Phylogenetic reconstruction of the cultural evolution of electronic music via dynamic community detection (1975–1999)

Mason Youngblood, Karim Baraghith, Patrick E. Savage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Phylogenetic trees or networks representing cultural evolution are typically built using methods from biology that use similarities and differences in cultural traits to infer the historical relationships between the populations that produced them. While these methods have yielded important insights, researchers continue to debate the extent to which cultural phylogenies are tree-like or reticulated due to high levels of horizontal transmission. In this study, we propose a novel method for phylogenetic reconstruction using dynamic community detection that focuses not on the cultural traits themselves (e.g., musical features), but the people creating them (musicians). We used data from 1,498,483 collaborative relationships between electronic music artists to construct a cultural phylogeny based on observed population structure. The results suggest that, although vertical transmission appears to be dominant, the potential for horizontal transmission (indexed by between-population linkage) is relatively high and populations never become fully isolated from one another. In addition, we found evidence that electronic music diversity has increased between 1975 and 1999. The method used in this study is available as a new R package called DynCommPhylo. Future studies should apply this method to other cultural systems such as academic publishing and film, as well as biological systems where high resolution reproductive data is available, and develop formal inferential models to assess how levels of reticulation in evolution vary across domains.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-582
Number of pages10
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Nov


  • Community detection
  • Cultural evolution
  • Electronic music
  • Horizontal transmission
  • Phylogenetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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