OrgViz™ Complexity Modeling Service Announced

Santa Fe, New Mexico, September 18, 2002 - RedfishGroup ( is pleased to announce its collaboration with prominent ethnographer, Dr. Michael Agar, author of Professional Stranger and Language Shock. The collaboration will take the form of a joint service offering called OrgViz™.

The OrgViz™ Approach

Good models, agent-based or any other kind, have to be anchored in reality. The more anchored they are, the more “natural” they feel, and the more easily they let you talk about both the model and the real situation at the same time.

OrgViz features an important first step in the modeling process to achieve this natural fit. That step involves looking at real situations before the modeling begins. We learn from those who know the situations best--the people who are actually involved in them. This step, fieldwork, draws on approaches based on a hundred years of experience in anthropology and sociology. Such approaches were designed to investigate how a particular corner of the world works by learning the perspectives and practices of those who occupy it.

Fieldwork yields folk-models, a term of art in cognitive science and anthropology. Folk-models are agent-based models in living color. They show us how people construct their situations out of a limited set of rules, applied in part by rote, in part through improvisation in a particular context. They show how they improvise and change when their environments change, and how the system-wide “indicators” emerge as a result.

Fieldwork builds on intensive work with a few cases. Based on that first step, an agent-based model is created, a model that incorporates the folk-models and their parameters. The agent-based model allows experimentation and exploration. How would the indicators emerge if the rules changed, or if changes in the parameters occurred? What would the agents do, and what would the system indicators look like as a result, if an unexpected event occurred?

Finally, the agent-based model is translated into an accessible visual form, a process we call visualization. The visual model is then validated together with those who provided the original folk model. Alternative rules and parameters are explored to determine what is feasible. The emergent indicators are seen to change with those alternative ways of acting. Based on this validation work, additional fieldwork is conducted to fine-tune the agent-based model so that it better corresponds with the situations that it represents.

The Process

This process—fieldwork, agent-based model, visualization, validation—is repeated until the visual model explains the working of the folk models and fits the organizational context. The iterative nature of the OrgViz approach in fact corresponds to a basic characteristic of the fieldwork tradition in anthropology and sociology.

The visual model can then be incorporated into organizational activities, with an emphasis on how the agent-based model, and the folk model that it represents, can learn and adapt to a variety of circumstances. Among many other potential applications, the model can show effects of different strategies for coordinating work and resource flow, or it can allow exploration of alternative futures to assist in decision-making, or it can help train new and old organizational participants in a simulated environment.

To request a demonstration of OrgViz™, contact us:

contact: Stephen Guerin
voice: (505)577-5828
624 Agua Fria Street
Santa Fe, NM 87501

About Dr. Michael Agar
Michael Agar currently works out of Ethknoworks in Takoma Park, MD. He has faculty appointments at the University of Maryland, College Park and the International Institute for Qualitative Methodology at the University of Alberta, as well as an appointment as Senior Research Scientist at Friends Research International in Baltimore. He is the author of over 100 books, chapters and articles that describe or apply ethnography, including his recent chapter on the topic in the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. His work spans areas as diverse as intercultural communication, language and society, public health, transportation, and organization theory, and he has conducted organizational development work for businesses, for educational institutions, and for public health. His two most recent books are The Professional Stranger: An Informal Introduction to Ethnography (second edition) and Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation.

About RedfishGroup
RedfishGroup is a loosely-coupled organization of complexity researchers, software developers and business professionals applying the emerging science of Complex Adaptive Systems to difficult problems in business and government. RedfishGroup's core value is in the design, modeling and visualization of self-organizing systems. RedfishGroup was founded in 1991 by Stephen Guerin and is based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.