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It's not 'the internet's fault' that culture seems to be stagnant, it's because we're all exhausted

Last week Michelle Goldberg wrote a piece that embarrasses me new york times An editorial page about the crisis of contemporary taste.

Goldberg is here to tell you that the current culture is no good. She quotes literary critic Christian Lorentzen. TV is boring. Pop music is boring. The world of art is boring. Broadway is boring. Books from big publishers are boring. Goldberg said, “I can’t think of a recent novel or film that has sparked a passionate debate.” Discussions about art have ‘become banal and repetitive’.

As part of the criticism, Goldberg’s essay is not as eye-catching as, say, David Brooks’ famous one. bland noodlesBut her foray into the culture crisis genre has nothing like Brooks’ sense of purpose either.

At one point, Goldberg presents this as evidence for her thesis. ’ It’s kind of a parody of the influential cultural criticism. (“I go to Starbucks in the morning and they are playing Adele. Really, youth culture is dead!”)

But what troubles me about Goldberg’s essay isn’t its style or its superficiality, nor the fact that the exact “culture” she’s talking about seems to change throughout the essay. . have View to Dimes Square. It is frustratingly wrong in diagnosing the pressures of modern culture.

What is responsible for our “cultural stagnation”? Why aren’t there more interesting indie titles on the rise? Let’s see what Goldberg has to say.

Columnist Michelle Goldberg (right) with Margaret Atwood at the World Women’s Summit in New York City on April 13, 2018. (Photo credit should read Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

stagnation hypothesis

Goldberg’s work is titled “A Book Explaining Our Cultural Stasis.”It follows W. David Marx’s Status and culture: how the desire for social status creates taste, identity, art, fashion and constant change—”A book that wasn’t boring at all, and subtly changed the way I looked at the world.”

I’m not sure the book itself is actually richer than she imagines it to be. We think of it as a machine,” writes Goldberg. The idea that there is social prestige in embracing new, different, experimental things doesn’t seem like a very new thesis to me.

So what has changed in the relationship between cultural innovation and that desire for fame that might “explain our cultural stagnation”? says.

The Internet changes this dynamic, as Marx writes in the final section of his book. With so much content out there, it’s less likely that others will perceive the meaning of vague cultural signals. Challenging art loses its prestige. Besides, in the age of the internet, taste doesn’t say much about a person.You don’t have to step into social circles to make friends [John] With a cage, or, for that matter, underground hip-hop, weird performance art, or unusual sneakers.

This is true #TheTimesIsOnIt type theory. Oh my god, people have long debated whether the internet is making them less tasteful. Space is probably the biggest concern. But I don’t think Goldberg really knows what she’s talking about.

In the age of the internet, the idea that you don’t have to step into the social world to access culture is not true. Sure, it’s easy to skim the surface of culture for mood board purposes. But academics have long studied how people carry out their identities on the web. The openness of internet culture not only levels some barriers, but also causes users to construct new kinds of esoteric cultural norms, inside jokes, and subcultural language. Read the NFT forums. without searching for terms. (As Paul Hodkinson argued long ago in his study of chat room culture, the relative openness of the Internet also explains the bitterness of the online culture debate. Then it becomes more important to set the arrivals ablaze.)

A recent article on these dynamics of Internet subcultures is much more informative than this article can provide. From Caroline Busta on creators navigating “clear nets” and “dark forests” to Josh Citarella’s work on niches.Legacy Russell’s Political Identity on Social Media glitch feminism A discussion of the role of online cultural spaces as ‘congregational club spaces’ for queer and trans people.

There’s even a way the removal of cultural barriers online seems to increase the prestige of the remaining signifiers of actually being part of a special scene or club. It makes more sense to pretend to be on a private jet than it is,” Goldberg wrote, summarizing the paper.But the quintessential Parvenu, the false heiress Anna Delby, is actually Did it As part of her own attempt to “move up the social hierarchy,” she projects her interest in contemporary art via her Instagram. An art-themed membership club was all about her strategy.

grind hypothesis

Don’t get me wrong, modern mainstream culture To do Skinny, exhausted, obsessed with money and popularity. But Goldberg’s banal “because of the internet, things are bad” argument doesn’t get to any of the really important reasons that might be argued.

An example is shown below. Does mainstream culture seem built for superficial and distracting consumption, defaulting to a comforting and familiar trope? Well, “serious” culture in general is tough. It takes a certain amount of focus and investment to reap that reward. Aesthetic taste actually means a certain amount of leisure time. Therefore, the current epidemic of hustle culture burnout and overwork probably won’t help you win over a “serious” culture audience. Art critic Philip Kennicott argued several years ago that the best program to support the arts is to make people work less.

conduct you After working on “5 to 9” (the title of the recent raunchy update of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” updated for modern demands), I thought it would be easy to read a Toni Morrison novel. Do you? I don’t.

But, obviously, the Internet isn’t harmless, but the truth is, “the Internet” isn’t a single thing.of commercial internet, in particular, has an incentive structure that doesn’t welcome the kind of sustained “passionate debate” about real culture that Goldberg aspires to. Niche cultures have small audiences and criticism is labor intensive. The commercial online media are relentlessly committed to writing about the most popular cultures in the least invested way.

This is not just a big media issue. Independent YouTube video essayists complain about how algorithms punish them for not jumping on the latest trends and outrage. When Sarah Urish Green left her popular YouTube channel, her Art Assignment, in 2020, what she learned from years of making videos about art, unfortunately , was that viewers were mostly clicking on famous artists and controversies.

“And this is the problem,” she added. Burnout, like everyone on YouTube, has been creeping up on me. ”

Most publications are somewhere in between, with these commercial incentives slowly trying to deplete the cultural brain of oxygen. A frenzied economy is clearly a product of these economic realities. (Another slippage in Goldberg’s argument is between artistic production and the “argument about art.”It’s quite possible that there are “interesting indie pieces” being made, but if you’re not actively investing in those scenes and just following the most mainstream topics, you’ll be focusing primarily on the most momentary trending topics. It is supposed to be )

in a recent episode of the New York Times With its own popcast focusing on the low state of hip-hop journalism, website HipHopDX writer Jerry Burrow explained the realities of his field. He recalled his oral history of hip-hop going about his group Camp Lo’s debut album. Uptown Saturday Night. The work, he says,

Something I was very proud of, something I was very proud of, something I took the time to talk to everyone about and dig deep into. And we had little trouble with traffic. I’m not going to lie. But if either of them did something crazy or got called out for something and reported about it it would have gone through the roof and this is content as his creator is a daily battle. Because you need to get enough traffic to bring in enough revenue to pay for all other costs…

Sharath, owner of HipHopDX [Cherian]— He is very astute and methodical when it comes to budgets. More than anywhere else, everything must be justified. But he’s been in the game for his 20 years, so he knows what he’s doing. He knows what keeps sites alive. And looking back, he found that there was a time when HipHopDX was making more in-depth, long-form pieces. and he said to me: This is a great article well done, but this little article from TMZ quadruples his traffic and quadruples his revenue. So how can you justify paying for it?”

And that’s the reality… it hurts. It hurts me, it hurts me and I try to carve out what I can…

That pretty much sums it up. That is also, ultimately, why Goldberg’s editorial bothers me so much.

If you work in the field of cultural writing of any kind, you know how these depressing economic dynamics can feel like a constant low-level crisis and affect everything. Because you probably feel these pressures intimately when you try to do meaningful work with good humor and a piece of your soul intact.

And then… here comes new york times At the pinnacle of writers and establishment media, talking aimlessly About how nobody talks about good art anymore without even acknowledging those dynamics.

And it sucks.because know Goldberg knows this. I know that these pressures permeate even such noble places as the chart paper.

After all, what is this article and is it a clear example of the “low and boring” level of cultural discourse it condemns? And what is the best explanation for why that is, but Michelle Goldberg must respond to the click of Times Even when you don’t have time to figure out what you need to say?

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