London Interdisciplinary School ©2019

LIS Discovery Day

Dr James Carney

Faculty

Before coming to LIS, James worked in various academic positions across the UK and Ireland. He is currently concluding an appointment as a Wellcome Trust Fellow at Brunel University London, where he used methods from machine learning and experimental psychology to establish the therapeutic impact of fiction on anxiety and depression.

I'm joining LIS because...

I'm joining LIS because I believe the ability to solve problems is more important than learning about specific solutions. Traditional academic disciplines centre on standardised methods and established patterns of thinking. While these practices are typically useful, they can also lead to a kind of cultural capture, where an academic discipline becomes interested only in those problems that can be tackled using its tools. Given that the most challenging problems will have no respect for our intellectual categories, a more versatile response is needed. LIS is founded on the supposition that problems, rather than disciplines, need to be the focus of learning. For me, coming to LIS therefore represents a fulfilment of my own intellectual convictions.

Top fields of disciplines

Machine learning

English literature

Coding (Python)

Evolutionary psychology

Semantics and pragmatics

Discourse analysis

Data science

Medical humanities

James is interested in how computational, experimental, and interpretive methods can be combined to interrogate cultural data. “Though human beings are a symbolic species, it is only recently that we have become able to gain anything other than a partial view of our cultural outputs. If these partial views––generated by traditional academic disciplines––are exceptionally valuable, they are nevertheless conditioned on a poverty of information that no longer exists: we only hypothesise when we do not have enough data to mandate a conclusion.” James’ ambition is to use processes of automated inference to interrogate the cultural record on a scale that is unavailable to human interpreters. In practice, this involves applying methods from machine learning, natural language processing, and cognitive science to large datasets.

Before coming to LIS, James worked in various academic positions across the UK and Ireland. He is currently concluding an appointment as a Wellcome Trust Fellow at Brunel University London, where he used methods from machine learning and experimental psychology to establish the therapeutic impact of fiction on anxiety and depression. A broader theoretical interest of this project centred on understanding the interplay between anxiety, prediction, and cultural production.

Prior to James’ Wellcome Trust Fellowship, he worked in the Department of Psychology at Lancaster University, where his focus was on the Lancaster sensorimotor norms project: an ambitious attempt to catalogue how 40k concepts are encoded by the human brain using six sensory modalities and five motor effectors.

Between 2012 and 2015, he was Marie Curie Fellow at the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford and Junior Research Fellow in Linacre College. At Oxford, James was interested in researching how insights from the cognitive science of religion could be used to understand secular cultural data; he also contributed to the development of experimental methods in the humanities. Prior to Oxford, James lectured in University College Cork and the University of Limerick. His doctoral work was principally in the area of discourse linguistics and used abstract algebra to model narrative structure.

James is also a founding director of Texture AI, an intelligence company that uses deep learning and linguistics to evaluate commercially significant data sources.