New paper/Nouvelle publication

My paper ‘Mapping complex social transmission: Technical constraints on the evolution of cultures’ has been published in Biology & Philosophy. (pdf)

Mon article ‘Mapping complex social transmission: Technical constraints on the evolution of cultures’ a été publié dans Biology & Philosophy. (pdf)

Social transmission is at the core of cultural evolutionary theory. It occurs when a demonstrator uses mental representations to produce some public displays (utterances, behaviors, artifacts, etc.) which in turn allow a learner to acquire similar mental representations. Although cultural evolutionists do not dispute this view of social transmission, they typically abstract away from the multistep nature of the process when they speak of cultural variants at large, thereby referring both to variation and evolutionary change in mental representations as well as in their corresponding public displays. This conflation suggests that differentiating each step of the transmission process is redundant. In this paper, I examine different forms of interplay between the multistep nature of social transmission and the metric spaces used by cultural evolutionists to measure cultural variation and to model cultural change. I offer a conceptual analysis of what assumptions seem to be at work when cultural evolutionists conflate the complex causal sequence of social transmission as a single space of variation in which populations evolve. To this aim, I use the framework of variation spaces, a formal framework commonly used in evolutionary biology, and I develop two theoretical concepts, ‘technique’ and ‘technical space’, for addressing cases where the complexity of social transmission defies the handy assumption of a single variation space for cultural change.

Leave a comment

Filed under Papers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s