Video gaming, food, social network of Al Capone all part of new institute conference

The first major conference by the new Institute for Social Sciences at the University of California, Davis, will showcase leading-edge research in the social sciences and highlight opportunities for interdisciplinary work. Scholars and participants will explore a number of topics across the social sciences, including video gaming and virtual experiences, the cultural politics of food, the design of online markets,and the social network of gangster Al Capone.

The conference series, “Leading Research in the Social Sciences Today,” takes place on three Fridays, April 24, May 1 and May 8, at UC Davis. It will include 40 top faculty from UC Davis and other institutions from across the country in the social sciences as well as food science and technology, viticulture and enology, human ecology, statistics, environmental science, computer science, neuroscience and veterinary medicine.

“UC Davis is home to an incredible array of researchers who embrace and embody interdisciplinary opportunities, which ISS was in part established to foster and advance,” said George R. Mangun, dean of the UC Davis Division of Social Sciences.

“The conference topics and talks reflect what we believe to be the leading edge of social sciences research,” said Joseph Dumit, director of the institute, which was founded last fall. “It is a wonderful opportunity to get a real taste of the range of insights being generated today across disciplines.”

Keynote speakers include Amy Cuddy from Harvard Business School, James Fowler from UC San Diego and Matthew Jackson from Stanford University.

  • April 24, “Perception is Reality”: Media and perception, the construction of personal and organizational identity, the experience of taste in wine and the cultural politics of good food.
  • May 1, “Society Counts”: Big data, communications between politicians and the public, technology and culture, and the flipped classroom.
  • May 8, “Social Networks in Decision Making”: Human networks, the primate origins of human decision making, online marketplaces, the dynamics of influence and opinion, and the social network of Al Capone.

“New technology and innovative collaborations across our many colleges, divisions and units have already begun to accelerate inquiry into how we think about people, groups and societies, and importantly, the many ills we must face together,” Mangun said.

The conference series is co-sponsored by the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, the Davis Humanities Institute and the Center for Regional Change. 

About the Institute for Social Sciences

The Institute for Social Sciences stimulates collaborative research projects between UC Davis social scientists campuswide that ask new questions or work on questions that had previously been unanswerable. As an incubator of new ideas, ISS supports work that reaches across culture, class, social norms, politics, mobility, economics, values, technology, language, communication and history. ISS was founded in 2014 by the UC Davis Office of the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor in recognition of the critical role of the researchers in the Division of Social Sciences to the UC Davis campus mission of service to society. As the largest division in the College of Letters and Science, the division is home to more than 200 faculty members who serve 6,600 undergraduate majors and 500 graduate students. 

Media Resources

Jeffrey Day, Arts, humanities and social sciences, 530-219-8258,

Victoria Austin, UC Davis Institute for Social Sciences, (530) 752-1751 ,

Secondary Categories

Science & Technology Society, Arts & Culture Society, Arts & Culture Environment Society, Arts & Culture Human & Animal Health Society, Arts & Culture Human & Animal Health Education