I am a cognitive/evolutionary anthropologist with a particular interest in computational science. I am based in the School of Innovation Science of the Eindhoven University of Technology, where I work in a project called “Darwinizing culture: the status of cultural evolutionary theory as a science”.
Cultural evolution-related data mining
I am interested in the analysis of large, naturally occurring, datasets to investigate (especially modern) human cultural dynamics. For example, I used data on dog registrations to analyse whether their popularity is due to individual considerations or to social influence (the latter, it seems), data from Google Books and the Gutenberg project to analyse the change in the expression of emotions through the last centuries, data on baby names and last.fm playlists to detect whether the turnover in popularity of cultural traits can give us some indication of the learning biases involved. I am currently working on a large (~200K) data set of English-language song lyrics (a preview of this work is in this blog post). More generally, I am particularly interested in how text-mining of diachronic corpora can be used to study cultural changes.
Cultural attraction and cultural evolution
On a more theoretical side, I am interested in the relationship between cultural attraction theory and “standard” cultural evolution theory. While I have argued that the two approaches are not necessarily in conflict, I believe that cultural attraction theory presents some important points that deserve further empirical investigation: among others, the influence of general cognitive factors on culture (for example, in folktales), or the fact that, in some domains, the actual content of cultural traits might be more important than contextual or “social” factors to determine their success.
Cultural evolution in the digital age
In the last years, I become interested in how cultural evolution can contribute to the study of cultural dynamics in the digital age, and, at the same time, how new digital media impact on human cultural evolution. Here a paper where I present some possible areas of interest. I am working on a book manuscript on a topic, under contract with Oxford University Press, expected in 2019.
Models of cultural dynamics
I started my academic career as a modeller (in fact, as an artificial life/robotics researcher), and I continue to believe that computational models are a necessary tool to formalise and communicate theories. Recent topics include whether conformity can be detected from population-level effects, or how redundancy can contribute to cultural stabilization.