Today I’m at the University of Virginia where I’ve met some terrific grad students involved in evolution and genetics. While wandering around, I also can’t help but also notice so many undergraduate women are wearing colorful rubber boots and it got me thinking about cultural evolution. I’ve yet to notice the trend at Duke, although perhaps it’s already making the commute 200 miles south. All of this makes me wonder about the distribution of popular styles and accessories and how interesting it would be to map the persistence of trends (perhaps using GIS?) over time. That said, I’ve a hunch that a quick scan of the literature would reveal some kind of related social models given we’re modeling everything these days from fisheries population dynamics to gene expression. I’ve no doubt the social scientists are on top of this one.
Still, I wonder how a new trend is born and what determines its boundaries. Surely there are always outliers, but many fads remain relatively localized as we shift latitude and longitude. For example, in Maine I expect to encounter Renys and Carhartts while in DC, long black coats and high heels are the norm. And how do such shifts occur temporally? What led to the end the Parachute pants phenomenon and how did emo get started and then go mainstream?
I’ve no real thesis with this post, nor the time to search the library here at Gilmer Hall on the UVA campus for data on population demographics. Yet it’s interesting to ponder on a rainy afternoon while waiting for a 3:30 lecture on plant genetics…