Using Multi-Agent Systems for Simulating Online Social Network Influence on Urban Planning

The widespread use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms has increasingly influenced planning practices. Social media have been widely employed by governments as a “smart” tool for citizen engagement and participatory governance as well as for harnessing collective actions. However, there is a lack of study on what kinds of key factors influence the interactions and actions of various actors in social networking sites and how online social networks affect planning outcomes. This project aims to develop a multi-agent model to simulate online social network influence on participatory planning in the context of sustainable urban transition.

Image of social network connections

This transdisciplinary study will bridge the knowledge gap between urban planning and computer science regarding online social network study. First, this study will develop a new methodology by using data collected from online social networks of selected case studies to adjust the parameters of  the multi-agent model to reflect the understanding and sentiment of online participants. The multi-agent model developed here will be implemented in a simulation environment, which will also serve as a platform for future studies. Second, it will investigate the complex role of social networking sites in contestation, empowerment and inclusion in urban sustainability transition. It will explore what extent social network sites increase the power of citizens, enhance the effectiveness of citizen participation, and facilitate social inclusion. Answering these questions will bring us one step closer to our goal of establishing social sustainability.