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The Cultural Evolution Society's Online Learning Series

Modeling the Dynamics of Cultural Diversification

Diversity and Diversification

In this tutorial we introduce users to metrics for diversity and diversification rates. We build a simulator to explore the diversification of lineages within a cultural form. Empirically, we contextualize these analyses within diversity of car models that make up American automobiles throughout the 20th century (Gjesfjeld et al. 2020).

Google Colaboratory Environment. These tutorials are built in the Google Colaboratory Environment. To access these tutorials, you must be logged in to a Google account with Google Colaboratory (Colab) installed. Colab is a free resource linked to Google accounts that runs Python notebooks on the cloud and attaches to your Google Drive. If you do not have Colab installed, it can be found here: https://gsuite.google.com/marketplace/app/colaboratory/1014160490159. When you open a Colab notebook, Google creates a virtual machine for you with Python and the most relevant scientific packages preinstalled. Because it is a complete virtual machine, you can also install your own Python packages, download software from Github, link files from your Google Drive, run command line programs, and use a GPU/TPU. We make use of some of these features throughout the tutorials. If you are new to Colab, an introduction, overview, and list of resources are available here: Welcome to Colaboratory.

How to start this tutorial

Key Takeaways

  • Culture can be understood as circulating populations of cultural representations, which we refer to as cultural lineages. Changes in the diversity of these cultural lineages can explain how culture emerges, stabilizes, or changes over time.
  • There are a variety of indices for highlighting different aspects of diversity and its change over time.
  • Diversification (birth and death) rates contain more information than indices because they describe processes of cultural origination and extinction.
  • Empirical diversifications rates are calculated as the number of births/deaths over total time lived in a time window. These snapshots are noisy representations of the true/theoretical rates.


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