Emergence and Communication in Computational Sociology

Mauricio Salgado

Over the past forty years, a new kind of method has increasingly been used in the social sciences: that of the computer simulation of social processes (Axelrod, 1997; Epstein & Axtell, 1995; Gilbert & Troitzsch, 2005). Computational sociology (or social simulation) is an outstanding method for modelling and building explanations of social processes, based on ideas about the emergence of complex behaviour from simple activities. With this technique we can study properties of emergent orders that arise from local interactions among a multitude of independent components. And we can understand the ways in which such emergent orders can influence or constrain the individual actions of those components. This process is known as “self-organisation” and is characterised by the concepts of “bottom-up” and “downward causation”.