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 leveraging computational approaches to understand how we as a collectively 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 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 based on the predominantly nonrational aspects of human cognition.
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 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 board member for The Computational Democracy Project. Most recently, I have begun to translate these ideas into a new undertaking of writing for a general audience.
* Paraphrased from Sociology’s so-called Thomas Theorem: “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences” (Thomas & Thomas, 1928)