Sunday, January 18, 2009

Blogosphere or Jim Bob's, how will we be viewed in history?

It's hard to pin down what qualifies as culture today. No matter what form it takes, be it a night club or a web page, it's contribution is usually isolated. (Image: Jim Bob Ray's) Culture seems to be getting less and less centralized; sporadic contributions from various sources are not adding up to much of anything. Though history often views the past through the lens of romanticism, there seems to be a stark difference in the culture of today in comparison to eras past.

Never before in history has such a large portion of the population had the ability to publish their voices directly to the masses. Until recently, closed distribution methods ranging from the printing press to television have limited direct access to the general population. Only the rich or famous could voice their thoughts on an unfiltered public stage. The internet changed this.

Adding more voices to the general discourse of society has not been all good. While it is great to include more voices for the sake of democracy, the result so far has been a scattered mess of opinions. This will no doubt make the challenge of future historians all the more complicated, while giving them a great wealth of knowledge to work with.

With all the knowledge they will have access to, how will our culture be reflected upon? Is there even a culture to be examined? Now, I wouldn't go so far as to say that we have no culture, but culture as we know it today is quite different than the cultures of previous eras.

There's a big difference between pre-capitalist eras' producing of cultural works to secure a bare necessity life and today's lavish lifestyle for a few cultural producers creating content from a specific mold. Today, few cultural artifacts enter the mainstream of our culture without being conformed to a clearly defined set of values and specifications. When culture is an industry, there is less creativity and fewer published perspectives. Economics dictate what is allowed and what is rejected to remain in obscurity.

Culture is more than entertainment, of course, but the same problems exist throughout our culture beyond entertainment media. The fellowship among citizens is diminished. People have started to live their lives in a bubble with only their personal interests at heart. Communal experience is a rare occurrence, even when people get together in droves. Nightclubs certainly are not about a shared experience.

Perhaps what got me thinking about this recently were events such as those which I described in my last posting or the Obama Inauguration Celebration concert. Even watching them from a far, through a television no less, the sense of a shared experience is present. The crowd seems to be sharing the experience together with a common purpose that I can feel connected to. It's something that is noticeably missing in culture today.

So while I don't doubt that there are these moments of shared experience, it is ironically missing in a culture where people often imitate a select few celebrities. So how will we be viewed in history? Perhaps I'm being optimistic, but I am hoping that this era of disconnect and dehumanization is going to be short lived. I'm hoping that we'll find a culture in the true sense of the word.