RGS 2006: Day One

I went to the participatory techniques showcase session on the first day of the RGS annual conference. Nick Lunch (from Insight) made an interesting presentation on Participatory Video – something they call a “community empowerment tool”, but also a way it seems to me of eliciting local knowledge and understandings. I’d suggest that when modelling the interaction between local communities and their environment, this would be a good way to enable the modeller to improve their understanding of the what the problem is and what the key variables and parameters that need to be considered in a model are.

Nick also said that insight have found that one of the techniques best uses was as a catalyst to ‘do things’ and initiate local action within their communities. I can see why this might the case – I’ve found this blog enables me to ‘get things done’ too. It’s given me confidence just to start writing and prompted me to record my thought processes better (both on and off blog) – something I haven’t been strict enough about with myself during the PhD modelling project. This is defintiely a lesson learned from my PhD work and something I want to make sure I do better in the next project I tackle.

It also helps to “crystalise one’s thoughts” as one colleague put it. I often have several ideas swirling around in my head at once, and ususally have a general ‘impression’ of how they relate. But it’s not until I write it down that I really understand – writing something in prose really demands the idea is properly understood. The process of writing clearly aids the process of understanding. And whilst writing in prose helps to shore up these loosely tied ideas, coding demands an even more explicit understanding. This is where I see the worth of the process of generating a simulation model in itself.

Depending upon how much a modeller wishes to publish online, a blog might be an interesting way to demonstrate the modelling process and a way to document and highlight the dead ends that a modelling project often finds itself following. Mike Bithell suggested in a presentation later on the first day at the RGS conference that that the limitations of modelling often cannot be explored without going through the process of producing a model itself. From some of the issues I’ve encountered in my modelling exploits, I can understand what he means.

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