In the 60s there was a movement in engineering and the physical sciences towards building what the British economist E.F. Schumacher called “appropriate technology.” Appropriate technology is sort of what it sounds like: build things that are appropriate to the context in which they are meant to be deployed. If that sounds like common sense to you, then you are benefitting from a minor scientific revolution that occurred in the midst of incredible professional hubris. For quite a while (and still today, as I can personally attest to during my time at a polytechnic institute) scientists and engineers thought that what works in an American lab will work anywhere in the world. Physics is physics no matter where you are and so the underlying mechanical properties of any given technology should work wherever it is situated. Appropriate technology pushed back against that concept, encouraging practitioners to think long and hard about social, economic, political, environmental, and any other context an artifact might find itself in. more...
Paul Budnitz describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur” having created other companies that make artisanal toys and luxury bicycles. He’s also the creator/founder/president/charismatic leader of Ello. And when a social network launches with a manifesto that proudly proclaims “You are not a product”, there’s more on the line than embedded video support. Despite the radical overtures of the initial launch, we shouldn’t expect any more from Ello than we would from a luxury bicycle. more...
As if we needed more examples to demonstrate that ‘the digital’ & ‘the physical’ are part of the same larger world, it seems there’s no end to the applicability of demographic metaphors to trends in social media. I wrote about App.net and “white flight” from Facebook and Twitter last month, so you can imagine how my head broke on Monday when I first heard about “New MySpace.” My first question—after, “wait, what?”—was, “Is this like when the white people start moving back into urban cores to live in pricey loft conversions?”
I didn’t do a detailed overview of danah boyd’s (@zephoria) work on MySpace, Facebook, and white flight last time, so I start with that below (though I recommend that anyone interested in this topic check out boyd’s very readable chapter in Race After the Internet, which you can download here [pdf]). I then look at some of the coverage of New MySpace this week to make the argument that there are some strong parallels between the site’s impending “makeover” and the “urban renewal” efforts sometimes called gentrification or regentrification.
Hipsters have been much discussed on the Cyborgology blog (see: here, here, here, and here). Cyborgology authors have also talked about the fetishization of low-tech/analog media and devices (see: here and here). As David Paul Strohecker pointed out, these two issue interrelated: “hipsters are at the forefront of movements of nostalgic revivalism.” I want to pick up these threads and add a small observation.
Nathan Jurgenson and I were discussing why low-tech devices have a seductive quality. Consider the popularity of, for example, fixed-gear bicycles or vintage cameras (such as the Kodak Brownie or the Polaroid PX-70 [correction: SX-70]). Though I think this phenomenon is probably overdetermined (in the Freudian sense of having multiple sufficient causes), I came up with a theory that seems worth further consideration: namely, that hipsters’ obsession with antique devices reflects a desire to escape the complex and highly-interdependent socio-technical systems that characterize contemporary society and return to time in which technology appeared to be something that humans could master and, thus, use to affirm their individual agency. In short, the fetishization of low-tech is about the illusion of agency; it provides affirmation for the hipster whose identity is defined by the post-Modern imperative to be an individual, to be unique.
Since Sarah posted on Kony yesterday, I though I would throw in my two cents on the matter. I would like to discuss claims that the Kony 2012 is a hipster movement.
Why are people claiming the movement against Kony is a hipster movement? I think it is because of three main reasons. 1) people are using social media to spread it; 2) Invisible children plays into the whole Toms shoes, suburban college student social justice movement; and 3) individuals are claiming allegiances to this social justice movement as a form of social distinction. more...
[SPOILER ALERT: details about the first episode of Sherlock“A Study In Pink” are discussed below. The ending is not totally given away, but major story details are revealed.]
A few weeks ago, I challenged Kurt Anderson’s claim that cultural progress and innovation had stagnated in the last twenty years. Anderson, I contend, has ignored new mediums (the Internet), re-invented genres (hip-hop, electronic music), and new cultural stereotypes (geek chic, hipsters). But what ties all of these things together is the central thesis that consumer technologies are just as much cultural artifact as clothes or music. No where is this more obvious and brilliantly executed than in BBC One’s updated interpretation of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Set in present day London, “Sherlock” is a reinterpretation of the most famous Holmes mysteries and does an excellent job of translating the Victorian source material into a modern drama. That translation includes dress, idiomatic expressions, and vehicles- but it also includes cell phones, restrictions on smoking, and the War on Terror. Sherlock is a uniquely 21st century show that could not have taken place in the early 2000s or the 90s. more...
A few of us here at Cyborgology have a running joke going about #HipsterStudies, so I thought I would compile a couple comics that likewise intellectualize this subcultural movement. The first, sent in by reader Letta Wren Page, is a comic by Dustin Glick:
This image does a great job illustrating the inherent relativity of the hipster label. That is, as a largely pejorative label, one can only be deemed a hipster by comparison. Much like Thornton (1996) discovered in her study of UK youth raves, where club kids used pejorative labels to denote the bounds of group membership, the hipster as label serves to undermine attempts to mimic subcultural forms (and hence, it serves as a way to deny these actors any semblance of subcultural capital). more...
Since these hipster blog posts are generating so much great discussion I thought I would bring you another example of the subculture. I came across this website after my girlfriend attempted to get me to listen to some folk bands or something that she liked. I can’t exactly recall how it happened, but I do recall her sending this website to me.
This post is somewhat of a stretch, but I think it remains applicable nonetheless. Below I have embedded three video clips, each dealing with “the hipster” as a relatively recent subcultural form and social type.
First, we have the “Hipster Olympics,” a viral video that made the rounds a few years back. The video makes a parody of the hipster, mocking their supposed elitism, pretension, dependency on new technologies, and obsession with authenticity as a source of subcultural distinction (note the subtle play on Pabst Blue Ribbon).
Second, we have a short clip from the “2 Broke Girls” a new CBS television series focusing on the epicenter of the hipster subculture, the gentrified Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. In the clip we see the confluence of hipsters and homelessness, which ultimately serves to as a satire on the “Poor Chic” fashion trends of New York’s urban hipsters (Halnon 2002). We also notice the association between hipsters and personal hygiene (or lack thereof), a stereotype that has also been foisted upon the #Occupy protestors.
I came across this post a couple weeks back about the “11 Sounds That Your Kids Have Probably Never Heard” and it got me thinking about hipsters, nostalgic revivalism, and technological regression as a source of authenticity.