Cultural evolution is a unifying
theme for much of my work and thought. I conceptualize evolution
within an expanded synthesis that includes thermodynamic
self-organization. The study of cultural evolution, therefore, should
be located within study of the self-organization of human-ecosystems.
This interest has led my
research in two related directions. In the first case, I am exploring
the structure of ‘culture’, the information produced by people
in a hierarchy of forms that include discourse, media, ritual, education,
research, law, and others. In the second case, I am attempting to
demonstrate the hierarchical organization of economy, people, and culture
that is nested within ecosystems.
In both cases I am expanding
upon the work of famed ecologist H.T. Odum. In the first case I am
exploring his general theory of the 'information
cycle', an evolutionary-ecological model of the processes of
information maintenance and change. In the second case, I am
utilizing the ecological-economics of emergy that
he pioneered as a tool to demonstrate the human-cultural-ecosystem hierarchy
of which we are all a part.
My latest funded research
was an application of H.T. Odum’s
'information cycle' to the study of cultural information in
discourse. This is the second detailed demonstration of Odum’s theory and method to information that is
not genetic, but is instead cultural. And it serves to
‘locate’ the production of discourse within the production
hierarchy of Hualien County,
My previous funded research
was a study of social structure and
hierarchy within Hualien
It explored in detail the organization of households into hierarchies of
energy capture and convergence within an entire county. It was the
first county-wide analysis of social structural self-organization utilizing
My work is
interdisciplinary, combining anthropology, ecological economics, ecosystems
science, evolution, world-systems, and complex systems science. I use
principles and methods from systems ecology, including computer modeling
analysis (an ecological economics) developed by the Systems Ecology
program at the University of Florida.
I have explored the cultural
evolution of China, from foragers to contemporary states, using systems
modelling to generate simple but informative
computer models of the pulsing dynamics generated by the consumption of
natural resources. These ideas are all being applied to my related
interest in the historical
ecology of Taiwan.
My interest in cultural evolution and the evolution
of social structure has led me to the study of world-systems
(from Wallerstein). World-systems are a
scale of social self-organization larger than individual states, in which
states are joined hierarchically into a system of production and
control. I am particularly interested in placing world-systems
thought within an environmental framework.
I have worked as a member of
an 8-person interdisciplinary team, studying whale watching ecotourism
My research examined the impacts of ecotourism development on the local
people, culture and ecology of the effected areas. My dissertation
research was a similar study of eco-dive tourism impacts
on the island of Bonaire
in the south Caribbean Sea.
My other major area of
academic interest is cognitive science, especially the study of cultural models.
As a graduate student advisor I have assisted one student with an
exploration of ‘place identity’ as it represented in cultural
models in two communities in southwestern Taiwan.
I am currently advising one student in an
exploration of the place of pigs in the cultural models of Truku people in the mountains of Taiwan.
Cultural models theory intersects with my current research into cultural
information as information cycles.
Finally, an ongoing research
focus of mine is our human presence in the biosphere and the energy,
material, and information processes that are shaping that presence.
Of special importance are the big, slow curves of natural resource
availability, perhaps the most important of which is oil. Social
processes should be understood in light of changing resource flows.
Relating society and the production curve of oil, H.T. Odum made a number
of predictions about the past and coming periods of growth, transition ('peak
oil'), and descent. His hope was that humanity could discover a 'prosperous way down'. With Mary Logan I helped
start a blog to explore this
topic. And there is now video (here)
of a talk related to these issues that I gave at a great little conference
on Architecture and Energy.
I can be reached here: email@example.com.