Archive for July 26, 2007

Cat, the Internet, and the Dominant Power Paradigm

July 26, 2007

This is, ironically, the first post to mention cats on this blog, yet it has nothing to do with the cats I live with. Go figure.

So the cats-with-captions meme has made it to Time magazine. The author of the column is sure and enthusiast, but he says something completely out of place and yet totally correct at the end of this piece:

We may be witnessing a revolution in user-generated content, but the more mainstream the Web gets, the more it looks like the mainstream: homogenous, opportunistic and commercial. It’s no longer a subculture; it’s just the culture. And don’t we have enough of that already? Are we facing a future without a weird, vital, creative phenomenon like lolcats? Say it with me: “Do not want!”

I suspect really, really serious Internet junkies have been saying this for years. Nevertheless, I think Grossman is correct. As the Internet gets professionalized and institutionalized (and as major companies take over the hosting and running of most of the functions that used to be performed by either tiny outfits or individuals), the quirky character and constant revolution that made it so raw and unfiltered are disappearing. The Internet is beginning to recognizably match the values of the dominant paradigm now that there’s a critical mass of folks involved. When it was a self-selected group that differed from the dominant ideology enough, it did have a slightly different character.

Look at it this way: For me, the 80s were a time when people didn’t really know how to incorporate digital technology into culture, and the result was messy. By the mid-90s, the “problem” was solved. I think there’s a parallel there to the Internet, and what we’re seeing now is the use of the Internet in such a way that serves the dominant power paradigm.

(This doesn’t mean that the Internet is monolithic, but that it’s main uses reflect American ‘values’. Certainly you can find almost anything out there – I’m talking about the main uses for the majority of people)

There will never be a constant Internet revolution until there is a constant social revolution.