BDSS IGERT Co-Sponsoring the GEOG Coffee Hour - Dr. Paul Torrens

Dr. Torrens, Associate Professor in the Department of Geographical Sciences at the University of Maryland
When Jan 24, 2014
from 04:00 PM to 05:00 PM
Where 3:30 p.m. Refreshments are offered in the E. Willard Miller seminar room, 319 Walker Building; 4:00 p.m. The lecture begins in the John J. Cahir Auditorium, 112 Walker Building
Contact Name
Contact Phone 814-867-2720
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Simulating mobile pedestrians on model streetscapes

About the talk

Understanding movement of individuals and crowds along streetscapes has been a long-standing source of interest for scholars, but tangibly experimenting with crowds and streets is mostly implausible, and so researchers often turn to computer simulations to build artificial laboratories for sidewalks and to populate them with synthetic walkers. Alas, building these models is challenging: the number of interacting parts required is overwhelming and the complexity of the phenomena that they produce can be enigmatic. In response, traditional models take two significant shortcuts: (1) considering coarse-level phenomena such as density and flow, and (2) projecting crowd behavior through the lens of equations from chemistry, informatics, mechanics, physics, and statistics, where complexity is tractable. However, expectations for the sophistication of our models have shifted. Computer graphics for gaming and special effects have advanced so far down the uncanny valley that the models that produce movement for those graphics have begun to look out of place. In parallel, there is an ongoing sea change in the availability of fine-scale data regarding movement and activity, and comparisons between our models and these data don’t always look good! As illustrative of how we can improve on the current state-of-the-art, in this talk, I will introduce a new approach, designed to (1) enable very detailed representation of walkers and the streets they move along, and (2) provide authentic behavioral geography for their actions, reactions, and interactions in model systems. I will demonstrate the concept with applications to ordinary and extraordinary streetscape phenomena.

Relevant paper:

Torrens, P.M. (2012). “Moving agent pedestrians through space and time”. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 102(1): 35-66 (DOI: 10.1080/00045608.2011.595658).

About the speaker

Paul TorrensPaul M. Torrens is an associate professor in the Department of Geographical Sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park, with a joint appointment to the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS). He is also a faculty associate at the Maryland Population Research Center, and a member of the University of Maryland Center for Health-Related Informatics and Bioimaging. Paul is the director of UMD's new Center for Geospatial Information Science, and also directs the Geosimulation Research Laboratory, where he and his students work on geographic information science and development of geosimulation and geocomputation tools, modeling behavioral geography, modeling complex urban systems, and studying new emerging cyberspaces. Paul is a member of the editorial boards of a number of geography journals, including the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Geojournal, and Transactions in GIS. He is also associate editor of the new ACM GIS journal, Transactions on Spatial Algorithms and Systems. His research earned him a Faculty Early Career Development Award from the U.S. National Science Foundation in 2007 and he was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers by President George W. Bush in 2008.

For more about Dr. Torrens work and the Geosimulation Lab, go here:

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