The mathematical analysis of dynamics has opened up possibilities for innovative approaches in the study of culture, not only enabling the numerical manipulation of cultural data but offering tools, models and concepts for understanding the intensities of cultural change. The proposed coordinated action, A Topological Approach to Cultural Dynamics (ATACD), aims to provide an infrastructure for the sharing and consolidation of topological approaches to the study of cultural dynamics across disciplines.
On April 17 and 18, V2_ will organize and host the second colloquium for the project A Topological Approach to Cultural Dynamics (ATACD), initiated by Goldsmiths University of London in collaboration with 22 other European universities. ATACD project is part of the EU's Sixth Framework (NEST) program. A public event connected to the closed ATACD colloquium will take place on April 16 at the Piet Zwart Institute and on April 17 at V2_ as part of the Test_Lab series.
Put simply, topology is the study of structural invariance under deformation. What makes it especially useful in the study of cultural dynamics is that it captures almost everything in our intuition of continuity. And what makes it a distinctive approach to the study of cultural dynamics vis-à-vis other approaches is that it provides tools for understanding culture that are neither typological nor topographic. This means that it enables the study of:
1. cultural change as normal and immanent rather than exceptional and externally determined;
2. cultures as constituted in relationships rather than having essential properties;
3. cultures as intensive, not extensive: that is, cultures are defined by possibilities for change rather than size or location.
A topological approach to cultural dynamics thus provides a set of tools and concepts for thinking about different levels and kinds of change - learning, transmission, and innovation - as normal, relational and intensive. The approach is especially useful at the present time of rapid cultural change as it makes possible the study of values while avoiding normative judgments.