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PostPosted: 10 Nov 2013, 21:28 
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Thanks for that interesting quote. I wonder though about the current context... It doesn't seem so empty, quite the opposite: the fast-food satisfaction that runs wild in all spheres of life, combined with a suppression of obvious, we could even say loud, political, social, environmental and other problems. Perhaps this situation, which may best be described as neurotic, gives some explanation as for why a more sensible context is missing... But it would be interesting to hear more about what this author means by the lack of context.


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PostPosted: 11 Nov 2013, 04:19 
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I thought by "lack of context" what was meant was that in success being regarded as the aim, rather than a feat, the context which would give reason to the motivation toward success is missing. For example the want to be famous is not rooted in the cause of fame (creating music, acting, being a politician etc.) rather, the fame itself and what is implied: success and greatness.

Similar concepts here, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Experience_Economy

it reminds me of art students who want to be great artists rather than people who make great art - the worst thing possibly to come out of that is this pretension that creativity and art are a means to being outside of the economy, a safe distance from capitalism. regardless that creativity and self expression are at the apex of "the experience economy"


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PostPosted: 11 Nov 2013, 06:46 
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to clarify the context, here is the entire essay, or a partial rendition narrated by the author.

phpBB [video]


when he speaks of childhood experiences enlarged to mythic proportions, i'm reminded of the recurring motif set in fashion, both the relatively mainstream and more niche-specific.

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PostPosted: 11 Nov 2013, 13:02 
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when he speaks of childhood experiences enlarged to mythic proportions, i'm reminded of the recurring motif set in fashion, both the relatively mainstream and more niche-specific.
Having read some more text around the original quote, I think its necessary to relate this enlargement of childhood experiences as not only being nostalgic but also as traumatic. In either case, youth is elevated as a beacon of purity to which everyone should strive toward.

this has been theorised in various ways by various groups and I've written about it here and there in the past- but the figure of the "Young-Girl" rises again- It is a proponent of consumeristic "law" that youth and femininity are idealised and encouraged- one idea being that these attributes form a passive obedient consumer, the perfect powerless citizen who will maintain the status quo.

Lovink doesn't quite differentiate the origins or meaning of the infantilised state he describes (not that he should have) but in order to make sense of its being a recurring motif in fashion I think its helpful to think of who the ideal citizen in consumer society is. This is because Lovink's writing looks like a critique of nostalgia, the longing for an idealised past, however this critique is misdirected when there is the equal possibility that the mythic enlargements of childhood may also stem from trauma. This masks the reality of where this critique should be directed- not at people for being childish and nostalgic, rather the capitalist system which encourages, or enforces them to be so.


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PostPosted: 11 Nov 2013, 14:09 
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good points, and i think the neurotic character of the time we live in, which i mentioned on the previous page, is one of the reasons for this nostalgia. i'll come back to this later, until then, here's something on topic that (though funny) makes a perfect sense to me ;)

Image
(by xkcd.com)


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PostPosted: 11 Nov 2013, 19:05 
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ahh rilu, that's funny,i thought of another xkcd when i read that, without realizing that was from xkcd too! great comic (posted this elsewhere too, sorry for repeats)

The art of letter-writing is fast dying out. We fire off a multitude of rapid and short notes, instead of sitting down to have a good talk over a real sheet of paper.
In olden times it was different. Men now live think and work at express speed. Sulkily read as they travel leaving them no time to talk with the friend who may share the compartment with them.
The art of pure line engraving is dying out. We live at too fast a rate nothing is left to the imagination and human faculty dwindle away amid the million inventions that have been introduced to render its exercise unnecessary. [see, no need to worry, art was already dead 100 years ago.]
and on, and on.

i really don't like this writing style, so i'll try my best to argue against it. merz, isn't the problem with this sort of jeremiad that it doesn't offer up any critiques that specifically pertain to today's society, as opposed to that of 100 or 1000 years ago? as demonstrated in the comic above this post?—each age claims ennui for its own. there's always a "new type of man" who is "tortured or anguished" by "x development unique to our times," and it's not that such observations aren't worthwhile or even necessary, because yeah unbridled technophilia makes you wince, but the woe-and-misery tone of this piece was equally winceworthy to me as would be some apotheosis of silicon valley nerdery splooging over a pair of google glasses. so, again, i agree with everything the essay is saying; i just don't like the doomsday tone it has, it's like the intellectual approach to the dingbat wearing the end-is-nigh sandwichboard.

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

in a similar vein, rilu: if you're admitting the comic makes perfect sense to you, then you can't attribute nostalgia to any neurosis specific to our times, since you've already admitted that nostalgia occurs in every age. the assertion of cause&effect there must be specious, no?

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PostPosted: 11 Nov 2013, 21:09 
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i'm not seeing nostalgia in what he had written, nor condemnation of a present. at the time of this essay's writing in the mid-90s, much of it must have read like speculative fiction concerning a near future. that future has quite literally become our present, and i found this interesting because he projected the course of technological development and social response to it within one area with a great deal of accuracy. i've not yet started the book he had written last year, but the expectations are pretty high.

the tone of bemusement merely says that in a different future, some of the past's familiar values are no longer held to, or interpreted in a different way. the preceding set of conditions is not advocated as having been better somehow, merely different and untenable as we move forward. that was how i perceived it.. there was no doomsday tone i could sense.

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PostPosted: 11 Nov 2013, 22:40 
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hmm for me it was midway despairing and doomsday - and I don't think he's being nostalgic at all, in fact I think he's critiquing nostalgia. But also, while he was speculating the future, I doubt it was too distant a future for him. He uses examples from his own time- MTV, Doctors without borders etc. Maybe the things he "predicted" were slightly less pronounced than now, the whole thing is written in past tense after all.

Anyway it seems that he's not only critiquing nostalgia but a variety of things which ultimately tie together to create the contextless infantile scene that he describes. That is, a world of moving forward without a conception of past or future, toward a narcissistic assurance of "living in the moment", without responsibilities, being cared for like a child. He brings rather disparate things (childhood, science, academia, free market economies) onto the same plate, connected by some idea of the zeitgeist- which is that everything should form without context.

And merz, here I disagree with you, he is clearly critiquing something, that I think even he cannot identify. He pins it down at the end and says "we must return to placing things within context". Yes, this is a good start, because if we were to put this whole essay into context, we would ask "Why did things evolve toward becoming contextless and infantile in the first place?" rather than just "things are contextless and infantile, we must bring back context and stop being infantile"


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PostPosted: 11 Nov 2013, 22:42 
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yes, i stand corrected on that, having somehow glossed over the last part. thank you for making me pay a bit more attention.

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PostPosted: 13 Nov 2013, 00:03 
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MJRH wrote:
rilu: if you're admitting the comic makes perfect sense to you, then you can't attribute nostalgia to any neurosis specific to our times, since you've already admitted that nostalgia occurs in every age. the assertion of cause&effect there must be specious, no?


I agree with you on the point that nostalgia is present in all times! But I disagree on the other point: the fact nostalgia is present in different times doesn't mean it always has one and the same cause, and that there is one uniform type of nostalgia. Many times will share the same feeling of nostalgia, but there may still be specific features of each. The nostalgia that I notice in the nowadays society is the one directed towards cultural recycling (radios and clubs still play the '70s and the '80s), this past has obtained some kind of grounding myth for the current generation, and Lovnik seems to be pointing to that too.

merz, what exactly do you have in mind when you say you notice this kind of exaggeration of the childhood in fashion? do you have in mind any specific trend or a general vibe or what exactly?

hlee wrote:
And merz, here I disagree with you, he is clearly critiquing something, that I think even he cannot identify. He pins it down at the end and says "we must return to placing things within context". Yes, this is a good start, because if we were to put this whole essay into context, we would ask "Why did things evolve toward becoming contextless and infantile in the first place?" rather than just "things are contextless and infantile, we must bring back context and stop being infantile"


I completely agree that this is the key question. Maybe the book itself gives some answers, that would be interesting to hear. My comment on the neurosis of the current society was going in the direction of such a possible answer. There are way too many antagonistic demands posed, and I previously mentioned only one - between the consumerism and obvious problems with it. This nicely coheres with this myth of the '70s and '80s, when our parents' generations didn't have to bother with the current burdens, but could freely enjoy in the blooming western society. So my hypothesis is that the context disappeared because of this burden of mutually opposing demands, that are in the digital age or the age of information difficult to overlook. Hence, the only way to avoid them is to break out of one coherent viewpoint. This is present not only at the level of individuals but also at the level of groups: we have various leftist movements (feminists, environmentalists, animal rights movement, etc.) each arguing for their own niche, without attempting to realize that often the same arguments apply in different domains. But that kind of burden is extremely difficult for a nowadays consumer. That's just a hypothesis though.


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PostPosted: 13 Nov 2013, 02:21 
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This is present not only at the level of individuals but also at the level of groups: we have various leftist movements (feminists, environmentalists, animal rights movement, etc.) each arguing for their own niche, without attempting to realize that often the same arguments apply in different domains. But that kind of burden is extremely difficult for a nowadays consumer.
this is an observation that zizek also makes- I think that the decentralisation is placed not in the heavy burden of widespread awareness, rather that this is a society of appearances: what you see is what you get. Complex issues like post colonial racism, sexism, capitalism are confronted the simple way, by identifying the "cause" and then an "enemy". To confront racism you deny the racists (hate the white people!!), to confront sexism you deny sexists (stupid men!) to confront capitalism you deny the capitalists (evil Wall St bankers!)

But of course, the simple solution to a complex issue doesn't quite work in these cases- hating white people is racist in itself, some feminists are as sexist as the men they critique and the bohemian artists who hate wall st would happily sell their billion dollar paintings to them (take that, you stupid banker!) and all this is totally self defeating.

LIke Rilu says, the difference between now and the past is that now the internet and mass media are blown out to extremes, however I don't think it finishes with an "increased burden of knowledge". Rather it is the flood of simulacra- the truth of images are constantly affirmed by our daily lives- if we buy a packet of food with cookies pictured, we expect cookies and find cookies inside. (no surprises, given fact) We watch the news and see terrorism, and even if its on the other side of the world, the image on the television is real too and we believe terrorism happened. People believe in images, even if they're aware of photoshop illusions, they still want to be thaaat skinny, thaaat flawless etc. because the illusion is real.

So when we have highly abstract and complex issues like racism and capitalism, where is our illustration, the image that will make it all real? We assign the image of white people as the figurehead of racism, men as the figurehead of sexists and bankers for capitalism. This is the society of appearances, that things should look as they seem, at least on the surface.


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PostPosted: 13 Nov 2013, 04:34 
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what i meant by nostalgia before, perhaps not the best word, was simply that i didn't think the essayist gave enough of a nod to the inevitability of humanity's dissatisfaction with whatever age it happens to find itself in. lines like "past commitments turn out empty and meaningless." or, "On close examination, people experience nothing whatsoever anymore." i thought the nostalgia there was implicit in the condemnation of the present's supposedly exceptional decay, though i could've been reading too much into the tone of the essay. it certainly does make a few good points, the fun it poked at free-market utopia was some downright sagelike prognosis.

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PostPosted: 13 Nov 2013, 09:51 
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^ I agree with you on that MJRH. In this part at least, the author doesn't give an impression that this is actually an anthropological constant (as it is, if we look back to the history, as you previously pointed out). But digging out what's so specific about today is what would be interesting.

Hlee, nice points. A part of the problem (though more a symptom than a deep cause) is a deficient critical thinking, which you describe in above examples. On the one hand, we see images of what is happening and take them as factual knowledge; on the other hand, if they are far removed news, we treat them as distant events that have nothing to do with us. The world is perceived as both more simple and more complex, depending on how well this piece of information fits with our comfort. Now, this might be typical of past times too, it's just that today we have different media channels, way more information, which makes the context different.


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PostPosted: 13 Nov 2013, 10:48 
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if they are far removed news, we treat them as distant events that have nothing to do with us.


not true! think about all the people who have impassioned rants about Syria, those who were part of the Kony campaign- this is all from seeing news and a youtube video, they have no part in the actual conflict, but they experience it through simulacra. Seeing a video of starving children- we believe these starving children exist - regardless the possibility lies that they could be paid actors, it is also very possible that they are starving children. We tend to believe they are anyway. And I'm not in anyway denying the existence of poverty here- there's poverty all over the place, but nobody knows about it because its not advertised like it is with Africa.

rilu, I don't think this is necessarily a case of "deficient criticality" - we simply have no choice but to believe in the reality of surfaces. We know out of habit that what we see is what we will get: if I buy a burger, it'll be the same as the burger in the ad. If the packaging says "laundry powder", I know for sure there will be laundry powder in the box. Again, its that we are swamped in simulacra that we no longer challenge or mentally process the real and the copy, signifier and signified, the distinctions are blurred to the point they are synonymous.

Nobody has the time or resources to prove that the starving children exist or not, in the moment we have to act (when the charity sales person is at your door) we are forced to act in faith, do we or do we not believe in the images we were shown?


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PostPosted: 13 Nov 2013, 10:55 
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Hmmm, what I was driving at is a different type of news. I agree with you that people acknowledge things, but it seems to me these are always things that are not controversial in their system of values. Speaking of poverty is not controversial, but how many people engage in thinking about Guantanamo prisoners? Or about this mass surveillance? This kind of stuff seems to be swapped under the carpet (until and unless the presidents of other countries turned out to be spied upon, now that's a real issue for concern!) because they are perceived as happening somewhere in the outskirts of democracy, or at least their relevance is perceived as such. Such news are taken with detachment, and maybe something similar holds for those about starving children: people will donate but what will they do in their daily lives to question the causes of poverty? They'll still go and shop in H&M, because that's a different issue that has nothing to do with those children, at least as the news report. The other news about sweatshops are again taken as belonging to another domain, and that's what I meant when I said that arguments are placed within different patches, without realizing connection between them.


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PostPosted: 13 Nov 2013, 23:58 
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yep, I understand that these issues are decentralised and unconnected on the surface, but my idea of *why* they are so is because it takes critical abstract thinking to make these connections, and the predominant ideology of the "westernised" world is capitalism and this prevailing ideology repeatedly encourages that good consumers should think on the surface. Capitalism says "it is what is is", burger = burger. Critical abstract thinking suggests that a burger = unhealthy lifestyle, saturated fat, unethical food sourcing, a false premise of happiness etc.

But again, I don't think this is an issue of deficient criticality because critical abstract thinking also suggests that a burger = bread with certain fillings, specific burger flavour, the metaphysical question of what really makes a burger a burger?

"surface" impulse thinking is a faculty as important as critical abstract thinking, how would we ever get things done otherwise? Perhaps there is an imbalance which is mutually exacerbated by capitalism. I guess this is where it seems like a "deficiency of criticality", (maybe I'm wrong and that's exactly what it is).

But what if I was to suggest that this lower ratio of criticality is in a way natural? Whatever ideology is in place, be it capitalism or not, encourages uncritical thinking to preserve itself, otherwise it would make its own politics vulnerable to criticism. (hence revolutions that begin with criticisms end in dictatorship) I cannot think of how a mass could simply be more critical- if being critical became the predominant mode of thinking (could it ever? Can it function as a mass? Possibly in smaller communities, but hardly in mass terms) would people truly be critical? Or would they be critical simply because they were told to be so, and that is self defeating.


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PostPosted: 14 Nov 2013, 00:10 
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haha, i agree with you on this, and i don't dare claim that this ability to think critically is something that can be achieved at the level of humanity (or a certain society even). so the lack of critical thinking, or maybe this mismatch between two types of reasoning, is an anthropological constant as it seems. though in different times it will have different specific features (similarly to nostalgia we discussed above). humans simply aren't an overly intelligent specie. i had a similar discussion with a friend recently and he had this point, based on empirical studies, that humans have a bigger tendency towards imitative behavior than other species. they function according to defaults, they learn these behavioral patterns, social norms, etc. and so the reasoning functions according to these schematics. questioning them can indeed be awfully unpractical, as you point out. now, whether a more skeptical approach to the world can successfully be developed by means of education is a good question, but i for sure don't have an answer to it :) it might be developed more than it is in the capitalist world, but to which extent it's hard to say.


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PostPosted: 14 Nov 2013, 00:30 
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"But what if I was to suggest that this lower ratio of criticality is in a way natural? Whatever ideology is in place, be it capitalism or not, encourages uncritical thinking to preserve itself, otherwise it would make its own politics vulnerable to criticism. (hence revolutions that begin with criticisms end in dictatorship)"

cheers for articulating that so well, that's exactly what i was clumsily trying to get at with my complaint about nostalgia. "anthropological constant" is also a term i'm gonna file away for future reference :)

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PostPosted: 14 Nov 2013, 02:50 
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Basically, I hold that education and critical thinking cannot be achieved en masse. In smaller groups where social relations are tight between individuals, possible yes, but not when its organised under mass bureaucracy. It extends to communism, it works in small communities but not in entire nations. I don't mean to be defeatist with this though, there are always of course individual teachers who do things their way, inspire their students and educate thoroughly, but the system doesn't encourage that and it makes it difficult, the system encourages meeting quotas and national averages.

But to think of regressing to an idyllic world of small country towns is also ludicrous and impossible (cry for the lost laptops and microwaves) , mass culture is unavoidable, we are at the last breaches of a total takeover, the last small towns are (unsuccessfully) warding off the development of McDonald's franchises in their territories. There are two strains which proceed from this point. The first is the emphasis of supporting local community based activity- within schools, local food and artisan markets etc. and the second is in the development of technology (as opposed to politically) based solutions- the internet for one has softened the fall of education (even while making it fall faster)

to get a little more back toward what we were originally talking about, accepting the premise of the "anthropological constant"- that is, we cannot force a mass to be more critical, nor do we particularly *want* the mass to be so etc. , I think the synthesis of the two strains is what will mark the progression and evolution of contemporary capitalism.


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PostPosted: 10 Jun 2014, 10:42 
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a recollection of a dream I just awoke from,

I exit my room and head to the kitchen to prepare food, and I find that the stove top has been dropped nearly to knee height, the bottom cupboards merely cut away to fit where they meet the molding at the floor. I return down the hallway to my mother's room to ask her about it, and she's baffled for a moment before it hits her what I am talking about. She tells me that she dropped the whole unit to hide damage to the cabinet doors, and that this was a necessary fix because apparently we are not longer welcome at the furniture clearance outlet.

I'm immersed enough in this dream world that none of this seems bizarre to me, and with wistful nostalgia I picture myself at the nexus of several aisles, appliances spread in a grid before me. I'm absolutely certain that it's my fault that we were banned from this store.

I leave the house on a walk. I cut through a horse trail and, coming around to a double-L shaped bend, I round a blind corner with block walls on my left. There's a dog, a white Labrador, standing in the open gate to this yard and he begins to bark at me. I put my hands between us and slowly back away. Several more labs appear, one in taupe and the rest in black, and the taupe dog vocalizes as a dog imitating speech. It tells me to stay, which I do, it tells me to sit and so I squat, and it tells me to speak to which I respond with a bewildered, "what?" The dog seems satisfied. Another rounds the gate with a semifrozen bottle of champagne in its mouth, lopping the neck away with its foreleg in the same manner as is sometimes down with swords, and gives it to me. There's no spray or carbonation. He's followed by a lean, clean shaven old man, who after taking in the scene before him, points to the various dogs and confirmed which one barked at me, which one gave commands, and which one brought the wine. We make some small talk before I suddenly, and quite violently thrash awake in my bed.

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