Traffic Life: Temporal Dynamics and Regulatory Dimensions in Agent-Based Transport Simulations

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The article discusses the interplay of normative and temporal dynamics in agent-based traffic simulations (ABM). From a media-historical perspective, it focuses on the TRANSIMS simulation system as a seminal example for an ABM ‘mindset’ in transportation and infrastructure simulation. ABM explicitly links traffic simulation with the broader focus of mobility studies by connecting the mere physicality of transport dynamics with a sociality of agents claiming to be descriptive of real-life structures. First, TRANSIMS elevates the examination of traffic dynamics to a meta-level of urban infrastructure design where individual timing and purposeful agent behaviors are placed at the heart of traffic systems. Second, TRANSIMS provides a ‘virtual testbed’ by generating traffic scenarios which eventually lead to situations that meet certain normative limits or regulatory guidelines. And third, ABM often display a strong tendency towards a methodological individualism which requires a ‘theory guidance’ by disciplines like sociology, media theory, or political science to challenge the oftentimes oversimplifying parameters of their ‘artificial sociality’. Consequently, with regard to the scope of mobility studies, ABM can be understood as a medium which negotiates conceptual and interdisciplinary differences and thereby transcends the solely pragmatist notion of ‘virtual testbeds’ as unmitigated optimization tools.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)725-739
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2020