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Computational Social Sciences: Opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration

Speaker Bio: Professor Alex Bentley is the Head of Anthropology at UT Knoxville (UTK), since the Fall of 2017. His background is interdisciplinary, starting from a bachelor’s degree in physics (Bowdoin College) to Masters degrees in archaeology and earth sciences (Cornell University) to a PhD in Anthropology (U. Wisconsin). Before arriving to UT Knoxville, Bentley spent 14 years at universities in the UK, from University College London to Durham University to Bristol University, followed by two years at University of Houston. Bentley’s research explores cultural evolution, social influence and decision-making, at time scales ranging from decades to days. The subjects range from random-copying models of online memes to studies of the sugar-driven rise of obesity in the last 40 years, to work on cultural evolution in Neolithic Europe. His recent books include  The Acceleration of Cultural Change (MIT press 2017) and I’ll Have What She’s Having, Mapping Social Behavior (MIT Press 2011).


Abstract: Computational social science is a very rapidly growing field, ideal for the collaboration between social scientists and statisticians, mathematicians and data scientists. In this talk I will review some of the exciting developments in this field, followed by a more focused presentation of some recent modelling of “rapid online cultural transmission” such as the spread of false and true information online. The purpose is to explore opportunities for collaboration with this group. In some cases, more powerful models are needed, whereas in other aspects we are beginning to use new computational methods for probabilistically estimating the parameters of our models against real data by approximate Bayesian computation. Lastly, I have some thoughts about analysis of time series—data that are suddenly abundant in the digital age--that might be another shared interest between computational social scientists and statisticians.

Monday, January 27, 2020 at 3:30pm to 4:30pm

Ayres Hall, 405
1403 Circle Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996



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Cassie Micucci & Vasileios Maroulas

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