In the last two weeks, the students are required to give an in-class power-point presentation. To make sure what

to be demonstrated are actually presentable, the students are encouraged to discuss their ideas with their instructors in class

or in office hours.

Textbook & Reference

There is no formal textbook available for this class. The NetLogo library is the main source of readings. The link is as follows.

There are, however, a lot of supplementary materials available for students who like to learn more on their own. Some of these materials can be found in the lecture notes (the power points); some are available upon request.

Urls about Course
The most important link to this class, which students are required to visit very often, is the official website of NetLogo: