I’ve just uploaded on SocArXiv a new preprint, A cultural evolution approach to digital media, where I suggest (surprise!) that cultural evolution provides some interesting tools to analyse digital media.
I explore at some length two topics: (i) How cultural transmission biases, whose existence is generally justified with their adaptivity in small-scale societies, operate in the context of digital media, where, for example, prestigious individuals possess not-relevant skills, or popularity is explicitly quantified and advertised. (ii) How the fact that digital media support cheap and fast high-fidelity transmission may influence the content of what is transmitted (this second point is based on a previous discussion on differences between preservative and reconstructive transmission developed here).
I propose, in general, that cultural evolution could be useful to take a “long view” to current changes, helping to understand what is new and what is not. I also realised, by working to the manuscript, that cultural evolution suggests (well, at least to me…) a more relaxed attitude towards digital media in respect to what is the current common sense (see some dramatic titles here or here, but examples abound).
The manuscript is a sort-of review. Sort-of because there is not much previous research (if any at all!) on digital media from a cultural evolution perspective, so I discuss some cultural evolution works that could be linked to digital media and some works on digital media that could be linked to cultural evolution. On the other side, the overall academic literature on digital media is enormous, and I did not even tried a proper review. If it would not sound weirdly pompous it could be defined a position paper. In other words, I suggest some possible ideas for further research, experiments, and data collection.
The preprint is aimed to non cultural-evolution-specialist readers, and it is (hopefully) part of a bigger project (see here). In the meantime I’d be delighted to have any sort of feedback e.g. does it present an accurate image of cultural evolution research? Is it understandable for non cultural evolutionists? Is there some important work I am missing? Are my research suggestions vaguely interesting? Are there other possibilities equally (or more) interesting?
[photo Creative Commons licence from flickr – click for the original]