Dr. Judith Verstegen

Vening Meineszgebouw A
Princetonlaan 8a
Kamer 6.44
3584 CB Utrecht

Dr. Judith Verstegen

Assistant Professor
Urban Geography
+31 30 253 1368
j.a.verstegen@uu.nl

My research is focused on two sets of methods in Geo-Information Science. The first is geosimulation modelling, in which we capture domain knowledge about a spatial system (for example a pedestrian area in a city) in a computational dynamic model (agent-based or cellular automata). With such models, we try to better understand the system and make future projections, with the aim to guide policy making. The second method is spatial optimization, in which a policy-relevant control variable is systematically adjusted with the aim to find theoretically optimal spatial configurations (for example of land use) given a number of objectives. The two sets of methods are connected in their complementarity, see this publication: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsoft.2017.08.006. 

Projects
Project
Human-Emotional Agents in Urban Digital Twins for Healthy Cities (HEADS 4 Health) 01.09.2023 to 01.09.2024
General project description

Cities around the world are densifying. This puts pressure on urban public spaces, which are crucial for healthy cities as they contribute to peoples’ health and well-being. Urban planning practice strives to provide citizens with positive experiences in public spaces. As a design and decision-support tool for these authorities, urban-scale digital twins have emerged to test future urban-design scenarios. However, the status quo of urban-scale digital twins is full of 3D buildings, but lack humans. That is, they do not incorporate virtual citizens, i.e. software agents, that can intrinsically experience the digital environment and react to it, as real citizens would do. Incorporating agents in digital twins, would allow for testing how these citizens respond to possible urban design scenarios and how this affects their health and well-being. 

Therefore, our aim is two-fold: (i) to devise an agent architecture of intelligent and emotional citizens who can experience the city and articulate their sense of wellbeing in a digital twin, (ii) to form an interdisciplinary research community to tackle this.

An “agent architecture” is a term from computer science for a blueprint of software agents, depicting the arrangement of agent states and behaviors relevant to the setting the agent will be placed in (d’Inverno & Luck, 2004). It serves as the starting point for a modeler/software engineer to implement agents, in a simulation model or digital twin. The term “experience” refers to the mental changes that occur when humans engage in a situation that provides physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual values, an important indicator of citizens’ health and subjective wellbeing (Dane, Borgers, & Feng, 2019; Pine & Gilmore, 1998; Weijs-Perrée et al., 2019). Momentary experiences are the on-site and real-time experiences, the interaction process between the agent and its physical and social environment triggering emotional changes. We will focus on stress reactions/reductions because a relation with the environmental setting is established. The spatial extent of the digital twin are Pedestrian-Priority Spaces (PPS), as these are public spaces for citizens of all ages and abilities that invite them to stay and spend time, providing ample momentary experiences and opportunities for social interaction. 

Role
Project Leader
Funding
Other EWUU Alliance
External project members
  • Gamze Dane (TU/e)
  • Theo Arentze (TU/e)
  • Arend Ligtenberg (WUR)
Completed Projects
Project
Building blocks for integrated assessment modelling 01.03.2023 to 31.03.2024
General project description

In this project, we will create a free and open source software (FOSS) Python version of the simulation model IMAGE-land. This is a central part of the IMAGE integrated assessment model (IAM), used to make projections of future environmental change and effects of possible response strategies to support international policy processes. 

Our end products are building blocks at three levels:
1. High-level – the FOSS Python version of IMAGE-land, a tutorial with example, a best-practices training for UU and PBL employees, and a new collaboration between three UU departments and PBL.
2. Mid-level – within the FOSS: generic land-use change classes in Python.
3. Low-level – generic spatial operations from PCRaster-LUE (developed with earlier Research IT funds), allowing for out-of-the-box cluster computing, to be used and extended.

Role
Project Leader
Funding
Utrecht University FAIR Research IT innovation fund 2022
External project members
  • Maarten van den Berg (PBL)
Project
Distance-Keeping: Influence of the StreetScape (Dist-KISS) 01.06.2021 to 30.06.2023
General project description

This project focuses on the question how the streetscape and potential interventions in it (for example making them one-way streets) influence physical distancing compliance. The project team develops and open source agent-based model of pedestrian physical distancing behavior, calibrates it with user experiments in an immersive virtual environment, and runs it for various city streetscapes. The model may serve as a tool for planning and ex-ante evaluation of policy interventions in the streetscape targeting to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. 

Impression of the experiments to collect data for model calibration:

Role
Project Leader
Funding
External funding Financed by the "Volkswagenstiftung" (Germany), call Corona Crisis and Beyond - Perspectives for Science, Scholarship and Society
External project members
  • Christian Kray (University of Münster)