nano y nano
(work in progress)
I suppose a lot of my problems with the concept of nanoculture (as broached in Tom Ewing's final epic Poptimist column) boil down to the word "nano"
the prefix nano is defined in the dictionary as “indicating extreme smallness”
What that translates to, in nanoculture, is a host of affects and effects that are extremely small, both in impact and in duration
it's not so much the concept, though, as the actual practice of nanoculture -- the day to day, week to week, weak to weaker flow of nanostories... micronarratives, ever petit-er recits
it feels like entropy
the digitally-empowered particulars might have changed a fair amount but in substance and in spirit, these practices of sharing, enthusing, parodying, nerding, etc existed before the web... they took place in informal real-world contexts - -down the pub, in the schoolyard, in fan communities (tape trading, zines,
What has happened with the web is (on the positive side) the extension of those activities to existing friends who are outside your geographical reach these days plus new friends who you’ve never encountered in a geographical sense... and then to strangers with whom you enter into this fleeting relations of comity
And there's a massive degree of facilitation to these processes in terms of physical and financial effort, speed of response (close to real-time)
On the negative side though there is a quasi-public aspect, where it sort of feels like “broadcasting”.... but it isn’t... which leads perhaps to over-estimations of the value and power of these activities
I don’t think global judgements can be made about netlife as a whole... it's about assessing the specific trade-offs between any given analogue-precusor-activity and its digital enhancement/replacement -- in most cases, digiculture is a new way of doing something we used to do before computers and the internet
Blogs retain a lot of what is good about fanzines (in depth writing, eccentric viewpoints, informality) and remove a lot of the stuff that is bad (delays between transmissions, back-breaking graft, the cost, the waste of unsold copies)
Twitter (nano in the nth degree) retains little of what is good about blogs but keep the aspects to do with pseudo-socialisation and self-advertising -- twittering is good for people who have lonely-making professions and like to feel in contact, or self-publicity purposes
What I’m interested in an exploration of the phenomenology of netlife, what it feels like to be “in touch” all the time, to be moving around these great wodges of data, acquiring constantly, attempting to digest and cross-reference
and then on a larger level, what does it mean for the future of a culture when so much energy – psychological, libidinal, emotional, cathectic, also social, the economy of attention – is going into these pursuits and directions and spheres - the endlessly twining stream of discourse, this merging-then-diverging traffic of meta-chat
how nano can nanoculture get before it forfeits any claim on the word "culture"?
what is going on in these streams is definitely not culture in the capital C sense, no Works are being made, this is stuff that is avowedly transient, completely disinterested in passing the Test of Time
but nor is it culture in the subculture sense (the creation of a bounded world, insular, a set of invented rituals, tribal, an ethnos; oppositional to the mainstream, expressive of dissident values and minority worldviews)
if nanoculture isn't sub- then what is it? or rather, where is it, in the topology of culture/society,
the word, i think, is paraculture
something that runs along side the mainstream
a side-stream so very closely entwined with the mainstream as to be inseparable from it, yet not able to affect it to any great degree.... very close, yet beside the point
the prefix ‘para’, as well as suggesting "beside", also contains an insinuation of parasitism -- this stream depends on the creative industries for an endless supply of new material to comment on, recombine, parody, gossip about
(para, or paro? an entire microculture of Weird Al Yankovichs?)
one thinks of the Jaron Lanier quote from You Are Not a Gadget:
"It is astonishing how much of the chatter online is driven by fan responses to expression that was originally created within the sphere of old media and that is now being destroyed by the net. Comments about TV shows, major movies, commercial music releases, and video games must be responsible for almost as much bit traffic as porn. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but since the web is killing the old media, we face a situation in which culture is effectively eating its own seed stock."
for every creative, or cleverly recreative, response within the nano/para-cultural realm, there are thousands upon thousands of pointless, redundant, content-free emissions from "prosumers"
i think of when i was doing a thing on the Video Music Awards and looking on YouTube for footage clips to illustrate the points... but instead of performance excerpts all i could find was dozens and dozens of fan videos... not shaky videos of the performances taken off the TV screen but videos of the fans, in profile, watching the show on a screen (TV, computer) that was invisible to us out there in youtubeland... with the fans commenting in real-time on the show as it happened... the comments all being on the level of "beyonce looks so great", "chris brown's performance is off the hook", etc etc....
in hot, hectic pursuit of the trivial
i think also of Drake's on-the-money comment recently:
"The thing that scares me most is Tumblr... Instead of kids going out and making their own moments, they’re just taking these images and living vicariously through other people’s moments.... Then you’ll meet them and they’re just the biggest turkey in the world. They don’t actually embody any of those things. They just emulate. It’s scary man, simulation life that we’re living.”