The Local Food Economy Game is an applied research and social action project of Sohodojo. Our goal is to increase the production and consumption of wholesome foods grown and sold locally. We are developing a web-based exploratory learning environment where folks can have fun while deepening their appreciation of the social and economic impacts of "Buy Fresh, Buy Local."

A couple interesting links and a question...

I've been doing some research in the library, and found a couple things that are probably of interest to Jim and Timlynn, but may be of general interest as well.

  • A list of Professor Gordon Bigelow's (author of "Let There Be Markets: The Evangelical Roots of Economics," published in Harper's magazine) scholarship is located at:

    I've been scouring the College library looking for any publications, but so far I've been unsuccessful...I'll let you know if anything turns up.

  • The Institute for Social Network Analysis of the Economy ( is very interesting and relevant. I've skimmed over a few of the articles in their resource section; through the links on the site I found an article called "Re-thinking the Network Economy," by Stan Liebowitz, which I will read today.

Boxed Economy Simlulation Platform

The boxed economy simulation platform discussed in the links on this page:

is very interesting, as we have discussed. If we can obtain a copy of this platform from its authors, we would have--as Jim said--a viable candidate for our simulation software. I plan to print out and read a few more of these articles before coming to Fairfield on Wedensday.

A couple unrelated and random thoughts...

  • The models we design would be an interesting tools for the managers of local businesses, who could use the simulation to help make decisions regarding starting up/shutting down, raising/lowering prices, etc.
  • Although I only recently came across it online and have yet to read it, Michael Rothschild's Bionomics: Economy as an Ecosystem looks to be a very interesting book, especially when put into the context of Barabasi's Linked, and his "universal network theory." The idea that economics is adopted from a biological framework is an extension of Barabasi's belief that all networks are derived from the same basic principles. This book also speaks to the idea that economics is a "human" science, not a hard science that is stricly based upon mathematics and utility maximization

A general look at the three books

To throw the contents of Mirror Worlds, Serious Play and Linked into two sentences while being ridiculously general..."mirror worlds are a type of simulation that map out the networks of our lives. To understand our world, we must simulate it." To be somewhat less general:

  • In "Serious Play," Schrage says that we need to innovate to understand ourselves and our business. In "Linked," Barabasi writes from a similar vein of thought: we need to map out our networks to truly understand them. Without these maps, we do not understand the complexity of networks (the importance of hubs, the existence of the power laws, etc.)

Thoughts about modeling programs...

A goup of applied researchers at Systems Sciences has developed Economic Simulation Models. This simulation modeling platform looks like it might be interesting to play around with. But I expect that it might be insufficient for the entire project as it is not really a simulation software.

From the website: "The package, or modeling language, permits an analyst to build a network model of an economic system and find equilibrium prices and quantities over time. The network model can include nodes that represent natural resources, conversion processes, markets, and demand centers. Intelligence built into the nodes generates market-driven production, pricing, and capacity expansion decisions for each node that affect the behavior of other nodes in the network."


Barabasi: "The market is nothing but a directed network"

This passage from Albert-Laszlo Barabasi's Linked is a bit long, but crucial to our understanding of the market, and thus the modeling we will be doing. Barabasi sees the market as a "directed network," with its participants--companies, firms, governments, etc.--as the nodes of this network (pp. 208-209).

"Despite the important role these interim alliances play in the economy, economic theory pays surprisingly little attention to networks. Until recently economists viewed the economy as a set of autonomous and anonymous individuals interacting through the price system only, a model often called the standard formal model of economics. The individual actions of companies and consumers were assumed to have little consequence on the state of the market. Instead the state of the economy was best captured by such aggregate quantities as employment, output, or inflation, ignoring the interrelated microbehavior responsible for these aggregate measures. Companies and corporations were seen as interacting not with each other but rather with "the market," a mythical entity that mediates all economic interactions.


Some thoughts about the type of simulation that we will be creating

Various thoughts about the content, design, and use of the simulation game:

A few ideas relating to David Gelernter's Serious Play :

  • It would be convenient for the simulation to have a searchable database of all the information contained in it. For example (depending on how specific we make the models), one could search for the "price of apples at McNally's and Walmart."
  • Just a quote from Gelernter relating to the "topsight" that the simulation should give us (p. 183): "Topsight is an elusive goal. The simplest way to get it--the immediate, obvious, child-like way--is to recreate a big scene in little. Then I can soar above it--tower over it; literally see the big picture. Naive, childlike, effective. Microcosms are satisfying becuase they give you the sense of comprehending the whole thing, or understanding how the parts fit together and what it all means."

Of networks and hubs

In his book Linked , Albert-Laszlo Barabasi stresses the importance of hubs--the most prominent nodes--in networks. In a social network, these are the highly connected individuals who keep the network together; in a food economy such as Grinnell's or Fairfield's these are the large businesses that dominate the market. Barabasi discusses how scale-free networks--those networks that are not random and have some nodes that are much more important than others--are at once robust against failure and vulnerable to attack. They are robust against internal failure because they can function without the small nodes that are disproportionately affected by such failure, but are vulnerable to an attack aimed at the hubs of the network.

Some thoughts about Grinnell's food economy

From Wikipedia (,_Iowa)

There are four grocery stores serving Grinnell.

* Hy-Vee Food Stores - Located on the very far southern edge of town. There is no sidewalk or other way for bikers and pedestrians to get to Hy-Vee. Hy-Vee offers drive-up service upon request (you drive to the side of the store and they will load your car with your packages for you). Hy-Vee is open on Sundays.
* McNally's - This locally owned independent store is the most centrally located grocery store in town. It has the widest selection of gourmet food products as well as a large alcohol section. This store caters to the college crowd and to those looking for upscale or smaller-market products. McNally's has carry out boys and they will also deliver. McNally's is open on Sundays.


Sohodojo Launches Web Site

Sohodojo is pleased to announce the launch of the web site as an applied research and economic development project to promote awareness and understanding of the vital contribution of locally produced food to rural regional economies.

We are also pleased to announce that Jelal Younes, an economics major at Grinnell College, has joined the project for an eight-week internship made possible by Grinnell College's Center for Experiential Learning.


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