Investigating the Influence of Spatial and Temporal Granularities on Agent-Based Modeling

Eric Shook, Shaowen Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Epidemic agent-based models (ABMs) simulate individuals in artificial societies that are capable of movement, interaction, and transmitting disease among themselves. ABMs have been used to study the spread of disease at various spatial and temporal scales ranging from small communities to the world, over days, months, and years. The representations of space and time often vary between different epidemic ABMs and can be influenced by factors such as the size of a modeled population, computational requirements, population environments, and disease-related data. The influence that the representations of space and time have on epidemic ABMs is difficult to assess. Here we show that the finest representations of space and time-termed spatial and temporal granularities (STGs)-in a parsimonious ABM affect speed, intensity, and spatial spread of a synthetic disease. Specifically, we found disease spread faster and more intensely as spatial granularity is coarsened, whereas disease spread slower and less intensely as temporal granularity is coarsened in a parsimonious ABM. Our study is the first to use the same epidemic ABM to examine the influence of STGs. Our results demonstrate that STGs influence ABM dynamics including early disease burnout and that an interrelationship exists between the coarsening of STGs and the speed and intensity at which disease spreads. Our parsimonious ABM is extended based on a structured community model and we found STGs also influence ABM dynamics in a more realistic context that includes hierarchical movement. Broadly, our study serves as a basis for further inquiry toward the influence of space-time representations on more realistic models that include multiscale mobility, routine movements (e.g., commuting), and heterogeneous population distributions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-348
Number of pages28
JournalGeographical Analysis
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2015

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© 2015 by The Ohio State University.


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