I found, thanks to twitter-induced serendipity (others call it procrastination), the lyrics of the songs included in the annual Billboard Top-100 from 1965 to 2015 (i.e., considering a few missing, ~5,000 songs). You can find in GitHub, together with the raw data, some clarifications on how the data were collected, their limitations, etc. plus a pointer to a nice analysis already done.
An interesting article from Thom Scott-Phillips has been recently published in the Journal of Cognition and Culture: A (Simple) Experimental Demonstration that Cultural Evolution is not Replicative but Reconstructive – and an Explanations of Why this Difference Matters.
The article describes an experiment that nicely illustrates (“make flesh” in the words of Scott-Phillips) a thought experiment proposed by Dan Sperber. Shortly, imagine a Chinese whispers game, in which chains of individuals have to reproduce two drawings. One is a familiar configuration (in the specific case, the first three letters of the latin alphabet), while the other one is a meaningless scribble (see the image below, from Scott-Phillips’ paper).
[The first part is here]
In a successive series of models, published in Scientific Reports, we considered whether other individual-level mechanisms could potentially be mistaken for conformity, generating relations between frequency of a trait and probability to copy it that looked like sigmoids. We choose a few simple and plausible mechanisms (you can refer to the paper for details) and we found that two of them – on a total of seven tested, plus three controls – generated relations for which a sigmoid function produced a better fit than a linear one (see figure below). The codes for running all simulations (written in Matlab) are available through the Open Science Framework.
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.
One of the articles of my holiday-accumulated reading list was, given my current interest in the effects of digital media on cultural transmission and evolution (see here), Katherine Viner’s How technology disrupted the truth, a long read of the Guardian. The piece got extensive – and almost exclusively positive – attention (there are, when I write, 1,589 comments and around 64,000 shares). In fact, I found it quite hideous, and I believe it also embodies a widespread common-sense attitude towards digital technologies, and social media in particular, so I decided to write here some comments.