How Are Physical and Social Spaces Related? — Cognitive Agents as the Necessary “Glue”

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Summary

The paper argues that in many (if not most) cases, explicitly representing aspects of both physical and social space will be necessary in order to capture the outcomes of observed social processes (including those of spatial distribution). The connection between social and physical spaces for an actor will, almost inevitably involve some aspect of cognition. Thus, unless there is evidence to the contrary it is unsafe to try and represent such social distribution without representing key aspects of cognition linking social and spatial topologies. This argument is demonstrated by two counter-examples: an abstract simulation extending Schelling’s cellular automata model of racial segregation to include the social communication of fear; and a more descriptive simulation of social influence and domestic water consumption. Both models are sufficiently credible that one could not rule similar processes as occurring in reality, but in both the social and physical spaces that the agents are embedded in is critical to the global outcomes.