• cultural software;
  • complexity;
  • emergence;
  • science education


This special issue of the Journal of Research in Science Teaching seeks to explore conceptualizations of culture that address contemporary challenges in science education. Toward this end, we unite two theoretical perspectives to advance a conceptualization of culture as a complex system, emerging from iterative processes of cultural bricolage, that is, a cyclic (re)application, and adaptation via approximation, of cultural tools to contexts as they uniquely arise. This conception of culture provides a means for transmission of culture from one individual to another, but it also allows for substantial diversity of individual perspectives within a cultural group in ways that supra-individual conceptions of culture do not. What is more, this diversity of individuals provides a mechanism for cultural evolution and simultaneously allows for an individual to be shaped by culture and culture to be shaped by the individual. Culture, in this conception, is understood to be an emergent phenomenon, built up from iterative application of cultural software. Implications are considered with respect to further development toward a theoretical framework; educational research agenda and methodology; and education policy—particularly in the context of science education. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 50:122–136, 2013