Snack On This
The cover story on the new issue of Wired is Snack Attack!, a mini-manifesto on the notion that culture is becoming more bite-sized. I wrote three short pieces for the compilation -- on t-shirts, lists, and link blogs. These happen to be three things I'm ridiculously qualified to prattle on about.
Snack Culture is a notion that, once stated aloud, seems almost obvious: society is speeding up, so of course culture reflects that acceleration by providing smaller, easier-to-consume bits. Just think about ringtones and texting, iTunes and Twitter, online profiles and speed dating -- nuh doy, right? Aren't FlashMobs just really nano-protests? Isn't H&M just fashion in fast-forward? How about the mashup -- couldn't we argue that it is simply a way to consume two songs in the time it takes to listen to one? (I remember an episode of Star Trek: Next Generation in which Data was listening to five Mozart symphonies at once. This seemed like utopia to this attention-deficient teenage mind.)
Steven Berlin Johnson's decent counterpoint, Snacklash, makes a compelling argument that miniaturization is actually an illusion created by surplus. But his points about movies and music (old media) seem to crumble with recent inventions (new media): games, startups, webisodes, memoirs, gossip, widgets, highlight reels, and all the rest -- just let your mind wander and you'll think of some.
Some bite-sized notes on the items I wrote:
I've had this theory for a while: the t-shirt is becoming its own legitimate form of media. Whereas t-shirts used to be a retroactive way to classify yourself in a social group, now t-shirts seem to broadcast news. From Wii tees to Dick in the Box halter-tops, the t-shirt is the nano-ist of nano-publishing.
It's strange to be known as the list guy. Since at least Nick Hornby (or Letterman?), it's become easy to be cynical about cultural lists. But lists are like malls -- we may hate them, but they can never perish in the age of micro-niche. Lists have a mathematical elegance, an efficiency. Lists are ways to editorialize, to predict. Lists are nostalgia and futurism at the same time.
Stacks of links, neatly organized, precise and discrete: you have your version of beauty, I have mine.