As a part of my “Cultural Evolution in the Digital Age” exploration (see some previous posts, and here a preprint), I’ve recently read some non-academic books about the topic. This is not intended as a review and clearly not as an exhaustive list, but I decided to make a quick blog post as it may be of some interest. Also, I’d be certainly happy to receive other reading suggestions in the comments.
Almost three years ago I programmed a simple twitterbot (see here), namely a Python script that was posting every hour, when available, news or blog posts related to cultural evolution – hence the name @CultEvoBot. While the goal of the endeavour was mainly to see how difficult was to build something like that (it was easy!), and to use potentially what I learnt for other projects (I never did, but who knows!), @CultEvoBot was relatively useful and posted links to interesting sources, the majority of the time.
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.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I am beginning to collect some thoughts and materials for a project around the topic “Cultural Evolution in the Digital Age”. The goal of the exercise would be to investigate how new digital technologies change the process of cultural transmission and evolution, using methodological tools and ideas from cultural evolution theory (intended in a quite broad sense).
[I am starting to gather more systematically thoughts and materials about the topic “Cultural Evolution in the Digital Age”, including a twitter hashtag #CulturalEvolutionInTheDigitalAge where I plan to collect some recent – and less recent – papers, articles, discussions, etc. I hope to write at some point a more thorough introduction to this project. For now, here some extemporaneous reflections on the echo chambers phenomenon]