Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cold War Solutions to Post Cold War Lifestyles

Not so long ago, it was difficult to find certain things: movies, art and music one with a collector's mindset might describe as rare. It is no longer difficult to find most things.

Part of the enjoyment of these rarities was the search. To feel rarefied, separate, clued in, unique, superior, elite. Not to be too reductive about the whole thing, because quite frequently the search was worth it. The obscurity was in direct proportion to the non-commercial value of the work, which in the end normally means it was at the very least thought provoking, if not enriching on an entirely separate order of magnitude.

It was expected among friends that when the subject of movies or music came up, you would bring forth some deep hidden gem for the group to gather round and love or hate or meh in concert. The discussions were what made it worthwhile. In bringing some piece or other to your friend's attention you could relive it through them, or you could think about it from a different perspective, or you could think about it for the first time and astonish yourself with an off-the -cuff critique, no part of which had previously existed in your head. It was great stimulation.

Now the game seems more to find a means of editing. The world arrives with unswept edges, expanding and center-less every time you open your eyes.  The search is still around, abrogated to a single fill-in field. But those accidents incidental to the search are far less frequent. Things no longer suggest themselves from the near-by aisle. The search queries are finite and described entirely by one's own desires. A great cubbying is underway, where people can pinpoint their own desires and follow them thoroughly through to the end of the day.

Francis Bacon's famous maxim about people finding the evidence that proves their own prejudices (paraphrased) seems to have inspired the design of the search engine. Momus has been discussing this phenomenon for a while and a number of web 2.0 folks have followed suit. The conversation has changed to one of assumption. Theoretically anyone anywhere can see anything at any time, so what's stopping you from downloading the collected films of Alain Resnais then commenting through the night on a Resnais discussion board? Technology has intereceded in the pattern of consumption. Aside from replacing the myopic denizen of the rental counter, it has usurped the follow up, the place for friends.

The conversation has migrated to platform. The frame is now more important than the art. Form is substance (or so some dialectical artists may have us think). The technique or design of the delivery is our common tongue. Platforms are the new popstars. They took the place of trends. MySpace traded out for Facebook traded out for Twitter (in the linear model of things). The problem (if there must be a problem) is that while we are capable of commenting on our lives with greater and greater precision (whether anyone reads those comments is another question) there is the persistent feeling that everything is intermediate. Erasure is as imminent as scheduled platform upgrades.  Try not to grow attached.

No comments:

Post a Comment