This is a programmatic paper, marking out two directions in which the study of social media can contribute to broader problems of social science: understanding cultural evolution and understanding collective cognition. Under the first heading, I discuss some difficulties with the usual, adaptationist explanations of cultural phenomena, alternative explanations involving network diffusion effects, and some ways these could be tested using social-media data. Under the second I describe some of the ways in which social media could be used to study how the social organization of an epistemic community supports its collective cognitive performance.
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