CSH Talk by Peter Klimek: “Counter-dominance signaling drives evolution of cultural elites: quantitative evidence from fashion cycles in music”

May 25, 2018 | 14:0015:30

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The lecture by Peter Klimek will take place at the Complexity Science Hub Vienna in Room 201.

If you are interested in participating, please email to office@csh.ac.at




Human symbol systems such as art and fashion styles emerge from complex social processes that govern the continuous re-organization of modern societies. They provide a signaling scheme that
allows members of an elite to distinguish themselves from the rest of society. E orts to understand the dynamics of art and fashion cycles have so far been based on costly signaling theory, where elite members signal their superior status by introducing new symbols (e.g. fashion{styles), which are subsequently adopted by low-status groups. In response to this adoption, the elite members need to introduce yet new symbols to signal their status. We propose an alternative explanation based on counter-dominance-signaling. There, members of the elite want others to imitate their symbols; changes only occur when outsider groups successfully challenge the elite by introducing signals that contrast those endorsed by members of the elite. To clarify the mechanism that actually drives fashion cycles in musical styles, we use a dynamic network approach on data containing almost 8 million musical albums released between 1956 and 2015. There a network systematically quanti es artistic similarities of competing musical styles;  By studying the dynamics of the network we can formulate statistical hypothesis tests for whether new symbols are introduced (i) by current elite members as predicted by costly signaling theory or (ii) as a consequence of challenges by peripheral groups through countersignals. We nd clear evidence that counter-dominance-signaling drives changes in musical styles. This provides a quantitative, completely data-driven answer to a century old debate about the nature of the underlying social dynamics of art and fashion cycles.


May 25, 2018


Complexity Science Hub Vienna
+43 1 59991 600
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CSH Vienna
Josefstaedter Straße 39
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+43 1 59991 600
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