Virtual Symposia

Imitation, Memory and Cultural Changes: Probing the Meme Hypothesis

Computational Memetics

Michael Best


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A cultural transmission theory would attempt to explain how “content” moves within a social network. Memetics entails such a transmission theory but adds an evolutionary- theoretic explanation of the cultural unit of selection and cultural design for selection – that is the accumulation of adaptations. I have been exploring computational tools to study both transmission and adaptation of cultural units within online text corpora. The system core relies on basic principles of text analysis and natural language processing. Findings include identification of a putative meme and adaptive significance.

Michael L. Best is a Fellow with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, and an Assistant Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, and College of Computing). His research bears upon the engineering of new technologies, public policies interventions, as well as social and economic assessments. He is co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Information Technologies and International Development (MIT Press).