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    2008 - 2011 / 2005 - 2008 / 2000 - 2002

2008-2011

Merging Agent-based Modeling Techniques and Ethnography: A New Analytic Tool for Studying Illicit Drug Use Behaviors, Markets and Economies

Start/End Dates:
2008-2011
Funding Source:
The National Science Foundation, Cultural Anthropology & the Methods, Measurement, and Statistics Program (BCS-0724320)
Principal Investigator:
Lee D. Hoffer
Current Research Team:
Burchan Bayazit, David Epstein

 

ABSTRACT:

 

This project will simulate the operation of the local heroin market in Cleveland, OH by synthesizing ethnographic decision tree and Agent-Based Modeling (ABM) techniques as an innovative strategy for improving ethnographic analysis and utilization. The specific aims of this research are to: 1) conduct an ethnographic study of the local heroin market that facilitates ABM development, 2) enrich these data using Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) technologies, and 3) construct a social / economic simulation computer lab that reproduces how the market operates. This proposal extends my on-going feasibility study, using ethnographic data to retrospectively construct ABM simulations of the local heroin market in Denver, CO., circa 1998-2000, and represents an essential next step in the evolution of this hybrid methodology.

 

Recruiting active heroin users from the community, ethnographic research will delineate roles, as well as attitudes, beliefs and behaviors concerning decisions associated with the use, acquisition, sales, and distribution of heroin within the market. Formalized decision tree diagrams will elaborate reasons, constraints, and environmental influences associated with these activities. A second phase of research will then collect interactional and transactional data, validate decision tree models, and determine the distribution of decisions utilizing EMA. In conjunction with the ethnography, this self-report data collected daily from participants using a Palm Pilotâ„¢, will provide the robust data necessary for constructing ABMs.


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2005-2008

Evaluating the Social Structure of a Local Heroin Market

Start/End Dates:
2005-2008
Funding Source:
National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse  (DA019476)
Principal Investigator:
Lee D. Hoffer
Current Research Team:
Georgiy Bobashev, Robert (Joey) Morris, Joshua Thorp, Mike Agar

 

ABSTRACT:

 

Researching illegal drug markets in a real world setting is a difficult, time consuming and sometimes dangerous undertaking. But understanding illegal drug markets is more involved than collecting research. While information related to drug markets has been collected there are currently no ways to experiment with market conditions through time to delineate outcomes, relationships, or trends. Furthermore, while research is available on how customers and dealers within local drug market settings behave, the aggregated outcomes of these behaviors are unknown.

 

In other words, no research methods to date have focused on identifying, elaborating, or testing social structures that underlie these markets. Based on an ethnographic study, this project will synthesize the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of heroin dealers and customers with a method that can generate outcomes of those attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors: multi-agent social simulation. By specifying decisions and decision-making processes, in conjunction with environmental considerations, the simulation will, in effect, transform qualitative findings into quantitative output. While merging methods of social simulation programming and ethnography have not been previously attempted, the technology and raw materials (data) are in place for this sort of synergy and the potential benefits of combining these methods are considerable.


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2000-2002

A Heroin Dealing Network: Asymmetric Power and HIV Risk

Start/End Dates:
2000-2002
Funding Source:
National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse  (F1-DA06016)
Principal Investigators:
Lee D. Hoffer, Stephen K. Koester (Sponsor)
Current Research Team:

 

ABSTRACT:

 

This study investigates the relationship between a heroin dealer, his customers, and resulting HIV risk behaviors within the context of a multi-level heroin-dealing network. Since the advent of HIV, a primary emphasis of applied drug research has been understanding individual drug injector's risk behavior. Injection behaviors have been qualitatively described, quantified, and innovative intervention models have been developed to address HIV risks. Less attention has been devoted to research on the environmental, political, and economic contexts in which users live and consume drugs. This proposal addresses the disjunction between these topics.

 

Using ethnographic methods within a case study framework, this research will examine the organizational structure and business operation of a multi-level heroin-dealing network in Denver, Colorado. In addition to understanding how the illicit drug market works, the findings of this research will examine the influence of heroin dealing on HIV injection risk behaviors within asymmetric power relations inherent in a multi-level heroin dealing network. Specifically, the aims of this proposal are twofold: One, to understand and document economic and social exchange between heroin dealers and their customers (i.e. users), within a multi- level heroin-dealing network. And two, to investigate the drug injection behaviors and HIV risk which result from heroin dealing activities and transactions.


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CONTACT INFORMATION

 

Lee D. Hoffer, Ph.D., M.P.E.

Department of Anthropology

Case Western Reserve University

Mather Memorial, Room 205

11220 Bellflower Road

Cleveland, Ohio 44106

 

PHONE: 216.368.2631

EMAIL: lee.hoffer@case.edu

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