Department of Computational Social Science Seminar Abstract

Friday, 15th January: 3.00pm

Simulating Heroin Addiction and Drug Market Behavior Using an Ethnographically Informed Agent-Based Model

Lee D. Hoffer*, Georgiy Bobashev**, Robert J. Morris**, and John Heintz*

*Case Western Reserve University, Department of Anthropology

**RTI International


In this talk I will discuss an experimental collaborative project using ethnographic data to inform an agent-based model (ABM) reproducing the operation of a local heroin market. Ethnographic research is the hallmark of cultural anthropology and involves in-depth fieldwork with a social group to generate detailed understandings of beliefs and behaviors. Extracting data from eighteen-months of participant-observation and in-depth interviewing with heroin dealers and customers in Denver, Colorado, the authors designed a multi-agent social simulation of a heroin market. Incorporating different types of agents buying, selling, and using heroin, the markets adaptability to intervention, the importance of specific market roles, and how the market influenced agent addictions are explored in the model. Although data from the model will be presented, this talk will emphasize the design and development considerations, advantages and limitations in combining ethnography and ABM. To conclude, lessons learned from these efforts, as well as current work integrating ethnographic and quantitative data to build simulations of illegal drug distribution and use will be outlined.