Sunday, August 16, 2015

The “Cultural Reticulum”, a Term in the Study of Cultural Evolution

I’ve long held the view that the environment to which cultural “things” must adapt is the human mind. But not the individual mind. Rather, a bunch of individual minds interacting in a group.

What’s a good term for that? For the most part I’ve just been using phrases like “the collective mind” or “the group mind”. But those things don’t feel right. “Collective mind” is just a bit too close to “the collective unconscious” and anyhow collective itself, well, it feels a little off. Same with “group”. I guess the problem is that these terms don’t imply enough play for the individual humans they gather together. And I do think we need some play for the individuals.

So what term could I use? Well, there’s network, and networks are all the rage these days. That in itself is a problem. “The cultural network” is just another network. “Web” and “mesh” have similar issues. I’ve also considered “matrix” and “lattice”. “Cultural matrix” does have possibilities, but it bumps into those SF movies about humans in vats living their lives in virtual reality.

And then it hit me, the reticulum, the cultural reticulum. I like that. “Reticulum” is a bit strange, even exotic, but it’s not a new term at all. So in adopting it I’m not violating my preference for avoiding neologisms. And it’s one of those terms that means network, more or less.

So, it’s got a suitable core meaning, but is new to the arena where I propose to use it. Which means I can give it the meaning I need for it, namely the ever shifting network of humans interacting in a social group.

The cultural reticulum, aka the reticulum.


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