Reframing the Relations of Media, Knowledge, and Innovation in Society
Edited By Hubert Knoblauch, Mark D. Jacobs and René Tuma
Serious Eats: Community as the Key to Creativity in Wired Popular Culture
MARK D. JACOBS
The topoi of this conference—culture, communication, and creativity—recall the terms of the “mass culture” debate of the mid-twentieth century (e.g., Horkheimer and Adorno 2002 , Shils 1957, 1959). Was “culture for the millions” a force for creativity or conformity? Was the effect of mass communications, the broadcasting of cultural content from the center to the periphery, to create a passive, atomized, and homogeneous public, more easily manipulable by privileged interests, or was the effect to make generally available a source of cultivation and inspiration previously reserved for the elite? Towards the end of the century, Pierre Bourdieu (1984 ) produced a more subtle version of the “hermeneutics of suspicion,” claiming that culture is a “cynical game” of seeking dominance though the achievement of distinction—a game in which those born into privilege in effect make the rules and enjoy insuperable advantage. For Bourdieu, the medium of communication is not technological, but discursive: the upper strata lay claim to cultural “distinction” through an unconsciously inculcated discourse of “esthetic distancing,” a disposition to abstract esthetic properties from objects.
Whatever the merits of the various arguments put forth, the modern revolution in communications technology has transformed their very terms. The interactive capacity of Web 2.0 and the mass availability of mobile communication devices have forged infinitely flexible circuits of real-time communication that not only blur the boundaries but also recalibrate the relative strengths of elite culture, commercialized mass culture, and popular culture....