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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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Communication and the Evolution of Cognition

Communication and the Evolution of Cognition

(p.125) 5 Communication and the Evolution of Cognition
Developing Scaffolds in Evolution, Culture, and Cognition

James A. Evans

The MIT Press

The cognitive institutions of knowledge and culture emerge, circulate, and evolve through communication. This chapter explores the scaffolding role of communication protocols and structures, which range from natural language to TCP/IP to electrochemical signaling via pheromones to networks like Facebook and the World Wide Web that emerge through interaction. I argue that by examining the process through which communication scaffolds knowledge and culture, we can understand how shifts in the (1) quantity and (2) quality of communication in a system influence its knowledge and culture. Communication enables information to be distributed, efficiently stored in and accessed through others. Rapid communication increases an individual’s reach to knowledge and culture across that system and consequently decreases the diameter and diversity of knowledge and culture as a whole. Communication also stores information in itself. The social structure of communication leaves a pattern that itself may be evaluated as compatible or incompatible with a sent message by the receiver. Together, these processes support, constrain and undercut the knowledge and culture that exist atop them.

Keywords:   World Wide Web, Cultural evolution, Scientific theory, Communication and culture, Plant biotechnology, Arabidopsis thaliana, Communication protocols, Standardization, Industry-university collaboration

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