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Developing Scaffolds in Evolution, Culture, and Cognition$
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Linnda R. Caporael, James R. Griesemer, and William C. Wimsatt

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780262019552

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262019552.001.0001

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Entrenchment and Scaffolding

Entrenchment and Scaffolding

An Architecture for a Theory of Cultural Change

(p.77) 3 Entrenchment and Scaffolding
Developing Scaffolds in Evolution, Culture, and Cognition

William C. Wimsatt

The MIT Press

This chapter considers entrenchment and scaffolding, primarily in cultural and technological change or evolution. Because no extant account of cultural evolution casts the net broadly enough to include all necessary elements, we consider what is required. Diverse kinds of entrenchment and other factors are crucial in describing evolved complex organization. I consider especially the more complex cases where multiple entrenchment processes are operating simultaneously (common in cultural systems) and some of the complications this engenders. One very powerful kind of entrenchment, “combinatorial entrenchment,” where components are used as a constructional “alphabet” to make a wide variety of adaptive devices or artifacts, is a powerful force for standardization, and has often engendered adaptive radiations, both in biology and culture so I elaborate this process through a more detailed discussion of the emergence of interchangeable and standardized machine parts that was a major factor in midwifing the industrial revolution.

Keywords:   Scaffold, generative entrenchment, technology, interchangeable parts, modularity, standardization, cultural evolution, development, combinatorial

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