Geog 761 --- Research Seminar in Cartography:
Building Agent-Based Models in ArcGIS

Instructor: Matt McGranaghan
Office: PSB 313, Ph. 956-7092,
Meeting: TBA


Complexity, multi-agent systems, agent-based modelling, and geo-simulation have emerged as interesting challenges and promising techniques for scientists attempting to understand the dynamics of numerous phenomena.

The purpose of this offering of Geog 761 is two fold: first, to examine the range and current state of agent-based models of geographic phenomena and its literature; and second, to develop GIS programming skills by building agent-based models in ArcGIS using VBA and ArcObjects (or another environment such as StarLogo, SWARM, or Java). Students will come away with (1) familiarity with literature in this domain and (2) GIS programming skills to apply in their own work.


Interest. Interest in some social or physical phenomena ammenable to analysis through agent-based modeling.

Experience. At least some experience using a GIS will be assumed. Some programming experience would be helpful, developing that a good part of this offering is about.

Willingness. Willingness to engage with the topic, to acquire sufficient mastery of it to produce one or more working ABMs and report on them in a seminar paper, is the primary pre-requisit.

Grading and Requirements

Participation in weekly discussions of readings and our on-going explorations of implementing agent-based models is expected and required. Several specific programming exercises will be assigned as way points in the term. Development of one or more agent-based models in the student's area of interest is the main vehicle for the semester's work. The result of that is to be reported in a seminar paper of significant proportion. The paper is due the final week of classes. Grades will be based on peer assessment of your reseach, as presented in your seminar paper, and my best professional judgement in assessing your performance for the term.


Burke, Robert. 2003. Getting to know ArcObjects: Programming ArcGIS with VBA. ESRI Press, Redlands, CA.

Gimblett, H. Randy (Editor). 2002. Integrating Geographic Information Systems and Agent-based Modelling Techniques for Simulating Social and Ecological Processes Oxford University Press.

Epstein, Joshua M. and Robert Axtell. 1996. Growing Artificial Societies: Social Sceince from the Bottom Up The Brookings Institution. Washington, DC.

Forrester, J.W. 1969. Urban Dynamics MIT Press. Cambridge, MA.

Other Resources

ESRI. 2004. ArcGIS Developer Help (ver. 9)(on line or by .pdf)

Michaeler Zeiler (editor). 2001. Exploring ArcObjects, Vol. I --- Applications and Cartography ESRI. Redlands, CA.

Michaeler Zeiler (editor). 2001. Exploring ArcObjects, Vol. II --- Geographic Data Management ESRI. Redlands, CA.


Potential students are encouraged to contact Matt McGranaghan at 956-7092 or to discuss their background, interests, and how this seminar might work for them.

Last Updated 29 July 2004