Jour fixe: Presentations by new fellows

Tuesday, 05. November 2019
15:15 – 16:45

Y 326


Henri Kauhanen (Postdoctoral Fellow / Linguistics)

"{Big|small} data, {big|small} theory? Some thoughts on the past, present and future of language dynamics".

Language dynamics is the study of linguistic variation and change across space and time, utilizing a mixture of empirical and theoretical approaches. Looking at the history and present of this field of study, I claim that a trend is visible: we have moved from a situation of big theory combined with small data through an intermediate state of small theory combined with small data to our present state of big data combined with small theory. Taking the so-called Constant Rate Hypothesis as a case study, I show how this development has been both beneficial and detrimental, and suggest that the most fruitful way forward is to assume the remaining, fourth combination – big data with big theory. Computational modelling and mathematical analysis play a major role in this endeavour, as they help to transform theoretical notions into concretely testable predictions.

Ari Strandburg-Peshkin (Research Fellow / Biology)

"Communication and collective behavior in animal societies".

Group-living animals face a wide array of coordination challenges, from coming to consensus with group mates about when and where to move, to avoiding competition when searching for food, to collectively defending shared resources from external threats. For animals that live in stable social groups, social relationships are often multi-faceted and can persist over an individual’s lifetime. These complexities may introduce heterogeneity into the rules individuals employ when making decisions, with potential consequences for group-level outcomes. Furthermore, many species have evolved sophisticated communication systems that can play a key role in shaping the processes of group coordination. Employing technologies such as lightweight GPS tags, accelerometers, and audio recorders enables us to monitor the movements, behaviors, and vocalizations of multiple individuals simultaneously within wild animal groups, offering a new window into the mechanisms underpinning collective behaviors in natural contexts. In this talk, I will present recent and emerging collaborative work exploring the mechanisms by which animals living in stable social groups coordinate collective behaviors, focusing on meerkat groups living in the Kalahari Desert.