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Chapter Ten: The Internet Age

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David Marx, W. (2022). Chapter Ten: The Internet Age. In David Marx, W. Status and Culture: How Our Desire for Social Rank Creates Taste, Identity, Art, Fashion, and Constant Change. Viking, pp. 223-260

226

Before we explore the internet’s impact on culture, we must first heed the sociologist Duncan Watts’s warning: “The Internet isn’t really a thing at all. Rather, it’s shorthand for an entire period of history, and all the interlocking technological, economic, and social changes that happened therein.” As we know, technology doesn’t automatically change culture. People using that technology must move from old conventions to new ones. So we must look at both how the technological, economic, and social changes of the internet age set new parameters for our actions, and how we have adjusted our status strategies accordingly.

—p.226 by W. David Marx 1 month ago

Before we explore the internet’s impact on culture, we must first heed the sociologist Duncan Watts’s warning: “The Internet isn’t really a thing at all. Rather, it’s shorthand for an entire period of history, and all the interlocking technological, economic, and social changes that happened therein.” As we know, technology doesn’t automatically change culture. People using that technology must move from old conventions to new ones. So we must look at both how the technological, economic, and social changes of the internet age set new parameters for our actions, and how we have adjusted our status strategies accordingly.

—p.226 by W. David Marx 1 month ago
237

Rank-and-file members of tech companies share similar sensibilities with their billionaire executives: same habitus and black North Face down vest, but very different stock packages. They both prefer functional, authentic goods made with artisanal craftsmanship. There is goodness and beauty in sourdough rye, third-wave hand-drip single-origin coffee, apricot sour beers and session IPAs—all procured from shops with the highest crowdsourced ratings. The stripped-down “normcore” look of gray athleticwear that dominated in the early 2010s was based on the belief that the greatest lifestyle ornament is to not care about ornamentation at all. In 2016 the writer Kyle Chayka memorably revealed how this minimalist aesthetic took over interior design—the “AirSpace” look of austerity and texture-obsession. Airbnb rentals, writes Chayka, all have “white or bright accent walls, raw wood, Nespresso machines, Eames chairs, patterned rugs on bare floors, open shelving, the neutered Scandinavianism of HGTV.”

sure i guess

—p.237 by W. David Marx 1 month ago

Rank-and-file members of tech companies share similar sensibilities with their billionaire executives: same habitus and black North Face down vest, but very different stock packages. They both prefer functional, authentic goods made with artisanal craftsmanship. There is goodness and beauty in sourdough rye, third-wave hand-drip single-origin coffee, apricot sour beers and session IPAs—all procured from shops with the highest crowdsourced ratings. The stripped-down “normcore” look of gray athleticwear that dominated in the early 2010s was based on the belief that the greatest lifestyle ornament is to not care about ornamentation at all. In 2016 the writer Kyle Chayka memorably revealed how this minimalist aesthetic took over interior design—the “AirSpace” look of austerity and texture-obsession. Airbnb rentals, writes Chayka, all have “white or bright accent walls, raw wood, Nespresso machines, Eames chairs, patterned rugs on bare floors, open shelving, the neutered Scandinavianism of HGTV.”

sure i guess

—p.237 by W. David Marx 1 month ago
241

Both poptimism and “let people enjoy things” are part of the meta-sensibility behind postmodern culture: omnivore taste. The virtuous “cultured” individual should consume and like everything—not just high culture, but pop and indie, niche and mass, new and old, domestic and foreign, primitive and sophisticated. Where cultural capital exists, it is now “multicultural capital.” The most masterly wardrobes mix vintage Givenchy with Uniqlo. True gourmands appreciate the finest French haute cuisine, seek out the artery-blocking buttery dishes of neighborhood Parisian bistros, and wait in line for cronuts. In 1999 the writer John Seabrook labeled this omnivore culture “nobrow,” framing these changes as a logical extension of late-stage capitalism. In the old “townhouse” of New Yorker–era taste, “you got points for consistency in cultural preferences,” whereas in the “mega store” of MTV, “you got status for preferences that cut across the old hierarchical lines.”

hmm interesting

—p.241 by W. David Marx 1 month ago

Both poptimism and “let people enjoy things” are part of the meta-sensibility behind postmodern culture: omnivore taste. The virtuous “cultured” individual should consume and like everything—not just high culture, but pop and indie, niche and mass, new and old, domestic and foreign, primitive and sophisticated. Where cultural capital exists, it is now “multicultural capital.” The most masterly wardrobes mix vintage Givenchy with Uniqlo. True gourmands appreciate the finest French haute cuisine, seek out the artery-blocking buttery dishes of neighborhood Parisian bistros, and wait in line for cronuts. In 1999 the writer John Seabrook labeled this omnivore culture “nobrow,” framing these changes as a logical extension of late-stage capitalism. In the old “townhouse” of New Yorker–era taste, “you got points for consistency in cultural preferences,” whereas in the “mega store” of MTV, “you got status for preferences that cut across the old hierarchical lines.”

hmm interesting

—p.241 by W. David Marx 1 month ago
242

In many ways omnivorism is the only possible taste left. A singular notion of good taste is unjustifiable in a cosmopolitan world. The scholar Kwame Anthony Appiah defines “cosmopolitanism” as “a recognition and celebration of the fact that our fellow world citizens, in their different places, with their different languages, cultures, and traditions, merit not just our moral concern but also our interest and curiosity.” Cosmopolitanism is not just a superficial embrace of cultural diversity but a conscious rejection of the is-ought fallacy. Our enthusiasm for other communities’ conventions supports our effort to overcome conventionality itself. For the early-twentieth-century philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, “Other nations of different habits are not enemies: they are godsends.”

By collectively reaching this stage of meta-knowledge, we come to understand the arbitrariness of our own preferences, tastes, and culture. To proclaim superiority of preferred styles over others is accordingly an arrogant and bigoted act. A harpsichord concerto can’t be judged to be “better” than an Indian rāga. The cultural studies scholar Fred Inglis explains, “To declare difference as a value is to refuse, according to liberalism’s first protocol, to tell others how to live.” Omnivore taste is also a precursor to ultraindividualism: for everyone to follow their hearts, all idiosyncratic choices must be tolerated.

this is good

—p.242 by W. David Marx 1 month ago

In many ways omnivorism is the only possible taste left. A singular notion of good taste is unjustifiable in a cosmopolitan world. The scholar Kwame Anthony Appiah defines “cosmopolitanism” as “a recognition and celebration of the fact that our fellow world citizens, in their different places, with their different languages, cultures, and traditions, merit not just our moral concern but also our interest and curiosity.” Cosmopolitanism is not just a superficial embrace of cultural diversity but a conscious rejection of the is-ought fallacy. Our enthusiasm for other communities’ conventions supports our effort to overcome conventionality itself. For the early-twentieth-century philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, “Other nations of different habits are not enemies: they are godsends.”

By collectively reaching this stage of meta-knowledge, we come to understand the arbitrariness of our own preferences, tastes, and culture. To proclaim superiority of preferred styles over others is accordingly an arrogant and bigoted act. A harpsichord concerto can’t be judged to be “better” than an Indian rāga. The cultural studies scholar Fred Inglis explains, “To declare difference as a value is to refuse, according to liberalism’s first protocol, to tell others how to live.” Omnivore taste is also a precursor to ultraindividualism: for everyone to follow their hearts, all idiosyncratic choices must be tolerated.

this is good

—p.242 by W. David Marx 1 month ago
246

With the Revenge of the Head in a long-tail world, cultural literacy for the last few decades requires reading a few serious books every year but also consuming products from the largest conglomerates: Marvel superhero movies (Walt Disney), Beyoncé (Columbia/Sony), Keeping Up with the Kardashians (Ryan Seacrest Productions backed by iHeartMedia, Inc., the new corporate name for the widely loathed Clear Channel). Poptimism means that elites should commune with these works, as they’re “what the people want.” But money can always fake the veneer of popularity. The cultural industry will always have the means and might to dominate our mind-space, and a major point of “indie snobbery” was to provide counterbalance. The music producer and writer Nick Sylvester worries, “By embracing the project of pop music, we might be complicit in letting our underground ecosystems dry up and making pop become the only game in town.” By denying taste as a tool and hesitating to criticize popular works, outsider groups and critics have surrendered their primary way of pushing back. We now risk living in the world that essayist George W. S. Trow predicted in the 1980s: “Nothing was judged—only counted.”

—p.246 by W. David Marx 1 month ago

With the Revenge of the Head in a long-tail world, cultural literacy for the last few decades requires reading a few serious books every year but also consuming products from the largest conglomerates: Marvel superhero movies (Walt Disney), Beyoncé (Columbia/Sony), Keeping Up with the Kardashians (Ryan Seacrest Productions backed by iHeartMedia, Inc., the new corporate name for the widely loathed Clear Channel). Poptimism means that elites should commune with these works, as they’re “what the people want.” But money can always fake the veneer of popularity. The cultural industry will always have the means and might to dominate our mind-space, and a major point of “indie snobbery” was to provide counterbalance. The music producer and writer Nick Sylvester worries, “By embracing the project of pop music, we might be complicit in letting our underground ecosystems dry up and making pop become the only game in town.” By denying taste as a tool and hesitating to criticize popular works, outsider groups and critics have surrendered their primary way of pushing back. We now risk living in the world that essayist George W. S. Trow predicted in the 1980s: “Nothing was judged—only counted.”

—p.246 by W. David Marx 1 month ago
258

At some point our expectations will adjust to these structural realities, but at the moment, we suffer from what Pierre Bourdieu calls hysteresis—the lingering values of a previous age continuing to guide our judgments. Take our feelings toward fame. In the past we assigned high status to anyone who could achieve celebrity. To be broadcasted required being on television, which was limited to very few. Today anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection can be broadcasted. Yet the sheer act of mediation still manages to make individuals seem more charismatic. But why should we still be enamored with fame at all when fame is so cheap? Maybe soon we won’t be. And there are many other values we’re likely to abandon as the internet age becomes the only age we know: historical value, artistic legacy, authenticity.

cool

—p.258 by W. David Marx 1 month ago

At some point our expectations will adjust to these structural realities, but at the moment, we suffer from what Pierre Bourdieu calls hysteresis—the lingering values of a previous age continuing to guide our judgments. Take our feelings toward fame. In the past we assigned high status to anyone who could achieve celebrity. To be broadcasted required being on television, which was limited to very few. Today anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection can be broadcasted. Yet the sheer act of mediation still manages to make individuals seem more charismatic. But why should we still be enamored with fame at all when fame is so cheap? Maybe soon we won’t be. And there are many other values we’re likely to abandon as the internet age becomes the only age we know: historical value, artistic legacy, authenticity.

cool

—p.258 by W. David Marx 1 month ago