I’m Cohen


I am a sociologist at the University of Oxford specialising in the quantitative study of face-to-face human social networks.

My core focus is network formation (i.e., Where do networks come from?). And I am especially interested in the formation of networks that span small-scale, traditional human populations — i.e., microcosms wherein supportive relationships (e.g., friendship, advice, financial aid, food provision, and physical assistance) facilitate day-to-day survival by offsetting the challenges of poverty, subsistence-based living, and limited access to protective institutions (e.g., state welfare).

Broadly speaking, sociologists tend to study the formation of networks in advanced economies in settings such as school classrooms and organisations (e.g., private firms, not-for-profits), leaving anthropologists to tackle traditional human communities. This division strikes me as deeply unfortunate as there is much for sociologists to contribute to the study of social ties in traditional locales (e.g., advanced methods of network analysis and theories of network formation).

Along this line, in a recent paper in the journal Social Networks wherein I analyse data on friendship amongst rice farmers in 162 villages in rural China, I have tried to raise awareness of sociologists' limited focus through the lens of network formation vis-à-vis environmental variation. Specifically, I highlight sociologists’ over-reliance on network data from Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic (i.e., WEIRD) societies (e.g., the U.S., the U.K., and the Netherlands) which are globally atypical. And I ultimately call for studies of network formation using far more diverse sociometric data (e.g., those from from villages in low- and middle-income countries), where another recent paper of mine in Social Networks accessibly discusses some aspects of how such data might be collected, focusing in particular on social support.

Currently, I am part-time researcher in the Department of Sociology at the University of Oxford and an Associate Member of Nuffield College. Prior to this, I was a Research Fellow and British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and a Research Fellow at Nuffield College. And, prior to joining the OII, I was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Sociology at Oxford and the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge.

I received my PhD in Social Research Methods (Applied Social Statistics) from the London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE; Department of Methodology). Before joining the LSE, I completed a MSc in Social Science of the Internet at the OII and St Cross College as a Clarendon Scholar. In a previous life, I completed a BA in Communication Studies with a focus on print journalism at Clemson University.


Introductions to what I am currently writing.



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