Assistant Professor of Sociology, UCLA
Jacob Foster is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at UCLA. He is interested in the birth, life, and death of ideas. How are new ideas born? Why do some spread? What role do ideas play in organizing social structures? And how do social structures affect the genesis, diffusion, and ultimate extinction of ideas?
Jacob’s empirical work focuses on computational approaches to the sociology of science. He blends network analysis, complex systems thinking, and data-driven probabilistic modeling with the qualitative insights of the science studies literature to probe the strategies, dispositions, and social processes that shape the production and persistence of scientific ideas. He also develops formal models of scientific behavior and the evolutionary dynamics of ideas and institutions. Fundamentally, he aims to understand the social world as constituted by, and constitutive of, ideas, beliefs, and practices. Science provides an excellent “model organism” for this endeavor. Jacob’s approach is strongly informed by research on complex systems and biological and cultural evolution.