Category Archives: 3rd Open GSS Conference

Call for papers on Uncertainty, Digital Science and the Long Term.

Call for Papers

An era of global challenges and changes is impacting national and regional agendas and policies. Interest in global systems science is a response to greater appreciation of planetary level changes and international challenges. It involves revisiting our approach to decision-and policy-making in a way that is fit to address the uncertainty embedded in global systems. At the same time, the projection of a large share of social interactions on a digital space offers opportunities for the development of collective foresight that might provide stronger support for better policies. It allows for a better understanding of social dynamics, for example the formation of collective narratives, of norms, the acceptance or the refusal of regulation. At a more theoretical level, the observation of multiple networks of relationships can offer new definitions for the society as well as for the individual and hence revisit the dichotomy between micro and macro.

In the framework of the third Global Systems Science conference, we invite the submission of papers that contribute to the development of this research agenda on the theme of Uncertainty, Digital Science and the Long Term. Topics of interest include (but are not limited to):

  • Pragmatic approaches to decision-making in policy-relevant contexts
  • Global futures and policy-making
  • Institutions designed for the long-term
  • Formation of collective narratives and discourses
  • Networked foresight
  • Multi-scale approaches to social phenomena

Contributions with a strong contextual dimension, such as cities or green growth policy, are particularly welcome.


 Key references (to be completed)

– Flowers, B., Kupers, R., Mangalagiu, D., Ramirez, R., Ravetz, J., Selsky, J., Wasden, C. and Wilkinson, A. (2010) “Beyond the Financial Crisis, Oxford: The Oxford Scenarios”, Oxford University.

– Gigerenzer, G. (2008). “Rationality for mortals: How people cope with uncertainty.” New York: Oxford University Press.

– Latour, B., Jensen, P., Venturini, T., Grauwin, S., & Boullier, D. (2012). ‘The whole is always smaller than its parts’–a digital test of Gabriel Tardes’ monads. The British journal of sociology, 63(4), 590-615.

– Lane, D. A., & Maxfield, R. R. (2005). Ontological uncertainty and innovation. Journal of evolutionary economics, 15(1), 3-50.

– Tuckett, D., Smith, R. and Nyman, R. (2013) “A computer algorithmic investigation of conviction narratives in unstructured data sources.”, forthcoming.


WG Globalization – Governance – Participation


GSS specific approach to the challenges of globalization and governance implies to consider together the multiple scales, the diversity of problem’ situations, and the integration and operationalisation throughout multiple levels and sectors. Although  participation is often valued in the public debate and regulation frameworks, in practice it has limited impact, and the traditional governance models are very dominant.  This session should question, based on a GSS perspective, which forms of participation could contribute to global governance, accounting for this local diversity, in a context of globalization. The GSS approach should lead to a new perspective in this as, ultimately, we are considering conditions for global participation models. We should address the issues relating globalization and citizens’ engagement, in terms of conditions, constraints and aims, but also the methods and tools, with a specific attention on the role of ICT.

5 entry questions are proposed for discussion :

1. How can GSS and the related policy processes deal with local diversity in a context of globalization, through participation or other forms of common but adaptive governance ?

2. Can global unequity, potential violence, and the balance between the rights and responsibilities of various societies be addressed via new forms of participation, coordinated between levels ?

3. Which forms of global education and awareness making about global systems can contribute to better governance and motivate change ?

4. How can participation at local and meso level help organizing different structures for global networks, fostering win-win solutions, and dealing with new forms of risk derive from globalization?

5. Which tools can actually contribute to support citizen engagement in GSS, either direct methods or protocols, or computer / internet based solutions, with new actors-sensors approach, civil-science, participatory science, distributed models and games ?

Key questions addressed are summarized in the following concept tree.

gss globalization governance 2013


Issues addressed in the discussion


  1. Pb : awaraness and willingness of public to be involved to address & solve global issue à try to design tools to improve this -> volunteer GIS
  2. Take into account the diversity of individual situation -> create a win-win situation à complex network models to account for this diversity.
  3. Global trade system -> develop trade -> how the disasters or political risk can influence global trade system
  4. Global urbanization -> link between urbanization & the globalization process
  5. Education -> prepare for the new tasks of the future
  6. Civil society -> open to non digitized society (low numeracy)
  7. Political challenge -> free access to media
  8. Big data not accessible to everybody. How to make sense -> develop applications
  9. Motivate people to participate : have fun, have an impact
  10. Help to understand problems and complex with narratives & simulations & games. People don’t understand all consequences.
  11. Tool -> participatory AB simulations
  12. Immediate application -> which ??? -> traffic settings, budgetary decisions, …
  13. Multiple, diverse languages & cultural models of participation
  14. Open knowledge systems, actors-sensors
  15. E-civic science, e-civic GSS
  16. Equity & redistribution (process & outcomes) -> participation is about improving equity
  17. Strengthening networks of networks
  18. GSS cannot address local diversity at global scale except if locals do it themselves -> let them do it
  19. Governance require violence regulation
  20. Internet is not a solution for all -> we need physical tools, robust and user friendly
  21. Experimenting governance -> way to address policy compliance, adoption, efficiency & collecting data
  22. Institutions for truth, pb of authority of science
  23. 2-level change processes & policy making

Climate Change and Natural Disaster (CCND) .some thoughts

Climate Change and Natural Disaster (CCND)

Some thoughts


CCND is a widely researched area nevertheless, it was felt that governance and actor oriented research should be prioritized. In particular the analysis of the interaction between communities and the “competent” administrations involved in the governance of natural hazards was thought to be of special interest. It was noted that there is a wide spectrum of community responses to natural hazards, ranging from a clear capacity for self-organisation to complete inaction – from resilience to passivity. It is important to understand these different dynamics. Articulating complicities between communities and administrations in the context of natural hazards could be developed through the introduction of participatory strategies in risk and hazard management. It was also argued the research should be oriented towards  providing solutions, and in particular short term solutions which have benefits for the long term.


It is clear that cultural and social variables have a lot to do with the perception of risk, which in turn influences how communities and administrations deal with natural disasters. While there is research in this area there is still much to be done in the field to better understand and improve the dynamics of community and risk governance relations.


Theme: Learning from disasters

Traditional societies often have developed a sense of risk and learned to live with risks (Example: Swiss avalanches). Modern societies have this ability to some extent and/or are not able to learn from past disasters.

  • Some types of disasters have become rarer. Coastal (urban) societies, for example are protected against high probability, low impact events. The residual risks of low probability, high impact disasters are, however rising due to urbanization and development in the coastal zone and climate change.
  • Bureaucracy, vested interests and fragmented of responsibilities and a gap between exposed and vulnerable people and decision making prevent learning. What kind of governance structure have or have not been able to learn from disasters? What is the relationship between administration and communities?
  • Which cultural factors influence social resilience to disasters?
  • Which societies have learned what from which disasters? When do people manage to self-organize to reduce risks?

Theme: Win-win strategies for DRR and climate change

Which DRR options can be developed that have short-term benefits while also addressing the long term DRR and climate change issues. For example, how do we develop critical coastal infrastructure so that we have short term gains as well as the long term protection against disaster risk and sea-level rise? Perceivable win-win strategies are

  • Ecosystem-based coastal protection: Protection and ecosystem services
  • Management of subsidence + increased water use-efficiency. For example, Tokyo has managed to stop subsidence through reducing water demand by supplying industrial water as an alternative and promoting water saving and recycling technologies.
  • Investment in protection infrastructure or sustainable energy or energy efficiency as economic stimulus: fostering development and reducing unemployment

Theme: Globalization of disaster risk

  • Major disaster events are perceived globally and influence discourse and possibly action throughout the world. Germany, for example, decided to phase nuclear energy after the Fukushima disaster
  • Consequences of disasters are felt around the globe. For example, the earthquake/tsunami in Japan had consequences on the supply chains for the automobile and
  • Coupling of climate change and disasters


Theme: Governance of the risk to critical infrastructure

  • Dependency between services in particular in urban is increasing.

Theme: Acceptability of risks and lexical preferences

  • Mary Douglas: unacceptable risk
  • in-acceptable risks -> lexical preference -> layers of decision making
  • manufactured risks vs. natural risks


Focusing on emblematic cities in their confrontation with natural hazards was proposed as an appropriate option in the conference. The suggestions were

  • Shanghai (coastal issue – subsidence because of over exploitation of local aquifers)
  • Tokyo (tsunami management. Issue of aging population living potential disaster zones)
  • Barcelona (heat related risks – droughts and lower water consumption. positive example of complicities between communities and administrations)


Other possible general issues for the conference:

–          Understanding the rather diffuse narrative of natural disaster in the context of climate change

–          Measuring and analyzing reactions to manufactured/anthropogenic risk

–          The role of film, literature, philosophy and theology in the representation of risks and natural  hazards


Possible speakers: Bill Nordhaus Robert Pinndike,Ortwin Renn, Joseph Stiglitz

Louis and Jochen


notes working group on complexity and inequality

(Public participation – social innovation and entrepreneurship. The Young Foundation).

        The topic of inequality is increasingly coming back. Partly because of the crisis.

        Book: Inequality and Growth.

        Now policy makers need input, so it is important what are the research needs.

        “How social complex systems leading to inequality”

        The risks of inequality: the potential for instability derived from inequality.

        Trends: the difference between the West and the East has decreased, while inequality within Europe has increased.

        Deborah Rogers –

        Castells: in cities, when inequalities are very large, to avoid or mitigate the risks of social unrest, social consumption provision


– Do our complex social systems lead to inequality?

– What is the degree of inequality that is acceptable?




        Functionalism versus Marxism.

        How to provide these public services, which criteria? – WHO: It’s not about providing public services, but changing the original conditions of people; not only the services, e.g., where you live, etc. (e.g. ‘Health for all 2000’). The welfare state needs to have a more holistic approach that only end-services.


        Strong reciprocity in providing public services, people have to do something to get these services according to their means and in a fair way.


        Christiane: how to define equality?


        Stefano: there is a degree of inequality, which can be measured, but it is also multi-dimensional; the slope and tail of the distribution may be different.


        Sugarscape model: simple cellular automata model with no intervention of humans that ends up with the conclusion that some few agents get all the sugar;


        Globalisation and inequality; increases the number of needs, but these new needs are or cannot be provided by the market, e.g., clean air.


        Popularity also follows power laws; so are not normal distributions.  


        Violence occurs when people are not able to discuss the own future with those that produce it. Inequality in the process –is a dialogic / procedural condition; the new very rich are now very difficult to track.


        The main problem is the global institutional design that creates larger inequalities.


        Me: three dimensions of inequality: 1. Of original conditions 2. Of process / procedural inequality, and of end-results. I think to focus on the latter can be can perverse.


        Case: crowdsourcing and the founding of the Obama campaign being funded by these methods.


        There are new emerging endogenous dynamics of self-organisation to deal with inequality and health / social needs.


        We should not pay so much attention at the lower part of the distribution than on the top part, so as to influence on that.



See the movies: “2012” –on the catastrophe in the US. “The Fifth Element”, Armageddon. – the rhetoric is to save the best of our species, but only the rich get to go on the survival boat. This narratives are important in influencing people’s minds in this issues.



        Positional goods: Fred Hirsch already in a book on the social costs of Growth (about 1980) said that growth in the advanced western depends on positional goods, and not meeting basic needs. But they are subject to their own tragedy.

        But could philanthropic actions become an efficient way to deal with global inequality if it became a positional good?

        It is important to look at what happened in the 30s that lead to the 2WW as it may be very similar to what may be happen in the present.






Questions for GSS in relation with inequality:


1.      What are the real scope and impact of private initiatives to deal with global inequalities? Perhaps not much, but also you may need a more ‘statist’ / state-base policies, regulatory approaches.

2.      To what extent inequality can be seen as a coordination problems and how this coordination can better be represented and improved via developing GSS tools and methods?

3.      Focus on particular cases that can be of use for GSS: Tax avoidance by multinationals, equality policies in Nordic countries, etc.

4.      Look at the role of alternative narratives in exposing inequalities (e.g., Urlich Beck of democratisation of risk, which is not true; the conditions area not the same)

Report game group – 3rd GSS preparatory meeting

GSS Preparatory Meeting on October 29 2013 – Report on Working Group Session on Games for GSS

Games and the act of playing is one of those things that are innate with human beings, they are structural and universal, a real global thing. Therefore, the group considers games in general and not only computer games as an important topic to be considered for the conference. On one side computer games have the advantage of being scalable, easy to distribute and easy in the collection of results, on the other side the traditional types of games (e.g., board games) provide the basic face-to-face interactions and the physical movement of resources on the board; the physical dimension may also be essential for games.

The realization of a game might have several purposes considered by the game designer. Some examples are as follows: motivating and involving participants (i.e., citizens), informing about the complexities of a problem, creating narratives for the citizens, help creating strategies, or create a shared compromise, but it may also be a vehicle for learning about the true behavior of people.

These objectives can be considered alone, but most likely the creator of the game has several of them in mind. For example, a game was organized in the city of Portland, OR, to find the consensus on the location of a recycling facility. Also at company level real games\challenges\competitions with real resources are being tested. Further application examples are welcome for the conference.

Considering the computer implementation aspects, games for the GSS kind of purpose do not have to be complex or as resource demanding as the modern computer games. The group considers that simple graphics is sufficient and maybe it is better a simple game co-created with potential participants than a graphic intense game but lacking content and challenges for the user. Nonetheless, tools and methods to create GSS games are among the topics invited for the conference. The creation of a sort of GSS game platform, where GSS scientists have a easy-to-develop solution and can easily develop plug-ins to be connected in the platform creating specific games, is a long-term plan.

The group thinks that in order to achieve the best results in term of publication and audience, the GSS scientists interested in games should partner with the experts of other relevant fields. For example, Simulation and Gaming is an established community since the 70s with conferences and scientific journal in place (Simulation & Gaming journal). Similarly, Behavioral Economics uses tools and techniques that have much to share with GSS games.

The group thinks that one of the major challenges in creating a GSS game is the “gamification” process that converts a (scientific) model into something that is fun t play with. Also the games contain by definition the concept of uncertainty that usually in the models is hardly taken into account or it is considered in a kind of artificial manner (especially in the financial context).

Considering the conference the work group considers:
– a traditional paper session
– a demo session where participants can play games that were submitted to the conference on site
– a collective game could be played/developed throughout the conference

There is a natural interplay between GSS gaming and GSS experimentation. Whether those should be considered independently for the conference or in a joint session, needs further considerations.

Report of the working group on Long-term scoping and radical uncertainty

  The discussion built on output from the workshop on “Uncertainty, Digital Sciences and the Long Term” that took place last September in Florence (more information here). There, we identified as a key research challenge posed by the radical uncertainty present in global systems, the transition from an idealistic model of decision making to a pragmatic and context-dependant one. The projection of a large share of social interactions on a digital space offers opportunities in this respect. It creates room for the development of collective foresights that might provide stronger support for better policies. It allows for a better understanding of social dynamics, for example the formation of conviction narratives (see the contribution by David Tuckett here), of norms, the acceptance or the refusal of regulation. At a more theoretical level, the observation of multiple networks of relationships can offer new definitions for the society as well as for the individual and hence breaks the dichotomy between micro and macro (for more on this see the contribution by Bruno Latour and co-authors here).

  Today, the conversation focused more specifically on the relationship between decision-making, society and time. An initial remark is that this relation is (today ?) fundamentally incomplete: the short-term perspective according to which most decisions are taken implies that long-term risks are accumulating beyond our planning horizon. Building upon this initial remark, we identify a number of questions that could be of interest for the third GSS conference.

First, this points towards a cross-cutting issue in GSS, which is how to approach multi-level systems ? In our context, this means how to approach and aggregate over time in systems with multiple time-scales but also, how populations get organized at different levels ? How individual functions are affected by the structure of the networks to which they participate and the functions of others in these networks ?

Then it points to a number of research questions about the design of institutions.  How can specific institutions be designed in order to deal with long-term challenges ? How can we design institutions for change ? How do socially resilient communities, that is communities that are both stable and capable of change, develop ?

Many of these questions would gain to be researched in a specific context, for example this of cities. Hence, while in China, we could ask (this is done in a very tentative mode here) about Shangai: if and why Shangai has always been a driver of change in China from the creation of the communist party to the role played by Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji in the early 2000s ? How is adaptation to climate change planned in one of the fastest growing  megacoastal city in the world ? Can Shangai be turned into the global financial hub of the 21st century ?