Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Birth of Global Folk Culture

For most of human history Culture was transmitted through an open source model. This includes music, mythology, legends, philosophy, legal norms etc. For an example of how this works let's look at music. Throughout most of history musicians could neither read nor right music, and neither could they record their works. For this reason the only way music was preserved was through imitation. This takes advantage of memetic natural selection.

That music which is enjoyed the most gets reproduced the most. Usually when music gets reproduced by a musician the musician will attempt to improve on it or embellish it in some way. Therefore those improvement which are most enjoyed and most memorable are in turn reproduced the most again. In this way the music becomes an extension of the culture which gave birth to it and in this way the music can evolve with that culture. Why does the musician create the music at all? He doesn't even have economic incentive! The reason is clear.

The musician is gifted with an ability to create music and does so either because he loves doing it or because his genius compels him. The same can be said for every other aspect of culture. The gifted will work their magic. Here are a few names - just ask yourself if their contributions arose from economic incentive or from the driving force of a genius within: da Vinci, Einstein, Goethe, van Gogh, Beethoven, Plato, Aristotle. You get the idea. Of course the list could go on and on with the great contributers of the world. Sometimes they get rich from their work and sometimes they starve to death. But that is not the reason they create.

Now lets fast forward to the age of mass media. This age arrived with the advent of the ability to record sound with hi-fidelity, broadcast radio in FM, and broadcast television. All of these technologies came to fruition around the same time, which was shortly after the second world war. Around this time what had been the evolution of culture became an industry. Namely the entertainment industry. From that point on true artists continued to create just as they ever did. Most of them still had to work for a living but that is nothing new. Unfortunately much of these artist's work would go with out an audience or recognition. At the same time those artists who could be shown to appeal to the greatest number of people would be chosen by the mass media to be commodified. This became pop culture. Constantly leveled down. Always appealing only to an average.

Of course almost as soon as this condition arose their arose also those who would rebel against the leveling down of art. There was the root rock movement in the sixties, and a push toward independent film by serious artists etc. It is only now, however, that this little rebellion against the fascism of mass media has been truly empowered. Many have called it the 'remix' culture. Call it what you will but it is actually a return to folk culture, only now computing power and the connectivity of the Internet is empowering anyone with a desire to be an artist, recorder, broadcaster, writer, publisher - you name it.

The fact that anyone with a computer, a connection, and the proper desire can now create and distribute culture fairly easily means the demise of command control mass media. Lets look at some examples.

Centralized control/mass culture

Decentralized/folk culture

Newspapers, magazines

Blogs, tagged news, participatory reporting

Publishing company


Broadcast radio

Pod cast

TV, movies

Bittorrent, vlog,

Pulp fiction, comic books


The power behind mass media was that they controlled what was created and distributed. Now that this monopoly has been largely lifted I expect to see an artistic renaissance and an explosion in the amount of and quality of entertainment. As the technology for creating art becomes more advanced I expect to see people making high quality movies with CG animation, and I expect to see all manner of music created on the desk top using powerful synthesizers.

For now the big budget producer still has a place, but look for this to change as we witness the birth of global folk culture.


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By Blogger Mít Trang, at 19/8/15 03:27  

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