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Mechanisms of cultural evolution

Mechanisms of cultural evolution

Mechanisms of cultural evolution (Something like a Developmental Evolutionary take on culture)
Claes Andersson
Chalmers University of Technology

Insite Project

May 12, 2014
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  1. Mechanisms of cultural evolution
    (Something like a Developmental Evolutionary take on culture)
    Claes Andersson
    Chalmers University of Technology
    [email protected]

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  2. The main ingredients
    • Exaptive bootstrapping (E.g. Lane 2011)
    • Generative Entrenchment (E.g. Wimsatt and Griesemer 2007)
    • Multi-Level Perspective/Technical Change
    Theory (e.g. Geels and Schot 2007)
    A provisional developmental model for cultural
    change on the evolutionary time scale
    (Andersson, Törnberg and Törnberg 2014)
    • Lane, D. A. (2011). Complexity and Innovation Dynamics. In C. Antonelli (Ed.), Handbook on the Economic Complexity of Technological Change (pp. 63–80).
    Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.
    • Wimsatt, W. C., & Griesemer, J. R. (2007). Reproducing Entrenchments to Scaffold Culture: The Central Role of Development in Cultural Evolution. In R.
    Sansom & R. N. Brandon (Eds.), Integrating Evolution and Development: From Theory to Practice (pp. 227–323). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    • Geels, F., & Schot, J. (2007). Typology of sociotechnical transition pathways. Research Policy, 36(3), 399–417.
    • Andersson, C., Törnberg, A., & Törnberg, P. (2014). An Evolutionary Developmental Approach to Cultural Evolution. Current Anthropology, 55(2), 154–174.

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  3. Agent-Artifact Space
    • Agents and Artifacts linked – a network
    • Change propagates in the network
    • Cascades of reconfigurations
    • Innovation triggers innovation

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  4. Some basic concepts:
    Affordances: potential functions – immense and
    undeterminable space
    Attributed function: what the structure is actually
    used for. Not necessarily known! (e.g. A mythological motivation for
    a practice may be crucial for maintaining it – e.g. by sublimating it – but this may not at all be
    identified by the culture)
    Exaptation: Something is put to a new use (as is, or
    combined with something else) – which places it
    under different criteria of change, e.g. splitting.

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  5. Exaptive Bootstrapping
    E.g. Lane (2011) describes innovation in this Agent-Artifact
    space is described as Exaptive Bootstrapping; a five-step cycle:
    1. New artifact types are designed to achieve some particular attribution of
    functionality.
    2. Organizational transformations are constructed to proliferate the use of tokens of
    the new type.
    3. Novel patterns of human interaction emerge around these artifacts in use.
    4. New attributions of functionality are generated – by participants or observers –
    to describe what the participants in these interactions are obtaining or might
    obtain from them.
    5. New artifacts are conceived and designed to instantiate the new attributed
    functionality.
    #1=#5 – It’s a bootstrapping cycle

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  6. Structure, instutions...
    • Heterogenous and structured
    • Links differ in type and strength
    • There are clusters, hierarchy and so
    on: agents and artifacts entangled
    within and across levels of
    organization and abstraction
    Highly challenging...

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  7. Hierarchy #1 - Regimes
    • Regimes: tangles of structures and
    institutions
    • Less centralized than institutions.
    • No particular level – hierarchically
    nested
    • E.g. Automobility, pyrotechnology,
    animal management.
    Automobility is tangled up with ideological, technological
    and economical factors – stake holders with a range of
    interaction modes (competing, but with certain common
    interests, etc.)

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  8. Hierarchy #2: Generative Entrenchment
    • What brings hierarchization?
    • Generative Entrenchment important model
    In terms of how entangled components are, we
    get a core-periphery axis of hierarchization
    Core
    Perifery

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  9. Generative Entrenchment
    Changes cascade through the system
    Change is more likely to be preserved the ”better”
    its net effect is.
    In a tuned system, change is more likely to be
    deleterious than beneficial.
    Changes near the Core have lower likelyhood of
    not causing damaging effects.
    This is because they have more dependent
    downstream elements
    The Core will have inertia and the periphery will
    be more flexible
    The Core is Entrenched
    Inert
    Flexible

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  10. Flexibility because of inertia – and the
    other way around
    Central elements (nuts & bolts, general ideas, components...) define design spaces
    More peripheral elements have more the character of being designs in design spaces
    Sociotechnical systems are thereby flexible and inert at the same time
    The innovation society generates a profusion of innovation: but not ANY innovation!
    Notably: it is incapable of mopping up all the negative side effects of the profusion of
    innovations that it causes!
    The innovation society is entrenched: it is part of a design space within which we
    devise our solutions.
    (The ”innovation as a search process” paradigm clearly concerns re-organization in the periphery!)

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  11. The Core
    The innovation society is part of what we call
    The Core
    An entrenched tangle of Regimes that make up
    ”a way of life” – a prevalent design space
    Innovation is subordinated to the pace set by
    this Core

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  12. Transition: changing Cores
    Transition – and stasis – are evolutionary phenomena
    Conceived as the replacement of an Old Core by a New Core
    Prodromal Bootstrapping Entrenchment
    Old Core New Core

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  13. Prodromal phase – setting the scene
    Minor Regimes: Covering for the Core – things at the side that cover for things
    that it cannot really deal with... (social innovation?)
    Substrate: A ”soup” of Minor Regimes that survive in important but marginal
    niches... Where they are refined.
    The Prodromal Phase may be mistaken as a gradual accumulation of
    the New Core – it is not!
    We rely on the Core – changing it generates destructive cascades.
    But the substrate undermines it...
    Prodromal Bootstrapping Entrenchment
    Old Core New Core

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  14. Bootstrapping Phase #1
    Push – Pull: Two things needed for transition...
    1) A Substrate of refined Minor Regimes that provide the
    embryo of an alternative
    2) A destabilized Old Core: by the Substrate, by an accumulation
    of negative by-effects of its innovations, by external events...
    Prodromal Bootstrapping Entrenchment
    Old Core New Core

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  15. Bootstrapping Phase #2
    Once this happens – the Old Core no longer sets the pace!
    Innovation reaches the Core – to a large extent by building upon the
    Substrate of Minor Regimes...
    But also by re-organizing fragments of the Old Core into new roles!
    Cascades of profound innovation on a level that constructs new major design
    spaces
    Prodromal Bootstrapping Entrenchment
    Old Core New Core

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  16. Entrenchment Phase
    Prodromal Bootstrapping Entrenchment
    Old Core New Core
    A New Core takes shape...
    The more that gets constructed on top of it...
    ...and the more refined it becomes...
    The more Generatively Entrenched it becomes

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