Douglas R. White

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Stayin' alive -

User: Douglas R. White

sysop@ the INTERdisciplinarySCIences Complexity wiki The White back yard 2015. It was my mom who took ill when I was 18 two years before she died and supported my "ranch hand" period In Colorado, the agreement with my advisor to train in fieldwork and then adopt credits from him for 8-months of semisupervised fieldwork at the University of Veracruz and the writing of an Honors thesis on the town of Acatlan (the miraculous virgin of healing), the start of my anthro career, and then before she'd supported my applying for grad fellowships.

eJrnl logo Structure and Dynamics; credit Krempel and Schnegg
(Editing CoSSci and the Wiley Companion to Cross-Cultural Research)


PI Project CoSSci

Courtesy Stuart Martin Argonne Labs XSEDE'15 Conference poster Doug White PI Project CoSSci

Project CoSSci

Short bio

Douglas R. White (Selected publications, home) is founder and sysop of the InterSci for Complexity Sciences. He is a formerly long term American complexity researcher on the Santa Fe Institute external faculties, social anthropologist, sociologist, and social network researcher at the University of California, Irvine.

Doug White credit: SFI
Born in Minneapolis in 1942, White attended the University of Minnesota, Columbia University, and the University of Michigan, where he received a B.A. in 1964, an M.A. in 1967, and a Ph.D. in 1969, all under advisor E. Adamson Hoebel and the CIC: Travelling Scholars Program. He taught at the University of Pittsburgh from 1967 to 1976. Since then he has been a Social Science Professor at the University of California, Irvine, teaching in Social Relations, in Comparative Culture, in Social Networks and in Anthropology. He co-founded and has chaired the Social Networks PhD program and within the Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Sciences chaired the Social Dynamics and Complexity research group as well as the UC four-campus Human Sciences and Complexity videoconference group. He served on the governing Council of the European Complex Systems Society, and President of the Social Science Computing Association as well as the Linkages Development Research Council. In 2008-09 he was elected Science Chair of the French Réseau national des systèmes complexes (RNSC). He founded in 1985 the World Cultures (World Cultures) electronic journal as part of the movement for open access scientific data and publication and in 2005 the open access and peer reviewed Wikipedia:Structure_and_Dynamics Structure and Dynamics electronic journal, where he and others rotate as editors-in-chief. He is a recipient of the U.S. Distinguished Scientist Award of the Alexander von Humboldt - AvH Foundation, the "Best Paper in Mathematical Sociology of 2003" Award of the American Sociological Association (2004), and the 2007 "Viviana Zelizer Distinguished Scholarship Award" for the outstanding article published in the field of economic sociology in the previous two years. A reaction to his 2005 book with Ulla Johansen, Network Analysis and Ethnographic Problems, by one reviewer, in a Cambridge journal, was that this "could be the most important book in anthropology in fifty years." More accurately, it was ahead of its time.

Google scholar and books - citations

intersci server

Early life

Margaret Wirt Richie
Solon M. White 1930
The first (iPhone) photo of S.Marx' portrait restored and with no varnish.
His mother was Margaret Wirt Richie, Ph.D. in Child Psychology and Director of the National Child Research Center in Washington, D.C. in the 1930s. His father, M.D.. and Lt. Col. Asher Abbott White, was a Chief Medical Officer in the Manhattan Project, serving in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (1941-1943), Los Alamos, NM, (1944-1945) and the facility in Richland (Hanford), Washington (1945-1946). Sister Margot White Cottrell was the first female State Park Director who helped found the Marine Museum at Fall River and resides with her family near Fall River, Mass. Brother Asher Jr. is an M.D. who resides in Washington State. His grandfather M.D. Solon Marx White, Major White served in the US Marine Medical Corps as second in command (1917-1918) and Chief of Medical Service in the Alleray base camp in France in WW I. He became the Chief of the Department of Medicine in 1921 at the University of Minnesota Medical School and founded the Nicollet Clinic of Minneapolis, MN., where his son Asher joined him on the medical staff in 1932. He was President of the American College of Physicians in 1930-1932 and hosted its National Convention in Minneapolis (below left:
Courtesy Dennis Gordien-UofM Oil painting 28x35"

Doug lived with his family in Oak Ridge, Los Alamos and Hanford until their return to the family home in Minneapolis. He was an avid junior scientist, model builder, and aspired to be an architect at the time his family built a new home with Architect Norman Nagel circa 1954, in the Tyrol Hills of Minneapolis. He became a young protégé of Norm's close friend, Bucky Fuller, switching objectives to a career in eco-sustainable housing and transportation.

As a student at University High School (the teaching training school of the U of Minn), Doug's mother encouraged him to apply for a scholarship with the AFS intercultural programs, an international high school exchange program. He applied for the school (junior) year in Madrid, for which he had good preparation in Spanish, and he lived with two successive families ((Pablo) Sela; Piedro) while attending the Ramiro de Maeztu high school. Maeztu was attended both by the Franco Falange elite and by mostly liberal civil servants. Wikipedia:Ramiro de Maeztu was a Spanish intellectual who represented both sides of Civil War: the Falange (Fascist) versus Republican split. Originally a Basque political theorist (journalist, literary critic, occasional diplomat) and member of the Generation of '98, he was an early advocate of Socialism, but "he became disillusioned by the Great War while serving as the London correspondent for several Spanish newspapers, traveling in France and Germany." Author of significant publications, he later "founded the right-wing, monarchist Acción Española movement in 1931" and supported Franco (see Wikipedia). He was killed by Republicans in the civil war.

In Spain, 1959-60, Doug's school friends were the liberals and his first family (Sela) were liberals, the father an M.D. who as obstetrician for elite families was politically immunized from the fact that his wife was a leading Madrid socialist. Before the school term began, they did extensive traveling throughout the Asturian and still Republican-leaning north, where the family had a summer home. The family, including his host brother and sister, thought that Doug should take advantage of a second invitation to live with a leading Falange family, which he did, in order to experience the other side of the sociopolical spectrum. Doug's host brothers in these two families (Sela, Piedro) later became, in the Post-Franco era, political appointees of the left and right governments, respectively. In Doug's six-month school year he spoke no English, and by the end of his stay was often taken for a blond Basque rather than an American. His second family took him on tours of Barcelona and the Gandia region in Alicante, where the family had a second home. The school year ended with a call to the U.S. Embassy to congratulate the two of us who spearheaded the first year of American students hosted by Madrid high schools. The meeting with the Dulles brothers, John Foster and Allan, however, was like meeting two cartoon characters posing as strongmen to "fix" American problems with no conception of the dilemmas with which the Spanish were dealing in the post-civil war period. The Dulles brothers, of course, were pro-Franco and what he represented with no sense of the consequences their complete and evident amorality.[1]

Pre-college through college

JM Dain post-merger logo

After graduation from U.H.S., his mother found him a job at the J.M. Dain & co. brokerage, where he learned the perspectives of finance in observing the practices of the honorable Wheelock Whitney, one of the "responsible capitalists" who was to become the head of J.M. Dain in 1963. At the end of that summer job, vowing never to go into high finance, he enrolled in Brown University (for those interested: filling in a missing part of a life story 1), and in his sophomore year, joined the country's first non-sectarian fraternity, Pi Lambda Phi, "a fraternity in which all men were brothers, no matter what their religion; a fraternity in which ability, open-mindedness, farsightedness, and a progressive, forward-looking attitude would be recognized as the basic attributes."[2]. At Brown Doug practiced a double-major strategy, Spanish literature and Engineering in the first year, where his Spanish fluency qualified him to take a graduate seminar with the distinguished Spanish Literature Professor Juan Lopez-Morillas on the literature of the Golden Age.[3]. The sophomore year he studied American literature and Physics, including advanced calculus, the goal being to train for a profession that would combine the sciences and humanities. At the end of the year the Undergraduate Dean called him in to discuss the impossibility of continuing a science/humanity split major as an upperclassman. The Dean was adamant, claiming that the complexity of post-Einsteinian physics and sciences made it impossible to be a generalist and that one must specialize as a requirement of upper division. He made a point of 'The Education of Henry Adams' autobiography as the last instance of the successful spanning of history and physics, and that this sort of work was now impossible.

The opportunity to work as a substitute for an injured cattle ranch foreman in Colorado opened the possibility of learning about ecological management, engineering, physics and biology in a practice rather than theory. This occupied the summer and fall in 1961 and served exactly that purpose until Doug's mother came down with severe life-threatening lupus cancer. Returning to Mpls in December, Doug matriculated at the University of Minnesota, signing up for a graduate seminar with anthropologist James Gibbs (later Chair and Dean at Stanford) in Field Research Practicum. Doug insisted on continuing to support himself, working as a temp for Manpower, Inc., and studying opportunities to join one of the Unions. Gibbs's seminar took him into doing interviews with urban Ojibwa and intensive readings in ethnographic field studies.

  1. DRW note: it is probably as an unfortunate consequence of one American speaking his mind to these architects of the cold war that the school year program in Madrid was cancelled, leaving only the summer exchange program.
  3. Lopez-Morillas' later work on the Krausist period that set the ethical framework for the creativity of the generation of '98 is relevant to the American problem of rebuilding ethics and education in a period of culture and political wars over class privileges following an outburst of economic inequality.

Summer research in Veracruz and Guatemala

Mario Orozco y Rivera mural, Jalapa, Palacio del Gobierno

Also performing in Spanish language theater at the U of M, he received an invitation from three exchange students from the University of Veracruz (Jalapa), to join their Institute of Ethnography program and conduct ethnographic training under the supervision of Lini M. de Vries, and Anthropology Professors José Luis Reyes Utrera, and Marcelo Diaz de Salas (his 1963 publication is ciited by A Medina Hernández 2004 in Veinte años de Antropología Mexicana. La configuración de una Antropologia del sur). Doug contracted with Gibbs to have credits transferred to the U of M for a six-month field-supervised research experience under the Jalapa faculty. These studies were carried out at the pueblo of Acatlán and published as an undergraduate honors thesis at the U of M.

Casa Na Bolom in San Miguel, Chiapas

One of Doug's best friends in Jalapa was the muralist and artist Mario Orozco y Rivera. Doug did seven month study of Acatlan in the Totonac highlands of Veracruz working under supervision of Marcelo Diaz de Salas and Jose Luis Reyes at the University of Veracruz in the capiral city of Xalapa. His University of Minnesota Honors Thesis advisor for this study was Professor James L. Gibbs with whom he had taken a Fieldwork training seminar. With students from the Jalapa institute and the Reyes/Diaz de Sala Anthropology classes, the students did an intensive team study of the fall celebration of the miraculous Virgin de los Remedios. This student field-training group also did short field studies of coastal Veracruz communities, each doing 3-4 villages or towns in 3-4 day stints. Again this was directed by Professors Salas and Reyes. Many of these students also traveled in Doug's VW bus to towns and villages with classical Totonac archaeological sites of the region and to the Mexico City 1962 35th Congress of Americanists, where they met John Murra, and Franz and Trudy Blom. By the time Doug returned the next summer to visit the Casa Na Bolom "monastry" in San Miguel de las Casas, on the way to Guatemala City courses in Caribbean Ethnography by Nancie Gonzalez, Franz had died by Trudy carried on with an entourage of anthropological visitors.

After returning to the U of M in the fall of senior year, Doug completed coursework for a BA in Anthropology and Latin American studies and won an National NSF graduate fellowship to enter the U of M graduate school in the Anthropology Department.

Graduate schools

In year one at the U. of M. Doug participated in fieldwork for the Northern Minnesota Culture and Personality research project under Pertti J. Pelto and worked again with Ojibwa, this time in the northern Ojibwa territories and reservations. With the NSF grant expiring, he won a national NIMH award to fund the remainder of graduate school. With E. Adamson Hoebel as graduate advisor, and with a thesis in draft on Native American communities, he petitioned to the Traveling Scholars program to take a semester of credits at the University of Michigan for seminar work with Eric Wolf, Marshall Sahlins, Leslie White in Anthropology and with Frank Harary, Louis Guttman and Clyde Coomb in Mathematical Psychology. In the third year he did petitioned for a semester of credits at Columbia University working with Andrew Vayda, Marvin Harris, and Robert Murphy in Anthropology and Paul Lazarsfeld in Mathematical Sociology. After completing a fourth year, visiting Northwestern in the fall studying with Rudolph Rummel and Donald Campbell and completing the year back at the U. of M., with a thesis draft in hand, he took an Assistant Professor job at the University of Pittsburgh.

Creator of SRAS and MECCA

During graduate school White created the Societal Research Archives System[1] The article lists 56 studies using cross-cultural samples for which sample composition is given against a master list of cultures and data are available for each, together with a codebook. It provides a design for data-storage, retrieval, and analytic programs to be available in an internet-like environment. The forerunner of this environment was provided in the summer of his first year on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh, implemented throughout New England colleges and high schools under John Kemeny's Dartmouth project IMPRESS. SRAS was transformed the into a larger on-line educational system, the Maximum Extensibility for Comparative Analysis (MECCA) database, codebook and analytical system that was a prototype for how the Standard-Cross-Cultural Sample SCCS data is distributed today.


  1. Douglas R. White. 1968. Societal Research Archives System: Retrieval, Quality Control and Analysis of Comparative Data. Social Science Information 7(3): 78-94. Chapter 35, pp 676-685, in R. Naroll and R. Cohen, Handbook of Method in Cultural Anthropology.

Co-creator of SCCS with G. P. Murdock, 1969

Joining with Murdock to propose and produce the SCCS, funded in two successive three-year research awards from the National Science Foundation, solved three major problems:

  1. The SRAS project demonstrated that overlaps of samples used by independent researchers were too small to combine variables for societies in overlapping samples. SCCS created on large (n=186) sample on which coding efforts from different researcher could rely on the full sample.
  2. The SCCS societies were pinpointed in place and time for each society to be coded.
  3. The choice of SCCS societies was based on bibliographies of extant ethnographies relevant to the pinpointed place and time.

The NSF funds that supported the Pittsburgh Cumulative Cross-Cultural Coding Center for the SCCS produced roughtly 650 coded variables. Other researchers have since contributed approximately 1400 new variables.

White's book with Weaver while at University of Pittsburgh

  • The Anthropology of Urban Environments (Society for Applied Anthropology, Monograph Series, 1972, with Thomas Weaver).

The 2-year Irish national research projects of Lilyan and Douglas White in 1972-1974

  • Tuaraiscail: Report of the Committee on Language Attitudes Research Regarding Irish (5 volumes, Dublin: Government Printing Office, 1975, with Lilyan A. Brudner)

The 1-year Tlaxcalan research projects of Douglas White and Lilyan (Brudner)-White in 1975-76

(photo of team top right)

White collaborated in California with Alan Lomax on "The Global Jukebox" youtube video database

Alan_Lomax#The_Atlas.2C_SCCS_and_Douglas_White_contributions included initial coordination with Lomax on choice of cross-cultural sample for his Dance and Human History and other Cultural Equity coded datasets.

CoSSci designer Doug White also collaborated with Alan Lomax on the database for "The Global Jukebox" youtube video that is clickable here.

Between 1980-82 White was in close contact with Lomax on his plans for the "Global Jukebox" and asked White if he would help to reprogram Lomax's "Dance" and "Song Style" databases from the Columbia University IBM format and provide a basis for moving his programs to a PC format on the 1978 Apple II+ with UCSD Pascal software. White completed a protosystem for reading, writing, and analyzing Lomax's datasets by 1979. This was the system ported to Lomax's working computer sites on PCs at Columbia University. White has the original Apple II+ in storage and the original floppy disks. Lomax moved the Global Jukebox project to Columbia in the early 1980s and at the age of 81 in 1996 produced the first videotape demo of his life work as "the Global Jukebox", a finished work, with societies approximated by the SCCS and the Ethnographic Atlas. Lomax says in the youtube video: This is “the first democratic educational machine.” It is now available at the CoSSci Gateway.

(Under the following heading: "Alan Lomax reached a lifetime goal in 1996 of “the first democratic educational machine” demonstrated here as the “Global Jukebox,” youtube videos spread across the world, helped by the data and placement of SCCS and the EthnoAtlas, and White's early help in programming.")

White's books with colleagues at UC Irvine

Books and selected publications results of the Alexander von Humboldt Distinguished Scientist Award at Uni Cologne

  • Network Analysis and Ethnographic Problems: Process Models of a Turkish Nomad Clan (Lexington Press, 2004; paperback 2006, with Ulla Johansen) --- description. DOUGLAS R. WHITE AND ULLA C. JOHANSEN Paperback $52.99.
  • Using network visualization and the study of the dynamics of marriage choices, Network Analysis and Ethnographic Problems expands the theory of social practice to show how changes in the structure of a society's kinship network affect the development of social cohesion over time. Using the genealogical networks of a Turkish nomad clan, authors Douglas White and Ulla Johansen explore how changes in network cohesion are revealed to be indicative of key processes of social change. This approach alters in fundamental ways the anthropological concepts of social structure, organizational dynamics, social cohesion, marriage strategies, as well as the study of community politics within the dynamics of ongoing personal interaction.
  • Kinship, Networks, and Exchange (Structural Analysis in the Social Sciences) (Cambridge University Press, 1998, edited, with Thomas Schweizer)

Selected publications

Vita in pdf

Some problems explored

  • How to do longitudinal studies of communities, human groups, and historical evolution in ways that connect to the dynamics of causal processes to include the effects on human communities of ups and downs of regional and world markets, internal wars, sociopolitical violence, external wars, ecological deplation, effects of global warming, etcetera (See: Realistic modeling of complex interactive systems).
  • How best to model (Wikipedia:mathematical modeling) social, economic, and historical dynamics in terms of equilibrium or disequilibrium process, how to employ statistical entailment analysis, and problems raised by complex interactions such as Galton's problem. This concern is now examined through five cross-cultural datasets using GeoPhyloRegression, an extension of Dow-Eff or DEf01f R software and the Galaxy - CoSSci online software that imputes missing data and computes controls for autocorrelation (Galton's problem). The datasets are SCCS, the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample of Murdock and White (1969) containing circa 2,500 variables, the EA, Murdock's (1967) Ethnographic Atlas of 1,267 societies and 102 variables, the LRB Forager Sample of Lewis R. Binford (1991) of 137 societies, the WNAI Western North America Sample of Joseph G. Jorgensen (1985), and the XC Extended Cultural sample combining these datasets, by Anthon Eff.
  • How to couple social network analyses to a more specific concern with network realism and how to define a more general network realism paradigm
  • how to use network simulation, and network modeling tools like regular equivalence, flow Wikipedia:centrality, and other concepts to increase realistic explanatory power of network modeling
  • How to test and improve the quality of ethnographic models and understandings such as the Natchez Class Paradox, the Australian Demographic Paradox, etc.
  • How to improve and explore the fundamental complex network processes and issues of social complexity and social system dynamics through network simulations such as the complex-network.
  • How to match the parameters of these models with those measured in comparative empirical network studies
  • How to use the relatively sparse quantitative data on cities to understanding urban system dynamics over the last millennium, and similarly for
  • world system dynamics,
  • trade flow centralities, flow centrality, and
  • trade network dynamics

Some journal articles on these topics

Complexity Perspectives in Innovation and Social Change]. D.Lane, D.Pumain, S. van der Leeuw and G.West (eds). Berlin: Springer (Methodos series).

Highlight picture.jpg
This work on implications of network feedback and feedforward processes provides one of the foundational network simulations for understanding complex networks. Tsallis is a founder of nonextensive physics, and Farmer a developer of chaos theory. The implications of this type of model are carried further in Thurner, Kyriakopoulos and Tsallis, 2007, Unified Model for Network Dynamics Exhibiting Nonextensive Statistics Phys. Rev. E 76, 036111 (8 pages). See also

For other publications see: [1] [2][3]

Current teaching: courses

Fall-Winter-Spring (may be taken multiple times, 1-9 quarters, 1.33 credits per quarter) UCI Course signup from other UC Campuses

  1. Courses (undergrad) 2008 fall: Networks and Complexity (open for enrollment)
  2. Seminars 2008 SOC SCI 240A (fall 72100): Networks and Complexity (open for enrollment) - multicampus videoconference;
  3. Seminars 2009 winter Network Theory and Social Complexity;

Fall 2007 Course 174AW Human Social Complexity and World Cultures.

Spring Seminar Anthropological Methods and Models 2008 (taught at UCSD, UCI students by interactive video)

my courses and seminar home pages -

Current projects discussed on the wiki

  1. Tipp - TIPP Kinship and computing‎
  2. Structure k-cohesion experiment
  3. Vision statement: Human Societies Project
  4. A new style of teaching - EduMod
  5. Tsallis q distribution project: Tambayong, Clauset, Shalizi, White
  6. Tsallis q historical cities and city-sizes White, Tambayong
  7. Reconstructing evolutionary trees Bhattacharya, Gell-Mann
  8. Statistical topic model project Smyth, White,
  9. Averting a Runaway Massive Planetary-Systems Breakdown White, Harrison
  10. Kinsources
  11. The P-graph/Pajek marriage census

With MA Advisor and Colleague Pertti J. Pelto



University of California Complexity Events

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