Meta Culture

Remix culture was the defining cultural mode of the early 2000s. The accessibility of tools and the freedom of distribution gave way to a new way of interacting with existing cultural objects. Same as how the camera gave way to a cultural of mechanical reproduction, the internet gave way to sampling, remixes and mashups. Now, midway through the next decade, I feel like another cultural shift has taken place. Remixing is now a given, and what is now being sampled is the context of our cultural objects, rather than the objects themselves.

My friend T. loves video games. They have always had a huge place in her heart, but as she grew out of the adolescent thrill of bashing-and-smashing on screen, she’s found new excitement in Twitch. It doesn’t really what game is being played, she’s now much more invested in the streamers themselves, rather than the thing they are playing. Though this is now commonplace, I still hear people learning about Twitch for the first time say things like “Why would you want to watch someone else play a video game?” I love that Twitch has become so huge, because it means that more and more gamers are able to distinguish that the people playing the games are the thing worth paying attention to, and the minutiae of an individual game matter less than the humans around them.

Over the last few years I’ve almost entirely phased out television (out of circumstance, not self-righteousness). When I started drawing more, I found it challenging to divide my attention, and I found that I was either missing huge chunks of each show I watched, or making a lot of mistakes in my illustrations. But my ears were totally up for grabs, so I started listening to more podcasts. Over time, I missed episodic narratives I used to get from TV, so I started to gravitate towards podcasts that would fill that void. Now, Marshall McLuhan might have predicted that that would create the space for more dramatic episodic programming, same as the terrestrial radio that podcasting tries to usurp. But to my own surprise, I instead started listening to podcasts that could one-for-one replace the shows I used to watch. So listened to a Hannibal fancast, the X Files Files, and soon started listening to programs about TV shows I had never even seen just because the I knew and liked the hosts from other shows.

I’ve also noticed a resurgent passion for wrestling lately. People that I never would have expected to like wrestling coming out as secret fans of sport. And when they answer the inevitable question that always comes with the subject, they answer “Yeah, the matches are fake, but wrestling isn’t.” They are watching to see the construct itself, to see how all of the backdoor orchestrations unfold, knowing full well how the components are put together.

The pessimistic conclusion might be that we are so hooked on corporate pop culture that even our individualistic efforts are still anchored by what major media entities will provide for us. But the point of view I take on this is that we have reached a stage of cultural literacy where the spectacle itself is no longer satisfying, and that we now want to look beyond these cultural objects and see the people, plotting and context that make them possible. That the people that participate and create the media we become passionate about are in fact the things that are most interesting about these media properties. That we moved out of remixing in to a culture where contextualization  & commentary are more valuable than production or craft. Exit Remix Culture, enter Meta Culture.

POSTSCRIPT

The meta culture I have most enjoyed include:

All My Movies – Shia LaBoeuf watches every one of his films in reverse chronological order

Shirobako – the anime about making an anime

Monster Factory – Justin & Griffin McElroy make characters in video character creators