novice Buddhist, expert neurotic. writer. aspiring adult.
sophcw at gmail dot com
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Just finished the new book by my favorite media theorist. This one was, appropriately, a lot more all over the place than Life Inc. (which I still highly highly recommend to everyone), but I think there are a ton of really valuable ideas and insights in there and Rushkoff continues to see the world in a more future-facing yet compassionate way than nearly anyone else I’ve ever read.
The part that struck me the most way his last section, titled “Apocalypto” in which he discusses the rise of apocalyptic thinking from both religious and scientific communities as a narrative reaction to a perpetual, timeless, inescapable present.
I thought this quote he used was very apt, and the following quote of his near the end sums up a lot of his message.
By allowing the challenges of the 21st century to be hijacked by the apocalyptic storyline, we find ourselves awaiting a moment of clarity when the problems we must confront will become apparent to all—or when those challenges will magically disappear, like other failed prophecies about the end of the world. Yet the real challenges we must face are not future events that we imagine or dismiss through apocalyptic scenarios of collapse— they are existing trends. The evidence suggests that much of what we fear in the future—the collapse of the economy, the arrival of peak oil and global warming and resource wars—has already begun. We can wait forever, while the world unravels before our very eyes, for an apocalypse that won’t come.
- Mathew Barrett and Mel Gilles, The Last Myth
Thanks to self-replicating technologies such as computers, nanomachines, robots and genomics, the future does seem to be upon us. It feels as if we can see the writing on the wall as it rapidly approaches from the distance. What is too easy to forget is that we are the ones simultaneously scrawling that very writing. We are the ones now writing the programs that will execute at some point in the future. We are the ones embedding our future reality with the values we want reaching back to us from there. Truly living in this present becomes a form of time travel, in which everything we do actually matters to both our memory of the liquid past and, more importantly, the character of the unformed future.
- Douglas Rushkoff, Present Shock
Not the most uplifting read, but he does spend a few paragraphs discussing Community so clearly I loved it. Seriously though, a really fascinating read and full of ideas that I think are very important to consider in this strange new era we’re entering.
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Entirely possible that my plangent cries about the impossibility of rebelling against an aura that promotes and attenuates all rebellion says more about my residency inside that aura, my own lack of vision, than it does about any exhaustion of U.S. fiction’s possibilities. The next real literary “rebels” in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of “anti-rebels,” born oglers who dare to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse single-entendre values. Who treat old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and fatigue. These anti-rebels would be outdated, of course, before they even started. Too sincere. Clearly repressed. Backward, quaint, naive, anachronistic. Maybe that’ll be the point, why they’ll be the next real rebels. Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk things. Risk disapproval. The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeal: shock, disgust, outrage, censorship, accusations of socialism, anarchism, nihilism. The new rebels might be the ones willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the “How banal.” Accusations of sentimentality, melodrama. Credulity. Willingness to be suckered by a world of lurkers and starers who fear gaze and ridicule above imprisonment without law. Who knows.
This is awesome;
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Silent Drape Runners - New Vibes (resoundtracking The Little Mermaid)
I was sitting in a bar, on my way to see Balam Acab perform at a college show billed as a “Goth Prom.” We’d dressed up for the occasion - because hey, we like dressing up. Three of the people in attendance were in their late 20’s/early 30’s, and one was my age (22). We soon amusingly realized we were in a “punk bar” as kids with mohawks and ripped leather jackets started pouring in from the Harlem street, seemingly teleporting from the late 70’s, and suddenly our all-black attire set us in some heightened new wavers versus punk kids movie scene that I would be way too young to remember.
Even weirder - my bandmate was telling me about this new internet subculture/”music genre” he’d just discovered, and thought might vaguely describe the stuff we were starting to recognize as the art project our band was becoming. One of the non-punk kids who was playing pool overheard us and looked up, genuinely disturbed: “How the fuck do you know about seapunk?”
This was almost a year ago. #Seapunk became a big inside joke among my group of friends (both online and off). A lot of our jokes, though, tend to make their way into our reality. It’s more fun to appreciate things than to hate them, and I like playing around with new aesthetics styles, trends, slang, images, and seeing what meaning I can wring out of them. My band could be said to be part of the group of artists who were offended at Rihanna’s visuals on SNL this weekend. Seeing these images on TV, for such a massive audience, though surreal, didn’t surprise me. I work at a “trendy” media company, and I know many of the people I know who engage with internet culture do as well. It’s obvious how these ideas quickly spread from some teenager in the midwest to designers at big brands and pop stars stylists. This has been happening forever, now it just happens faster.
A month or two ago, a friend of mine (who also happens to do my band’s visuals) “joked” that seapunk “wasn’t a thing” anymore. I’m not sure if that’s a statement worth making - it’s as much a thing as it ever was. But I think he has a point - the variety of aesthetic tropes that make up #seapunk; net art, “new aesthetic,” witch house, et. all; are beginning to coalesce into something different and bigger, something that I am beginning to believe in. I’ve been attending the #TOP8 FRIENDS parties at 285 Kent in Brooklyn for the last few months. All these ideas/aesthetics are definitely present there - but are combined with blatantly subversive gender presentations. Think Party Monster meets Paris Is Burning for the social media generation.
I know some of you are feeling an urge to vomit. It’s ok to not be interested in this stuff, but I personally can’t get enough of it, both from a sociological and participatory perspective. This is the future, or part of it. A few years ago, in his essay wrapping up the first decade of the new millennium in music, Nitsuh Abebe wondered what was coming next for underground music culture. This last year has been the first time I’ve felt a glimmer of newness in culture since I began caring about it. Yes, there is a lot of recombining of older ideas (rave, new age, ball culture, drag, 90’s nostalgia), but I think what is emerging can be argued to transcend its influences. I think, I hope, it’s helping to open people up to exploring and examining the virtual world we now spend so much of our time inhabiting, and the fluidity and range of human experiences that can exist within and without it.
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Weird Twitter” is not going to become Hot Topic shirts. It will not get sponsored by Gatorade. Its innovative and non-cynical forms keep it too challenging and slippery to safely co-opt, and its commercial appeal is near-zero to any brand big enough to do it harm.
*link to future urban outfitters horse_ebooks shirts”
The New Aesthetic concerns itself with “an eruption of the digital into the physical.” That eruption was inevitable. It’s been going on for a generation. It should be much better acculturated than it is. There are ways to make that stark, lava-covered ground artistically fertile and productive. Lush, humanistic, exotic crops will grow from that smoking, ashy techno-rubble of ours, someday. I live to think so. I’m all for that prospect. It’s exhilarating to see such things attempted, especially in a small auditorium before the straights catch on.
It requires close attention. If you want to engage with the New Aesthetic, then you must become involved with some contemporary, fast-moving technical phenomena. The New Aesthetic is inherently modish because it is ferociously attached to modish, passing objects and services that have short shelf-lives. There is no steampunk New Aesthetic and no remote-future New Aesthetic. The New Aesthetic has no hyphen-post, hyphen-neo or hyphen-retro. They don’t go there, because that’s not what they want.
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Yeah, I mean what do people think? That we’re supposed to create a path of new newness? How can we do that when we’re at the will of an already existing path? How can we do that when we’re at the whim of technology that we don’t understand and refuse to use in a powerful way? We are stuck so far behind everything, we are not looking into the future. A lot of it is so superficial; talking about empirical ideas about things that are happening but never saying the meaning of those things. Meaning is very important to me, and that may sound trite, but it’s just about what all this history means for me personally, what it could mean for someone else, and how I could use this music to connect us across borders.
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And do you know what made the Beats, Hippies, and Punks possible more than anything else? There were no distractions. There were three television networks, no cable or satellite. There were only a few radio stations, and they still featured live, local djs. There were no video games, nothing digital, no iPods or mp3 players… there weren’t even cassette players for most of those times. There were no VHS tapes or DVDs or CDs… you wanted to see a movie you had to go to the theater. No Internet of course. No computers of any kind. There were no ATMs or credit cards… no cell phones… there weren’t even xerox machines until the 1970s. The only things we had were each other. The only things we could do was hang out together, talk, have sex, do drugs, and make our own music and art. Yes, there were all the cultural influences I mentioned earlier but the only way to share them all was face to face real human interaction. There unquestionable will be subcultures in the future… but their form and longevity will probably be very, very different than anything that preceded them (unless of course they are revivalist movements). The subculture is dead. Long live the subculture!
#1 & #8 were definitely the most interesting/on point.
Here’s what I think: things are going to (and are already) diverging/converging towards two different ideals/subcultures. First you have the adverse reaction to technology and this exponentially growing speed and ease of interaction. This is: Occupy, crust/folk punk, the reinvention of communal living, co-ops, Portland/the northwest in general. On the other side you have embracing technology and using it for art expression that gets increasingly meta. Here I would point to hypermodernism, #seapunk, chiptune, net art. The great/weird thing about these two ideals is that they are overlapping all the time! Look at Grimes! Occupy is livestreamed with an attached chatroom 24/7!
Recently I’ve been thinking that the REAL divide that’s happening is between the internet and everything else. I am right on the cusp of the generation that could have grown up with the internet or not. I happened to, other friends of mine didn’t. Some people my age are outsiders to internet culture - this increasingly is a HUGE deal. I wouldn’t have a job if I wasn’t well versed in the internet. This divide is only going to get more pronounced over time.
I have A LOT of other thoughts on this but I need to get back to tweeting things for a living.
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