Yesterday we had a full artificial culture project team meeting in Warwick, following on from the EmergeNet meeting on Thursday (see my blog post). An excellent meeting, significant because we are now exactly half way through the project. Having spent much of the first two years of the project building the artificial culture lab, the project is now moving into the experimental phase. Having built our microscope we can now start looking through it.
The experimental phase of the project brings new challenges and we spent much of yesterday's meeting discussing and crystallising the detailed research questions that our experiments must address. Of course project team members each have questions and ideas that we want to address within our respective disciplines, but there must be overarching project-wide questions. Alistair led this discussion, wisely warning against the 'so what' problem ("Hey we've discovered x. Hmm interesting, but so what"). Taking a theory motivated approach, Alistair proposes four research questions addressing some key problems with the memetic theory of cultural evolution:
- What is the effect of fidelity of imitation on meme transmission?
- What is the effect of selection?
- What is the effect of size/granularity (of the meme)?
- What is the effect of complexity within the meme?