Photo by: Kristy Salsbury, UCI, 2012

James R. Hull

Lecturer, PSOE
School of Social Sciences
4169 Social Science Plaza A
Office: 949.824.5691

Teaching at Irvine

I joined the faculty at UC Irvine in the Fall of 2012 as a lecturer with potential security of employment (PSOE) in the School of Social Sciences.

Chief among my duties as an educator, mentor, and member of the Irvine community is preparing and inspiring our undergraduate and graduate students in the School of Social sciences to make vital, innovative contributions to solving pressing social problems now and in the future.

In the classroom, I aim to provide students with high-quality instruction in the art and science of social data collection and analysis, probability and statistics for the social sciences, and many other fundamental research skills from my own field of sociology and from the wider pool of social research methods. Both technical and philosophical considerations feature prominently in my approach to teaching these methods.

Research Synopsis

I am presently committed to extending knowledge on two fronts.

First, I am working to build a better understanding the role of economic and social exchange in broader contexts. In particular, my research has focused on processes of household capital accumulation and decision-making about key resources – land, crops, and the allocation of household labor. I also examine the transition from a barter economy to a cash economy through the lens of social structure, investigating the impacts of shifting exchange media on social networks, agricultural intensification, and labor mobility, among other phenomena.

These investigations have relied upon high-quality longitudinal data collection efforts spanning multiple decades in two major regions – a rural province in Northeastern Thailand and, more recently, study sites in the Brazilian states of Pará and Mato Grosso. Incorporating multiple sites at various stages of frontier and post-frontier development has enabled my colleagues and I to generate comparative cross-contextual hypotheses about shared drivers of changes to vital sources of wealth – in land use and natural capital, social capital, education and human capital, and financial capital and monetary wealth.

Second, I am also deeply committed to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and to seeking out novel technologies and applications to improve classroom management, pedagogical communication, and learning outcomes generally.

Specifically, I am interested in expanding methods and frameworks to better utilize the voluminous “stream” of longitudinal data that is produced by students during a typical quarter or semester in the form of time-stamped micro-interactions with instructors, fellow students, and even course materials.

One of the emerging indirect consequences of increasingly digital classrooms is the automated generation of a data trail including nearly every keystroke a student makes. Emails to instructional staff, time spent reviewing course videos or reading online documents, edits made to online course assignments and the time of editing, posts to message boards – these and many other forms of passive electronic monitoring give us an unprecedented view into, for example not just which students do which assignments and what their final score is but how long it took each student, how many stops and starts were made, which students were working concurrently and far more.

Much of this is already available, or easily attainable, for the course instructor to review, but at present there is no strong literature in the sociology of teaching describing the complex data management and analysis issues pertaining to datasets of this size and richness. A number of privacy and ethical issues are also raised by these data. FERPA compliance is the most obvious, but other less obvious concerns include safeguards against biased student evaluation based upon a highly detailed portrait of a student’s work habits, challenges in publishing the findings from such research due to the difficulty in aggregating and/or anonymizing such personalized micro-level data (especially if and geo-coded data are collected), and the technical complexities raised should a student wish not to opt in to such data collection efforts when the status quo system collects such data by default with no exceptions in conventional off-the-shelf instructional technologies.

The end goal of studying the technical aspects of student data collection is both to support more traditional pedagogical scholarship as well as to expand the range of teaching and learning behaviors that can be studied and used to enhance overall teaching effectiveness.

Professional History

Before coming to UC Irvine, I was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and before that, I worked as an NSF IGERT Predoctoral Trainee at the Carolina Population Center while I was completing my dissertation, which was entitled, “Monetization: A Theory and Applications.” That work establishes a theoretical foundation for the sociological study of money and monetization and helps to connect this pervasive economic and social phenomenon to changes in social structure, lives, and livelihoods in the context of historically agricultural economies.


Ph.D., Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2010
M.A., Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2006
B.A., Sociology, Hope College, Holland, Michigan, 2002