Sunday, April 01, 2018

Scene as a memento of algorithms

Thinking a lot about culture networks recently. "Synth Britannia" on BBC mentions the crossover between early synth/punk bands, a bleak 70s urban backdrop, and JG Ballard's literature among others. This Mondo 2000 article looks back at the people and predictions hanging around the turn of the millennium, where virtual reality and drugs briefly overlapped.

I wondering what the zeitgeist is now, what the overarching human emotion is, cos in among the headlines about data and privacy and political control, it's hard to think for yourself. Everyone just seems to go along with the mainstream social media app these days, and the counter culture is often just another app, destined to be either bought up or imitated by the same elites you're running from.

The battle for our connection media goes hand-in-hand with the trends of our art and literature - because our art and literature are simply a way for us to work out just what the hell is going on. Our culture reflects our confusion as the world changes around us. Except now our modes of production are all defined by the culture we're trying to figure out. Instagram filters, Snapchat filters, iPhone camera modes, emoji - all of these are artifacts we inherit, and - more importantly - that are constrained by the apps we use. You can't hack an emoji, or a filter. Or can you?

I asked on Twitter what literature might represent the current zeitgeist. James suggested a few:

> Early le carre? Gibson's modern day trilogy. Warren Ellis's novels. The Europe in winter trilogy

So going have to check a few of those out. Thinking about it myself, I'm leaning towards certain chaoticism - maybe Thomas Pynchon. Or maybe something more naively magical - Murakami, or Gabriel García Márquez. Or something darker and more fatalistic, along the lines of Margaret Attwood.

Reminder to myself: I need to read more novels.

As our culture becomes more and more co-created (as in, the memetic process of rapid online comms combines with faster and faster, more automated filtering and feedback loops), is there even "a zeitgeist" anymore? Or are we subjected to a thousand zeitgeists a day - or, more likely, two opposing zeitgeists that are purely emotionally defined by each other?

Or, to jot out a third way, will our tools - and thus our mediums, and our culture - allow us to see outside of that process, to something else?

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