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Cultural Evolution in the Digital Age$
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Alberto Acerbi

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198835943

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198835943.001.0001

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A growing network for cultural transmission

A growing network for cultural transmission

(p.1) 1 A growing network for cultural transmission
Cultural Evolution in the Digital Age

Alberto Acerbi

Oxford University Press

The first chapter discusses how digital media increased, and are still increasing, the network in which cultural transmission can occur. Research inspired by the social brain hypothesis shows that our social networks did not change radically in the last years. The size of our digital social networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) is similar to the size of our offline social networks, and some of their characteristics, such as their geographical extension, are also comparable. Nonetheless, it is argued that digital connections, together with our tendency to share information for limited or null gains, made cultural transmission relatively detached from these networks. In cultural evolutionary terms, online digital media increased cultural population sizes, that is, the number of individuals with whom we may exchange information. This hyper-availability together with new opportunities pose new problems related to cultural evolution. One is that, when we can copy from everybody, it may become potentially more difficult to decide from whom we should.

Keywords:   social networks, social brain hypothesis, digital networks, cultural transmission, anonymity, cooperation, demography

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