CCI Symposium 14: Jason Potts


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CCI in Retrospect and Prospect is an in-depth exploration of CCI's influence, impact and contributions since 2005, as well as its ongoing agenda.

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CCI Symposium 14: Jason Potts

  1. 1. Intro 1. Curiously Parallel – The Nature of Culture Part I: Culture Makes Groups 2. Externalism – Identity (‘Me’ is ‘We’) 3. Demes – Universal-Adversarial Groupishness 4. Malvoisine – Bad Neighbours 5. Citizens – Demic Concentration Creates Knowledge Part II: Groups Make Knowledge 6. Meaningfulness – The Growth of Knowledge 7. Newness – Innovation 8. Waste – Reproductive Success 9. Extinction – Resilience and Ossification Part III: Outro 10. A Natural History of Demic Concentration
  2. 2. The purpose of a cultural science is to provide an analytic framework for a general reconceptualisation of the theory of culture – in the original cultural studies ‘ordinary uses’ sense – one that is focused not on its political aspect but rather its evolutionary significance as a generator of newness and innovation.
  3. 3. Rereading Darwinian’s evolutionary theory Raymond Williams 'culture is ordinary’ semiotics (Lotman) economic theory (from Schumpeter to McCloskey) evolutionary science (Pagel & Gintis…) Building blocks of Cultural Science A Natural History of Stories, Demes, Knowledge & Innovation
  4. 4. Externalism We don’t make culture, Culture makes us Communication creates individuals - Luhmann H. Sapiens is an extremely groupish animal – that is our evolutionary niche
  5. 5. Demic concentration • deme (biology) inter-breeding pop. • deme/demos (political) inter-voting pop./citizen • Deme (cultural science) inter-knowing group • Demic diffusion (Cavelli-Sforza 2000) – Knowledge in a population changes because individuals move into new populations • Demic concentration (Hartley-Potts 2014) – Knowledge in a population changes because the group boundaries change
  6. 6. Demes • ‘We-group’ (against ‘they-group’) • Universal adversarial • Demes are created by culture, especially storytelling – Girlworld (Tavi Gevinson) – Australian national character (& war journalism) – Granddads (& stories they tell) – Neolithic revolution (Göbekli Tepe) • Demic concentration makes knowledge/identity/meaningfulness
  7. 7. Malvoisine • A groupish animal – Bad neighbours have different knowledge: when you fight & defeat them: what happens to knowledge? – Biologists say: group selection theory – Cultural science: this (conquest) is actually cooperation • The clash of systems & demes is productive of newness, meaningfulness and successful reproduction of culture • What happens when culture gets big/global?
  8. 8. citizens & cities urban culture and citizenship can best be explained by investigating how culture is used, and how newness and innovation emerge from unstable and contested boundaries between different meaning systems
  9. 9. meaningfulness • Evolutionary theory resisted in the humanities • growth of knowledge: elements of culture/‘memes’ etc? 1. Culture is not the issue, meaningfulness is 2. Meaningfulness evolves 3. Meaningfulness is complex and semiotic Example: the invention of the gentleman: a cultural innovation that created new demes
  10. 10. newness • Culture is Janus-faced – Looking back: preservation/protection – Looking forward: newness Three theories of dynamic origin 1. Randomness makes variety 2. Consciousness makes creativity 3. Demes make newness Hutter & Stark’s economic sociology of newness: structural folds, tension, irrita tion
  11. 11. waste • Optimal efficiency of cultural production is … really, really wasteful (just like in nature) • Because that’s how communication works • Example: the childish invention of culture
  12. 12. extinction • ‘a prosocial groupish animal, honed by conflict & extinction’ • Cultural protection & cultural extinction – Cultural protection (UNESCO) = ossification – Cultural extinction is loss of meaningfulness, not failure to replicate – it is also ‘demically relativistic’ (conquest as cooperation) – Creative cities as model of open cultural systems
  13. 13. Two applications [1] A Cultural Science Model of Innovation – Cultural explanation for innovation [2] A Natural History of Demic Concentration – A new theory of long duree/communications technology/economy
  14. 14. The cultural (science) model of innovation 1. Culture makes groups 2. Groups make knowledge 3. Newness occurs at the boundaries of groups – A new approach to cultural studies – A new approach to cultural economics – A new approach to innovation economics
  15. 15. What is culture? Cultural studies/ anthro/ sociology/ Cultural science Capital Stock Makes groups (a) Produced and consumed (high-culture, cultural industries, etc) Source of newness (b) Common knowledge, socially learned, institution-like, for social coordination Identity Statics/Politics Identity Dynamics/Evolution
  16. 16. Origin of innovation economics Cultural science Production function model Group dynamics and conflict model Invest in more inputs ‘We-group’ dynamics of meaningfulness ‘Externalized demic concentration’ Cooperation: combine factors/resources conflict, citizenry, childishness, cities Innovation policy = economic policy Innovation policy = cultural policy
  17. 17. A Natural History of Demic Concentration Updating McLuhan/Ong (human groups/ not minds) Deme = unit of semiosphere (Lotman) Hypothesis: number of demes-per-person grows with technology of knowledge reproduction. This gives us evolution in types of economy
  18. 18. Natural history of culture, knowledge- technology & economy • These epochs are a process: cumulative, separated by an ‘explosion’ • The plot is logarithmic, meaning acceleration • Increasing specialization; time/space expansion of demes; literacy; … What happens when demes-per-person increases? • Extent of access increases, & level of abstraction • Scale & wastefulness increase • Choice & imagination increase A scientific theory, makes predictions, a testable hypothesis…
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