Cultural Connections: The protest generation

I was currently reading an essay “The Schema of Mass Culture” by Adorno over the past couple of weeks. I was planning to write about it and make some notes, but I need a lot of time to think about it, to connect the dots as it were and I know that any interpretation that I do have is hardly definitive or worth reading. Connecting to the present, I have been catching up on the news events around the world from room with a window facing dull suburbia. With the recent riots behind me, I am observing that there is a protest movement in the USA. There are already internet memes mockingly referring to the sincerity of the movement, which in a way both undermines its seriousness, as well as acknowledges its influence.The phrase ‘we are the 99%’ is coming up a lot.

Around the world, protests are popping up. This is hardly a uniquely pan-Arab phenomena, as so-called ‘developed’ or ‘northern/western’ countries are experiencing moments of civil unrest. Credit rating agencies are looking poorly on the borrowing records of governments, and many pundits foresee more difficult economic times before it gets better. This issue exascerbates already underlying social inequalities, and in a way creating new ones. This is a recipe for civil unrest.

Over the past few years of writing this blog, I’ve noted a certain cynicism (namely, mine) about protest movements in general. I’m cynical that they got hijacked by families of causes, or they are simply not listened to, or that apathy rules stronger. There are a great number of interests groups these days. If we are to look at the UK, there are a huge family of interests which form the broad ‘anti-cuts’ protest movement. In a way I still feel cynical about whether they will make any affective change, but their voices are definately going to be heard. In some way, protest methods have become more plural, more inclusive, and not necessarily more direct-action based (although there’s a lot of that too).

Reading Adorno, I am reminded that certain Frankfurt school representatives would engage with student protest interests, combining praxis with their theory. The social sciences, and to a lesser extent, philosophy, had become relevant to the protest sensibilities of the time. What happened with the protest movements were that they fizzled out, and the failure of which set the cultural tone of pessimism for the 1970s in the manifold of cultural movements. I wonder how this situation will pan out, but I’m certainly not optimistic of the emergence of a world soul, or socialist utopia. Perhaps, like Adorno thought: culture will be schematised to expected conditions and the terms of collusion will be carved out by culture, cutting the protest motive from the jugular. Television popular light entertainment in the UK is at a peak high that it has not seen in decades, a fixation on such a culture seems to be an interesting contemporamous bedfellow of the protest movement. I find something distinctly Adornian about that.

Sinistre

On Steve Jobs

I’ve been pretty hectically busy this week, part of it is ‘career’ related, and most of it is also due to family issues. Over the course of the week, the only time in which I could catch up on the news is late at night. It so happened that around midnight, I recieved a retweet from Associated Press which said simply that Steve Jobs had died. I looked on google hurredly to confirm (or corroborate) it and I found no precedent stories except a story about a hoax earlier in September reporting his death (not helpful). I later found about 6 minutes later that the reports came flooding in to confirm the story. News these days travels pretty fast, but not that fast.

Many people refer to him as an Edison like figure. The success of the two latest Apple innovations not only superceded the iPod franchise in terms of its hype and success, but set the playing field for its competitors. I often say how I am not an Apple consumer, but how is anyone not an Apple consumer? In the respect that the iPod set up the market for MP3 players and mp3 consumption, services like Spotify, or last.fm probably wouldn’t exist. By counterfactual, if we were to entertain the non-presence of Apple on the world, I’m pretty sure that the consumer market, and culture at large would be a vastly different place. The strange influence of Steve Jobs, I think, would be on even his reception among his competitors, and that is indeed a powerful influence.

One closing comment I shall make is this. Many of the innovations of the various Apple products over the years were hardly ‘invented’ by the team at Apple, but they did create a popular usage and mainstream market for innovations such as the MP3 player or tablet based computer. One of the innovations that most people may not acknowledge is the Graphical User Interface of the Apple II. Stephen Fry talks much about how revolutionary the GUI was when he first got the Apple II in his 2010 autobiography “The Fry Chronicles”. What Fry notices is how using a computer became immediately more accessible and opened up to a wider non-specialist audience wider than computer nerds and code fanatics (although they are a very important group). The popularisation of the GUI and the success of subsequent GUI based operating systems (such as the Windows family) is one of the great game-changers of the 20th Century, not just in terms of how we use technology, but in terms of how the consequences of such have changed our cultural and social behaviours, relationships and abilities in a way that cannot be reversed. Perhaps more than any of the innovations of Apple over the past decade, popularising GUI should be considered Job’s greatest achievement. It makes one think what possible game-changers will be next over the coming few years and decades.

Michael

Blog name change, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook

I have updated and tweaked a few features on this blog, and I have realised that I have not properly addressed much of the blog for a long time (tagging and categories for instance). Since Destre, Antisophie and Sinistre hardly post as often as they did, I am making this my (Michael’s) primary blog, and I’m changing the website’s title to make it less verbose. I may change the URL at some point as well, so this may mean that RSS feeds need to be changed.

Also note on the site that I have integrated Twitter functionality with a dedicated Twitter page, and I have also linked the blog to a facebook fan page so you can ‘Like’ us as well. The real reason I’m trying to spruce up the site is as a sandbox in social networking and creating an online ‘brand’ presence. I’ve also created a shared Noumenal Realm email account so you can contact us, or myself specifically with any questions, requests, or follow up issues you have about particular topics and we’ll venture to reply to you. Our email account is noumenalrealm@gmail.com (consistent, aren’t we).

I want to thank you readers for following the blog for this long as we continue to create more posts.
Michael