James A. Evans

Director, Knowledge Lab; Associate Professor, Sociology, University of Chicago; Fellow, Computation Institute

I am Director of Knowledge Lab, senior fellow at the Computation Institute, associate professor of Sociology and the College, and member of the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science at the University of Chicago. My research focuses on the collective system of thinking and knowing, ranging from the distribution of attention and intuition, the origin of ideas and shared habits of reasoning to processes of agreement (and dispute), accumulation of certainty (and doubt), and the texture--novelty, ambiguity, topology--of human understanding. I am especially interested in innovation--how new ideas and practices emerge--and the role that social and technical institutions (e.g., the Internet, markets, collaborations) play in collective cognition and discovery. Much of my work has focused on areas of modern science and technology, but I am also interested in other domains of knowledge--news, law, religion, gossip, hunches and historical modes of thinking and knowing. I support the creation of novel observatories for human understanding and action through crowd sourcing, information extraction from text and images, and the use of distributed sensors (e.g., RFID tags, cell phones). I use machine learning, generative modeling, social and semantic network representations to explore knowledge processes, scale up interpretive and field-methods, and create alternatives to current discovery regimes. My research is funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Templeton Foundation and other sources, and has been published in ScienceAmerican Journal of SociologySocial Studies of ScienceAdministrative Science QuarterlyPLoS Computational Biology and other journals. My work has been featured in Naturethe EconomistAtlantic MonthlyWired, NPR, BBC, El País, CNN and many other outlets.

At Chicago, I also sponsor the Computational Social Science workshop (with John Brehm) and the Knowledge-Value workshop (with John Kelly) and co-organize the Rational Choice workshop (with Gary Becker, Richard Posner & Glen Weyl). I teach courses in the history of modern science, science studies, computational content analysis, and Internet and Society. Before Chicago, I received my doctorate in sociology from Stanford University, served as a research associate in the Negotiation, Organizations, and Markets group at Harvard Business School, started a private high school focused on project-based arts education, and completed a B. A. in Anthropology and Economics at Brigham Young University. In the course of these events, I married Jeannie Evans and we now have four (fabulous) children, Noah, Ruth, Anna and Kate.