In a common (and not unfounded) 21st century gripe, immigrants and suburbanites swarm into city rentals, pushing native dwellers into further corners of geographical existence for reasons of space and, moreso, cost. In the virtual world of the internet, one still must pay for space (bandwidth) not already occupied, but any perceived “location” is democratic to content and interaction rather than predetermined by its initial purchase.
Yesterday, Chicago producer/artist (and reliably persnickety oldhead) Johnny Love took to tumblr for an epic rant about the death of subculture at the hands of the internet. It’s worth a read in its entirety, and imbues some bitter truth for anyone innovative who has ever gotten lurked but not paid by a sometimes-beguiling corporate shill or celebrity stylist. “The problem isn’t Rihanna,” Love says, referring to the controversy around her arguably “seapunk” video, “it’s that most people have been focusing on establishing the superficial elements of their subculture without pushing the actual substance (music for example) so that when people want to ‘look cool,’ all they have to do is put together a uniform and they’re instantly visually identified.” He ends with cruel accolades; “…congratulations guys, no one stopped the disease of being inauthentic and now the pop music machine is feeding it back to everyone human centipede style and everyones lapping it up like its mothers milk.” Point taken.
So what is gentrification in the context of the internet, if not just referring to say, short and hyperintuitive domain names being mostly owned by the big companies who can buy them? Whereas subcultural participation used to involve sussing out rare, personally meaningful data in its many forms (the thrill of the chase), the 2013 homo sapien specimen has little time to act as much more than a glorified spam filter, interacting with and sharing links in between e-mails in between texts in between calls, between work between life, in order of increased importance but inverse quantity. It quickly becomes difficult for the pragmatic apopheniac to process thousands of repeat actions daily (even hourly) without feeling like a microscopic automaton. This is precisely the din of internet gentrification, densely populated but lacking a real sense of community, and what’s there is left to choke on its own tail, orbiting and lost between commerce and humanity.
The internet is but a mirror of our gentrified psyches, we who trip over the homeless because we’re hurriedly deleting spam e-mail from pesky nonprofits or RT’ing Democracy Now. Cheap, digestible iCulture is a reflection of so much more than art, music, and aesthetics, and lands squarely on the way society rewards our values, cancerously radiating on downwards through the interdisciplinary sociological spectrum. I am truly of the belief that our generation (as a whole) is fucked, and it is only when we unfuck the very foundation of value in America that our children’s children may begin to contemplate comfortable and healthy lives with perhaps a modicum of dignity, personal autonomy, and fulfilment thrown in for good measure.
Starving people like cheap shit, because it’s all they can afford.