Why Doesn’t Alt Culture Exist?
…We live an era that promises us a free flow of information, an era that, if you look just a little deeper, constantly exposes the ways in which facts can be covered up, in which history can be digitally remastered as simply as throwing up a website or mixing up a few adverbs on Fox News. If the aim of every subculture is to interrogate the problems of the mainstream, then todays emerging alt culture call it mash-up culture, retro-futurism, whatever does precisely that, questioning notions such as definitive information in todays ephemeral age by performing a rewriting of history through fashion, art and music.
For alt culture, reenactment is reinterpretation. As Zoe and I were discussing today, the accelerated timelines fostered by the Internets accessibility to the past invite revivals at ever-shortening intervals; the 60s, the 80s, and now even 90s grunge is making a comeback. We wont be surprised if retro-2001 comes into style by the year 2009, Zoe jokes as I write. Bands like The Killers make that all sound boring, but thats just the mainstream hooking onto something more interesting happening underneath the surface.
Alt culture today does face one major obstacle: the rate at which pioneers of certain new sub-genres flee the coop. In our age of accelerated timelines and high transparency, trendsetters see users adopting their creations faster than ever before.
This echoes nicely with Alan Moore’s recent comments on Steampunk:
…at this juncture of the 21st century we are more aware of ourselveswe are more aware of our pastthan culture has ever been before. Because of the internet, because of our tremendous archives that weve accrued, the culture of the past is open to us. And as we look at it, we can see that its a fabulous junkyard of ideas that may have been incredibly beautifuland may have had an awful lot of life left in themthat have been discarded by the relentless forward rolling of culture and our insistence upon new things every day. I think that were now in a position where we can look back at the wonderful, glorious remains of our previous culturesour previous mindsetsand we can use elements from that treasure trove to actually craft things that are appropriate to our future.
But all this talking about the past brings to mind some of Charles Stross comments on the future of ‘History’:
Total history a term Id like to coin, by analogy to total war is something we havent experienced yet. Im really not sure what its implications are, but then, Im one of the odd primitive shadows just visible at one edge of the archive: I expect to live long enough to be lifelogging, but my first forty or fifty years are going to be very poorly documented, mere gigabytes of text and audio to document decades of experience. What I can be fairly sure of is that our descendants relationship with their history is going to be very different from our own, because they will be able to see it with a level of depth and clarity that nobody has ever experienced before.
Meet your descendants. They dont know what its like to be involuntarily lost, dont understand what we mean by the word privacy, and will have access (sooner or later) to a historical representation of our species that defies understanding. They live in a world where history has a sharply-drawn start line, and everything they individually do or say will sooner or later be visible to everyone who comes after them, forever. They are incredibly alien to us.
What History means just keeps changing…. And what will that mean?
As the internet swallows all media and turns to RL for the next meal things are just gonna get progressively crazier.
At least to us old enough to remember life before.