Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Cultural Evolution in the Digital Age$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Alberto Acerbi

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198835943

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198835943.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 27 October 2020



(p.186) 8 Cumulation
Cultural Evolution in the Digital Age

Alberto Acerbi

Oxford University Press

Chapter 8 considers what cultural evolutionists call cumulative cultural evolution, that is, the idea that culture increases in complexity. For a cultural domain being defined as cumulative, it needs to show accumulation (more traits), improvement (traits are more efficient), and ratcheting (new traits build on previous innovations). The author proposes that this is not a necessary outcome, and that different domains show different signs of cumulation. It is suggested that the fidelity and the hyper-availability provided by digital media allow for more cumulation in domains where it was limited before. Not surprisingly, they also allow for the retention of vast amounts of useless information—junk culture. A central challenge for the coming years is thus finding efficient mechanisms of online cultural selection. Algorithmic selection is finally discussed, along with how mainstream criticisms, such as the fact that algorithms are biased or opaque to users, are not decisive arguments against their efficacy and utility.

Keywords:   cumulative culture, ratchet effect, online culture, junk culture, YouTube videos, algorithmic selection, algorithmic bias

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .