I am a Computational Sociologist turned Data Scientist with an expertise in how culture emerges from individual behaviors. I hold a PhD in Sociology with a concentration in  statistics from the University of Washington. Previously, I was an Asst. Professor at the Center for the Study of Complex Systems at the University of Michigan and Fellow in the Michigan Society of Fellows.

My intellectual agenda centers on using computational approaches to understand how we collectively “define situations as real” and in so doing, make those situations “real in their consequences.”* I hope that in developing these computational angles on social construction, I can facilitate meaningful integration of established work on the subject into STEM and tech industry contexts – areas where I believe they are crucially needed now.

I have used this computational-cultural framework to demonstrate the social origins of Bitcoin’s worth and to formally model how societies can “bootstrap” the economic value of goods and monies. I’ve also used this approach to show how the cognitive mechanics of individual perception lead to the emergence of large scale cultural dynamics and to argue that complex systems modeling can be used more broadly to develop cultural theory  grounded in the predominantly nonrational aspects of human cognition. I have also argued that this framework can be further mobilized to develop a full theory of the cognitive bases of social change.

Beyond my research, I’ve also had the fortune to present on this and related  work to a wide number of both academic and public audiences. These have included giving invited talks at Data & Society, the Santa Fe Institute, UCLA’s Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture, the University of Michigan, Detroit’s Shady Lady Literary Society, and even Burning Man’s 2012 “Occupy the Imagination” speaker series.

I also bring my insights into computation, complexity, and culture into my roles as the primary social science advisor in the development of Pol.is and as a founding board member for The Computational Democracy Project. I have recently started to translate these notions into writing for a general audience and hope to do much more in the coming year.

* Paraphrased from Sociology’s so-called Thomas Theorem: “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences” (Thomas & Thomas, 1928)