Thoughts On: Post-Tribalism

by Beauchamp Art

Writing in response to: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/mar/20/youth-subcultures-where-have-they-gone

How could a lack of evident sub-cultures be a positive mark for contemporary tribalism?

Has the quest for individuality lead to an inevitable homogeneity of late-consumerism; the fear of the loss of self-hood inspired by communist uniformity now rearing its head in a undemocratic hegemony; with the frustration of apathy abated by conspicuous consumption and self-monitoring. The spiral of silence extending beyond not wanting to speak against the status quo, but undermining the possibility of social delineation. Thus heterogeneity could be seen to have absorbed homogeneity, and the subsequent banality has lead to a demoralization of individualistic tendencies.

In a contemporary youth culture, individuality is asserted through consumption, rather than production. The media tools that enable them to interact with others are tailored towards these tendencies, so that all interaction is a by-production of consumption. Such as using targeted marketing based on social media meta-data; the conversations had between peers become a source for data-mining, to find key words and phrases that may indicate interested, and thus what can be sold back to the user.
The individual is made to eat their words; sold back to them at a premium.
‘Shared interests’ is semantically reformed by the online social media environment. It becomes a list of mutually ‘liked’ pages, the mass exchange of hyperlinks, perpetually accompanied by advertising. The photo of friends at a particular venue becomes a means of marketing not only that one item, but other related products to the viewer, irregardless of their genuine interest. ‘Recommendations’ become the product of algorithmic scrutiny based on previous behaviour, rather than an consciously thought out suggestion, meaning that the user remains within the safe proximity of their previously established interests (based on their socio-economic and ethnographic background). This could be seen as a tendency for online media to cater towards a ‘post-tribalist’ social framework, in which the autonomy of self-organisation is supplanted with computational quantifying of individual’s lexicon to establish an easily comprehensible product to be dissected and used as a tool for financial gain by the corporations that moderate the social media forums.

However, this pessimistic perspectives does overlook the positive aspects of networked interconnectivity, such as enabling the individual to phenomenologically overcome geographical distances more easily; bridging the gap as photograph has always done.

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