Artificial Cultures

Create your own living sub-culture.
For knowledge, enjoyment, and art.

Artificial Cultures was one of the ideas that spun off of New Wave Psychology. The basic idea is that there are ways to emulate, simulate, or artificially create "human culture" or "sub cultures." By doing these kinds of things we may further our knowledge of human culture and how it works. This notion that creating artificial or simulated cultures could be a method of understanding how "real" culture works is analogous to the concept of "artificial intelligence"--that by trying to duplicate/simulate/model human intelligence and human decision-making (e.g., using flow-charts, mathematical models, computer simulations), we advance our knowledge of how human intelligence works and perhaps even improve on its natural errors and flaws.

Artificial cultures--sub cultures and counter cultures--can be created out of a combination of elements including:

  • values & beliefs -- often conveyed by stories, myths, heroes & enemies
  • distinctive language & symbols
  • rituals & activities - including food, fashion, music, behaviors and games
  • organizations -- roles, statuses and norms in a social context

Examples of "artificial cultures" I was most interested in (see flyer below) seemed to share the following characteristics: they were "fake" organizations or groups based on a set of ideas or "ideology" that was embodied by a symbolic hero or central character, logo and other distinctive graphic symbols, and expressed through a distinctive set of music, fashions, art, accessories, and/or communication vehicles. Almost all of these artificial cultures also invited others to psychologically join the group or organization, participate in its objectives, and adopt its elements.

devo - church of subgenius - new wave psychology - kent chemical group
ideology - hero - graphic symbols - arts

Lectures on Artificial Cultures:

  • Washington College, Psychology Department (1982)
  • Kent State University, Graduate Art program (1984)

lecture flyer

© 2006 Allen Bukoff