September 21, 2022
Journal Article

A Typology for Characterizing Human Action in MultiSector Dynamics Models


The role of individual and collective human agency is increasingly recognized as a prominent and arguably paramount determinant in shaping the behavior, trajectory, and vulnerability of multisector systems. This human influence operates at multiple scales: from short-term (hourly to daily) to long-term (annually to centennial) timescales, and from the local to the global, pushing systems towards either desirable or undesirable outcomes. However, the effort to represent human systems in multisector models has been fragmented across philosophical, methodological, and disciplinary lines. To cohere insights across diverse modeling approaches, we present a new typology for classifying how human actors are represented in the broad suite of coupled human-natural system models that are applied in MultiSector Dynamics (MSD) research. The typology conceptualizes a “sector” as a system-of-systems that includes a diverse group of human actors, defined across individual to collective social levels, involved in governing, provisioning, and utilizing products, goods, or services towards some human end. We trace the salient features of modeled representations of human systems by organizing the typology around three key questions: 1) Who are the modeled actors in MSD systems? 2) What are their modeled actions? 3) How and for what purpose are these actors and actions operationalized in a computational model? The typology is used to critically examine existing models and chart the frontier of future human systems modeling for MSD research.

Published: September 21, 2022


Yoon J.J., P. Romero-Lankao, E.Y. Yang, C. Klassert, N. Urban, K.E. Kaiser, and K. Keller, et al. 2022. A Typology for Characterizing Human Action in MultiSector Dynamics Models. Earth's Future 10, no. 8:Art. No. e2021EF002641. PNNL-SA-170057. doi:10.1029/2021EF002641