The Hegemony Will NOT be Televised
Globetechnology: Wired up, plugged in, zoned out
Courtesy The Beat comes the above story. I’ll comment on some of it below (picking and choosing my battles carefully, much in reflection of the piece’s thesis.)
Hey, that last part rhymes!
Anyways. Here’s the main thesis, if you don’t want to run through the whole thing. “Welcome to the new tribalism: Demarcations of faith and geography seem to be giving way to those of technology and taste.”
I mean, that’s basically it. The balkanization of culture, the defeat of hegemony. Seriously, it’s why we’ll never have another Beatles or Elvis or Stephen King or Star Wars. It used to be that distribution of cultural output was pretty tightly limited to those who had the resources to pull it off (ie, the big labels, the big TV networks, the big studios, the big publishers.) The number of cultural outletes was pretty tightly controlled (two radio bands, 13 VHF channels, a couple major newspapers per city, book publishers that sold into a handful of outlets.)
It’s simply not the case any more, is it? We’ve got a million publishers, a million bands, a million independent movies going to DVD, a million podcasters plus a bunch of channels on Sirius and XM. All of these things compete for our attention and dollars. And you know what?
We’re going to go after the stuff that we like (as a mess of individuals) and ignore the stuff that we don’t. I know, it’s shocking really. Cultural hegemony doesn’t die with a whimper or a bang, but with the sound of a million million consumers (assuming they have the means to) ignoring the radio and turning on their iPods. Or they’re not going to movie theatres and instead picking carefully from NetFlix selections. Maybe they’re reading fiction published exclusively on the web.
At last, we’re seeing democratization (or anarchy if you like) in action on a mass cultural level. Gee, I wonder who it’s most upsetting to? Could it be that the cultural monoliths of our age, the Sonys and Foxes and Paramounts and RCAs are the ones most worried? Could it be the cultural gatekeepers and critics who have the most to lose?
Yeah, I thought so. I was wondering where the alarmist tone in the article was coming from. Took me a moment or two to suss it out. Right about here, where the author comes at the “enlightened individual” with the most severe threat they can muster: “Mr. Bugeja argues that through tribalism, we are actually sculpting ourselves into perfectly shaped and willing receptacles for marketers.” It’s like the joke about a million goths (or subculture of your choice) wanting to be individual in the least individual way.
By choosing, you open yourself up to being targeted by marketers who want to use your desire to culturally consume what you wish against you. Oh, teh phear!
You know what, if by listening to Neko Case albums, she makes money and wishes to record more albums that I may like, that’s FINE by me. If more story-driven comics come about as a result of my favoring story-driven comics, then that’s worthy of celebration.
I’ll admit, there’s the danger of being closed to new experiences once you put yourself in that cozy coccoon of whatever it is you like to the exclusion of all other things. But you know what, closemindedness is a danger even in the middle of mainstream culture. Choice isn’t the enemy. Closemindedness is.
And funny, but I remember all these arguments being put forth when Walkmen were introduced. When rented videos were introduced. When chatrooms were big. When the World Wide Web made its debut. When Napster was running at full power. When blogs first appeared. Old argument, folks. Its the thesis meeting the antithesis in anticipation of the synthesis. Same ‘ol, same ‘ol.