I am a Computational Sociologist turned Data Scientist, with an expertise in the emergence of culture from the individual behaviors. I hold a PhD in Sociology with a concentration in advanced social statistics from the University of Washington. Most recently, I was a Fellow and Asst. Professor at the Center for the Study of Complex Systems at the University of Michigan.
My intellectual agenda centers on using computational approaches to understand how we as a society come to “define situations as real” and in so doing, make those situations “real in their consequences.”* I hope that in developing these computational approaches to culture and social construction, I can facilitate the meaningful integration of other established work on these subjects into STEM and tech industry contexts – areas where I believe they are most needed now.
In prior academic research, 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 real, long-term 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 show how complex systems modeling can be used to develop cultural theories based on empirical research into the distinctly nonrational aspects of human cognition.
Beyond my research, I’ve also been fortunate to be able to present on this and related work to a wide number of both academic and public audiences. These have included 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 Burning Man’s 2012 “Occupy the Imagination” speaker series.
I also bring my insights into computation, complexity, and culture to bear in my role as the chief social science advisor in the development of Pol.is and board member for The Computational Democracy Project. I have also this year begun to translate these ideas into a new undertaking focused on writing for general audiences.
* Paraphrased from Sociology’s so-called Thomas Theorem: “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences” (Thomas & Thomas, 1928)