Cohen R. Simpson

In October 2012 I joined the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science to begin a PhD in New Media, Innovation and Literacy, made possible with the generous support of the LSE PhD Scholarship. Succinctly put, I am a network scientist and analytical sociologist interested in the role of multiplexity in social systems, social movements as social networks and computational approaches to social inquiry.

Prior to coming to the LSE I completed my MSc in Social Science of the Internet at the Oxford Internet Institute| (St. Cross College, University of Oxford) as a Clarendon Scholar|. I received my BA in Communication Studies from Clemson University. For the month of September 2013 I had the distinct pleasure of being a visiting student at the MIT Media Lab| (Human Dynamics) to learn more about models of networks and the utility of mining digital traces, online and off.

General Research Interests
Social Network Analysis; Statistical Models of Networks
Multiplexity; Network Closure (Particular the variety driven by localised structural equivalence)

Social Movement Studies
Alliances/Coalition Building
Social Movements as Networks; Ecological/Organisational Studies approaches to Social Movements
The Utility of Computational Studies of Movements

New Technologies/New Media
The Mining of Digital Traces; Reality Mining|
Hyperlink Networks

Doctoral Research
My doctoral research explores the structure of alliance networks between social movement organisations (SMOs) and its principal empirical task is to uncover the degree to which subsequent relational contexts (i.e., co-occuring ties) help explain their emergence. In the most basic sense, social systems may be conceived of as a number of heterogenous actors tied together via a broad range of social and economic relations. For any two actors, the relations which may connect them are incredibly diverse and, for example, may represent positive feelings/affirmation (friendship, love, affiliation), communication/information exchange, exchange of goods and finances (trade) or behavioural interaction (cooperation or punishment). Each of these relational contexts span an individual network of their own, however, they all influence and co-construct one another. Thus, society is characterised by the superposition of socioeconomic networks across the same set of actors. This superposition is called multiplexity.

I argue that: (a) alliances between SMOs and the other relational contexts within which these actors are embedded (e.g. information exchange, positive nomination, tactical advice giving) are characterised by manifold interdependencies; (b) to avoid the biased understanding of social systems that comes with simplex (single relation) analyses, alliance formation must be investigated alongside co-occurring ties; and (c) accounts of multiplexity by social movement scholars must move beyond descriptive analyses in order to forge an explanatory, inferential understanding of the role of co-occurring relational contexts in alliance formation.

Current Projects
Ayatollahs Online: Exploratory research project with Dr. Morgan Clarke|  (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford) designed to investigate what ways, if any, the notion of scholarly ranking may describe the use of the Internet by Grand Ayatollahs in contemporary Islamic Society. Specifically it asks, do higher "ranking" Ayatollahs with more resources have better web presence and make more extensive use of their web pages? The goals of this work, supported by the generous support of Keble College, Oxford are to (a) gains a sense of the degree to which individual Ayatollahs and the group as a whole are visible on the web; and (b) develop a taxonomy of website use along the lines of what sorts of information Marja' make available on their web pages and what features they make use of in regard to the technological affordances of the platform, i.e. are web pages "badly" designed with sparse content or do they exemplify some "maximization" of potential in that they are interactive and engaging?

Policy Work
Dutton, William H., Jirotka, Marina, Meyer, Eric T., Schroeder, Ralph & Simpson, Cohen R. (May 31, 2012). Key Issues for Digital Research: A Social Science Perspective on Policy and Practice. A Forum Discussion Paper for the Oxford e-Social Science Project of the Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford e-Research Centre, and the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

Preferred Methods and Models
Exploratory Network Analysis
Quantitative Content Analysis

Exponential Random Graph Models
Network Autocorrelation
Generalised Additive Models
Latent Space Models
Bayesian Inference

Programming Languages
Python; R; HTML



Twitter: @cohens
Skype: cohansolo