Jacob G. Foster
Our planet is home to countless complex systems. Society is perhaps the most complex system of all. Data about our interactions, our institutions, and our ideas are becoming more and more available, both in quantity and in resolution. Now we can begin to unravel the dynamics that generate, maintain, and transform our social world.
I am particularly interested in the birth, life, and death of ideas. How are new ideas born? How do they spread? What role do ideas play in organizing social structures -- and how do social structures affect the genesis, diffusion, and ultimate extinction of ideas? From technologies to ideologies, ideas form the crucial medium interrelating the fundamental processes of psychogenesis (the development of mental structures) and sociogenesis (the development of social structures).
I am a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago. I work with James Evans on computational approaches to the sociology of science. My work currently focuses on measuring and conceptualizing novelty in the sciences. This research is embedded in a larger project to understand -- and discover computationally -- the beliefs, preferences, biases, and strategies that guide scientists in their exploration of the natural world. My approach is strongly informed by research on complex networks and complex systems more generally.
Selected publications:
  1.    Evans, J.A.., & Foster, J.G. Metaknowledge. Science 332, 721 (2011).
  2.     Foster, J.G., Foster, D.V., Grassberger, P., & Paczuski, M. Edge direction and the structure of networks. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 107, 10815 (2010).
  3.     Foster, J.G., Grassberger, P., & Paczuski, M. Reinforced walks in two and three dimensions. New J. Phys. 11, 023009 (2009).
    **selected as one of the best papers in NJP for 2009
  4.     Foster, J.G., Foster, D.V., Grassberger, P., & Paczuski, M. Link and subgraph likelihoods in random undirected networks with fixed and partially fixed degree sequences. Phys. Rev. E 76, 046122 (2007).
Jacob G. Foster
Postdoctoral Scholar
Department of Sociology
University of Chicago
1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
mobile +1 312 608 8742
Research Interests
Sociology of science
Computational social science
Complex systems
Complex networks
Cultural evolution
Evolutionary theory
Game theory
Social theory
Computational and complex systems approaches
to the sociology of science