The Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout thinks future generations will consider itunes, youtube, and Kindle a more important cultural development than anything it distributes. He’s right to point out the huge change these technologies have brought, but hosting services and art aren’t comparable. Flickr would not exist without users, or to put it the analogue way, museums are not more important than the painting. After all, the building’s very existence relies on the production of work.
Teachout cites Hip Hop as the last true artistic trend, a contentious statement for a number of reasons. I’d argue that while diverse, Internet mash-up culture, LOLcat memes, and youtube video responses and remakes, are distinct enough in form to label as a significant and distinct “artistic trend” of the twenty-first century. Interestingly, the rationale provided by Teachout for lack of trends — that nothing lasts — is also a defining characteristic of the web. Littered with defunct blogs, websites, and youtube channels, the Internet is simultaneously fascinating and dreary in its endless archiving of abandoned crap.
But not every point made misses the mark. “Our culture was always more diverse than media let on…”, writes Teachout, an idea of some merit. Sure, Twitter demonstrates a sameness to all this “original” communication, but we still now consume vastly different cultural material. Arts Writers grant awardee Gene McHugh provides an excellent example of this in a recent essay, reflecting on a recent attempt to sing campfire songs with friends that failed after the group discovered no one knew the same music. Interestingly, the piece also cites artist Ryan Trecartin’s videos featuring strange characters complaining about their lack of identity as a unifying voice amongst those of his generation (or at least his friend circle). McHugh is 27.