Parallel Universes of Cultural Dynamics

  • Beginn: 08.04.2020
  • Ende: 10.04.2020
  • Vortragende(r): Various
  • Ort: MPI SHH Jena
  • Raum: Villa V14
  • Gastgeber: Oleg Sobchuk
  • Kontakt: sobchuck@shh.mpg.de
Parallel Universes of Cultural Dynamics

In the last decade, we have witnessed a growing interest in scientific approaches to cultural dynamics: that is, scientific approaches to the principles governing cultural change. They are scientific in both methodological and theoretical senses: they use quantitative, computational methods, and they often employ general, nomothetic theories (such as evolution theory). However, these approaches are often developed independently of one another, in distant parts of the academe. This independence comes with several pros and cons. One advantage is that the relative isolation between approaches can foster alternative solutions to important problems. However, this isolation can also mean that solutions are not easily transferred from one discipline to another. Each of these disciplines works on similar topics, produces comparable results, and yet, they often remain invisible to one another – as if existing in parallel universes.

What are these “universes”? Here are some examples:
• Cultural Evolution
• Complex Systems Theory (of Culture)
• (Cultural and Social) Network Science
• Language Evolution
• Cultural Attraction Theory
• Science, Technology, and Innovation studies
• Cultural Analytics (within Digital Humanities)
• Computational Social Science

Our idea is to gather researchers from these various disciplines and have a conversation about the similarities and differences. Specifically, we want to focus on a single question: What are the contributions of innovation and diffusion to cultural dynamics? “Innovation” refers to the emergence of cultural information in a population – for example, via recombination of already existing cultural items, via exaptation, or via mistake-like serendipity. “Diffusion” refers to the propagation of cultural information across time and space. What is the relative importance of the
two? What are the unsolved theoretical problems of innovation and diffusion? And what are the solutions suggested by each discipline?

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