EC Contract No. 033841


1. Theoretical Objectives

Specifically, the project is aimed at providing a theory of norm innovation (EMIL-T) by means of agent-based simulation, understanding not only how new conventions and norms emerge, but also how they immerge in the minds of autonomous agents.
To understand norm-innovation, the project needs to model the 2-way dynamics of sociality (EMIL-M), consisting of emergent processes (cf. Gilbert, 1995; Conte et al., 2001) and immergent effects (cf. Castelfranchi 1998). In particular, the 2-way dynamics of social complexity allows a number of questions to be highlighted, that can be listed as follows:

  • Which are the factors (both inter and intra agent) that give birth to the emergence and diffusion of new conventions in a complex society (by convention essentially meaning a behavioural regularity observed in a given population at a given time)?
  • Which are the conditions that favour the stabilization of new conventions?
  • What is the difference, if any, between a convention and a norm? Intuitively, a norm is a legitimate prescription. What are the objective and immergent correspondents of this notion (see also Conte and Castelfranchi, 1995; Conte, 1998) and how to operationalise it?
  • How do new norms relate to existing ones? More generally, what is the relationship between new norms and the context in which norm innovation takes place?
  • Finally, when and why does a norm become useless and/or non-prescriptive, when does it comes to decay and, at the end, disappear? Both theoretical and applicative WPs will provide an answer to these questions.

2. Technological Objectives

A theory of social order must be bidirectional (Conte, 2000; Weisbuch and Duchateau-Nguyen, 1998) and show how innovative phenomena (e.g., institutions) affect the social systems they emerge from.
While research on the construction of interacting artificial cognitive agents is not a new area (Sun 2005), current systems still lack the scalability necessary for large scale modelling. For this reason the main technological aim of the project is the construction of a system that is capable of performing norm innovation at the appropriate scale (EMIL-S). In order to build this system, we will need to

  • develop a platform for the simulation of cognitive agents using appropriate open source and readily available technologies
  • Integrate simulations on different agent levels (e.g agent, institution and society),
    modelling the interplay among different levels in norm innovation
  • Integrate data acquisition and modelling, by taking into account data from simulation while modelling and building the simulator.

3. Application Objectives

The project is expected to contribute to the regulation of e-communities by handing out a simulator for the emergence of new norms in complex social systems, where situated experiments can be run. While the simulator will be designed as a general-purpose tool, some specific study cases will be selected as so to provide the necessary grounding parameters. The selected field of application will be the rise of collaborative community norms in the Open Source community where new conventions have established and new norms are being invoked. The stabilization of both is a major concern in this community, which offers (a) an interesting observatory of the mechanisms and processes of norm innovation, (b) an appropriate environment from which to draw essential data to be fed into the EMIL Model (EMIL-M) and Simulator (EMIL-S), and © an application field for testing its utility.



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