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Coupland on atomized culture, Peterson on chatter

February 7, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

In the NY Times Deborah Solomon asks and writer Douglas Coupland answers:

How would you define the current cultural moment?

I’m starting to wonder if pop culture is in its dying days, because everyone is able to customize their own lives with the images they want to see and the words they want to read and the music they listen to. You don’t have the broader trends like you used to.

This is an appropriate anxiety for our time, and Alan Rusbridger talked interestingly about it in his state of journalism talk in the spring of 2006. Jay Rosen calls it “audience atomization” and he sees evidence that social media have created opportunities for it to be overcome. In order to think further, we can’t stop with this little quotation in Solomon’s usual “edited and condensed” NY Times Magazine Sunday interview.

Similarly, we can’t stop at the ending of the new Charles Peterson review essay about Facebook in the NYROB:

But most of us still know, despite Facebook’s abuse of what should be the holiest word in the language, that a News Feed full of constantly updating “friends,” like a room full of chattering people, is no substitute for a conversation. Indeed, so much of what has made Facebook worthwhile comes from the site’s provisions for both hiding and sharing. It is not hard to draw the conclusion that some things shouldn’t be “shared” at all, but rather said, whether through e-mail, instant message, text message, Facebook’s own “private message” system, or over the phone, or with a cup of coffee, or beside a pitcher of beer. All of these “technologies,” however laconic or verbose, can express an intimacy reserved for one alone.

Those are the fears; what are the hopes?

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