I am an Associate Professor of Sociology at Mills College in Oakland, CA. I also teach in the public policy graduate program at Mills. I am interested in the role information plays in human social organization. My toolbox combines the phenomenology of Schutz, Goffman's analysis of interaction and gatherings, the sociology of organizations, and various mathematical and computer modeling tools.
My graduate training at Yale was as a sociologist of organizations (working with Chick Perrow and Charles Kadushin) and, to a lesser extent, urban communities. I have written about interorganizational collaboration, organizations and time, and the informational responsibilities of social relationships (what I call "notification norms"). My current work is on the sociology of information. I am somewhat eclectic in my approach. On the one hand, I try to think about information behavior in the spirit of Simmel's formal sociology, Goffman's interactional sociology, and Schutz's phenomenology. On the other hand, I'm inclined toward big data, visualization, math, and modeling. I teach and play around with various kinds of simulation (from intelligent agents to getting Excel to do things it's not supposed to do), geographic information systems, social network analysis, and phenomenology (especially Alfred Schutz and Maurice Natanson).
My approach thinking about human organization is explicitly trans-disciplinary. I move back and forth between big and small, quant and qual, individuals, groups, and networks, silicon-based and carbon-based life forms. Unlike most people in my field I do not think economists and markets are bad and unlike a lot of friends on the more reductionist side of the dance floor, I think a lot about both emergence and phenomenology. Two of the most stimulating years of my life were spent as visiting scholar at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, a place dedicated to crossing boundaries.
Before becoming a sociologist I was a systems programmer, working for IBM Research, Bank of America, Chemical Bank, and Synergistic Systems. My BA, from New College of Florida, is in mathematical, physical and computer sciences which translates to nearly, but not quite, majoring in physics, chemistry, math, and computer science. My undergraduate thesis was the development of a Pascal compiler for the IBM Series/1 minicomputer and I've coded in languages ranging from 370 assembler to Python. Back in the day I learned a lot about Raman spectroscopy at RPI and worked on software for the world's second scanning tunneling electron microscope at IBM. I am an inveterate Germanophile. While at Yale I helped to develop the first humanities computer consulting services at the Yale Computer and then founded and ran "The City Room" — an early attempt at community informatics — at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies.
I recently finished a 2.5 year stint as chair of the Faculty Executive Committee at Mills, and so am turning my attention to new and old projects. These include looking at the use of social media as a lens on the Occupy Wall Street movement supervising undergraduate projects and contributing in small ways to the OccupyResearch project, working on crafting a vision of the future of higher education called "Majoring in the 21st Century" and tooling up in various ways. Other things contesting for space on the calendar are an ongoing flirtation with audio journalism, data visualization, an ongoing interest in design and innovation (especially open innovation at our startup Innnovation Exchange) and collaborative work with my wife, Gillian Hadfield, on democratic institutions and the information order, and building projects at various stages from imaginings to maintenance.