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Culture Spamming September 24, 2007

Posted by olywood in society.
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1 comment so far

So, since this is my first post on my very own blog, i should probably explain myself, or at least give you an idea of what on earth I think i’m doing by getting involved in the increasingly dodgy sounding ‘blogger’s phenomenon’.
Well the title probably dictates my intentions as much as anything else so I’ll start there.
I decided on ‘culture spam’ for a variety of reasons, not least because ‘culture’ as a topic is so unchartably vast in its scope you can write boundlessly in virtually any direction without fear of ever running out of subject matter.

And ‘spam’ is just a sort of pre emptive get out clause in case i’m ever put in a position where I have to justify my unscrupulous online p.r. methods.
Its all in the title, so I cant be held responsible for anyone who gets miffed or offended, although since this is the internet i’m sure you’ll let me know if you do.

While diversity is key here, that doesn’t necessarily mean i’m going to have a bash at the red wines of southern California one week then launch myself into consumer cosmetics the next.
Culture in this instance denotes social theory, philosophy (yes people still do actually do that) and a great deal of me finding out exactly how far I can take things before getting called out on my own pseudery.
I should probably also say a few words about the header graphic at the top there, or at the very least apologise for it.
The tragedy is i probably spent more time agonising over that piece of shit than anything else.
At one point i almost considered one of those minimalist jobs where you cant actually make out what it is you’re looking at – some sort of artsy textual landscape of phosphorescent neon-tubes; which if you could only zoom out of you’d disappointingly realise was just Paul dannan’s arse lint.

As you can see though I didn’t do that at all, I opted out of sexy design aesthetics and opted in on the considerably harder (impossible?) task of trying to sum up ‘culture’ with a few hand pouched jpegs from google’s image search facility.

Of course the main problem with this design concept is that you’re ultimately condemning yourself to endless reoccurring doubts of having ‘left someone out’ or having put something in you probably shouldn’t have.
And at the critical point of construction there’s always that worry of descending rapidly into national geographic style ‘Ethno-collage’ territory before you even know what’s happened.
I really did consider buddying up the Maasai with some unsuspecting Tibetan monks at one point. Lucky though, ive seen the effect that self-congratulatory ethnic diversity murals can have on people closeup and I know its something that I’m just not morally capable of.
So this being the 21st century, chav replaces Tibetan monk, and Asimo is brought in to cover for old plate-lip.
Which is still probably a bit naff as an exercise in diversity, although on the plus side i doubt it’d get anywhere near the final design stages of a mid-90s Beniton board meeting, and so on that basis alone is probably as credible as it needs to be.

Er ok, seriously though why ‘culture’?

Because culture as well as being every writer’s never-ending ball of twine, is also one of those topics that’s just as interesting to talk about in its own right as it is to use in describing everything else.
Culture, just like getting flashed on the way home from work or finding out a relative enjoys the comedy of Jim Davidson, is always something that happens to other people.
You never actually think of you yourself as belonging to or being part of a culture, well you don’t do you?
Untill its actually pointed out to you, culture is never anything other than the over-processed tedium of your daily life.
In fact stopping to consider exactly which of your daily tasks and rituals might actually count as culture could quite easily leave you looking a unflattering shade of stupid.

Music is usually the first one people think about, then art, then museums (which you haven’t been to in years anyway) and then it starts to get a bit tricky.
Is reading the Sunday supplements with a bit of middle-brow radio going on in the background culture? Can eating a soggy breakfast in a depressing Midlands service station really be considered culture?
Well if anthropologists can be bothered to study the largely dull dietary habits and constitutions of far flung pre-civilised societies then its safe to say that by direct association they probably must be.
Of course it’s worth mentioning that the grub-eating tribesman watching his best friend and cousin dance around the fire on a particularly slow Sunday evening doesn’t think he’s engaging in anything cultural either, he’s just like you in that respect.

In fact if anything binds us together as human beings its our unified blind-spot and natural oblivion for our own culture.
Culture’s something we hardly ever experience directly, we experience it vicariously through cultural enablers and social surrogates.
The amount of our own culture that we’re actually aware of is probably comparable to the amount of our own internal organs that we could correctly name and place within our own body.
You cant get away with ‘cultural heritage’ either, i see what you’re trying to do there but it wont work.
Your cultural heritage is as faraway and distant a land as some unmapped region of the amazon, that’s not your culture at all.
And no to any Americans reading this, you cant cop-out and say you don’t have any culture to speak of anyway, it may be new and you may not like a great deal of it. But you have a country absolutely heaving with culture.
You’ve got so much culture in fact there isn’t a country in the western world which hasn’t displaced some of its own culture in order to make way for some of your own.

Culture-Club

One of the other great misconceptions about culture is that some have it, while others don’t.
Now you might be somewhat more artistically encyclopedic than the next man (or woman) but they’ve got culture too whether you like it or not.

Despite this obvious fact we still tend to think in the unshiftingly stubborn terms of ‘high culture/low culture’ or perhaps more accurately today – ‘high culture/popular culture’.
These days of course it’s pointless to think of culture as an exclusive private members club, culture isn’t a pursuit for the monied classes anymore (if it ever was).
The latest cultural transmissions are only as far away as a mouse click or semi-lucid prod of your tv remote.
Its not just that culture is more accessible now either, its that culture itself is more evenly distributed amongst the class and labour divisions than it’s ever been before.

Annoyingly (for a certain cross-section of society) this now makes it both impossible and pointless to accurately gauge who’s more ‘culturally switched on’ than the other.
In fact mentally indexing art movements and obscure Greek thinkers of the past could end up making you look distinctly uncultured compared to the 17 year old utilising his cheap mobile phone as a performance art prop to flow over some homemade beats while riding the subway home.

You see being a part-time scholar in the tragedies and triumphs of nations current and past means very little if you aren’t getting your hands dirty in the daily buzz and bustle of your own culture.
Which isn’t to say that you should eschew turner prize winners in favour of loitering yoots self-consciously reinvented as ‘art objects’.
The point is, culture can never be an ornament of the elite again.

Popularity or perhaps more accurately, ‘accesiblity’ doesn’t dictate the sharp decline in quality of content that it used to.
In fact culture that is ‘hard-to-accesss’ is more likely to be simply irrelevant or uninteresting, rather than a special secret kept amongst elites.

All this of course is largely thanks to the electronic medium i’m working in right now.
In an information age the where every self respecting westerner is ‘hooked up’ in some form or another; the whole idea of ‘high culture’ becomes the barking nonsense of a madman or the sweet delusion of someone who’s completely lost touch with their cultural bearings altogether – there’s no ‘height’ or ‘depth’ to culture because there’s no real dimensionality to it at all anymore.

Wikipedia, google, youtube, and the bloggers have all helped spread it thin right across the western hemisphere.
This ‘culture-smear’ in practice means that culture is now more of an all-you-can-eat buffet than a private lunch between guarded friends.

And i for one, will be going back up for seconds.

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