The requisite research and discipline of scholarly form makes of ‘every completed work a death-mask of it’s intention. -G. Steiner
Someone once asked me to explain Postmodernism to them as I saw it, because they kept meeting people and after making small talk about media they were faced again and again with the same question: “So, are you into PoMo?”
Being a thinking person they weren’t quite sure how to answer and, sadly, I can’t remember what I offered them in my own response. I’m sure whatever I said was based on some inaccurate perception of the movement that I’d had several years ago. Below is a much more pointed definition.
This article accomplishes a number of interesting things, one of which being that it successfully details the problems with people who are still clinging to the movement, and why it’s no longer wholly relevant.
Postmodernism conceived of contemporary culture as a spectacle before which the individual sat powerless, and within which questions of the real were problematised. It therefore emphasised the television or the cinema screen.
Its successor, which I will call pseudo-modernism, makes the individual’s action the necessary condition of the cultural product. Pseudo-modernism includes all television or radio programmes or parts of programmes, all ‘texts’, whose content and dynamics are invented or directed by the participating viewer or listener (although these latter terms, with their passivity and emphasis on reception, are obsolete: whatever a telephoning Big Brother voter or a telephoning 6-0-6 football fan are doing, they are not simply viewing or listening).
Another of which is how it describes the way people argue about things on tumblr before the site even launched.
Pseudo-modernism also encompasses contemporary news programmes, whose content increasingly consists of emails or text messages sent in commenting on the news items. The terminology of ‘interactivity’ is equally inappropriate here, since there is no exchange: instead, the viewer or listener enters – writes a segment of the programme – then departs, returning to a passive role.
The text itself is a slightly dated one - published in 2006 - and so examples such as phone-in television shows seem, to me, a little out of fashion. But this could just be a localized critique; I don’t know anyone that watches or phones in for American Idol, but the show is still airing every year so these people clearly exist. Not to mention how many people I do know who participate in online giveaways with “post about”/”update your status with”/”reblog us!” as an entry form.
I’m also hard-pressed criticize the validity of anything in this article when we consider the advent of Google Fiber (which will almost certainly become a worldwide service in the next ten or fifteen years, if it takes that long) along with this:
Along with this new view of reality, it is clear that the dominant intellectual framework has changed. While postmodernism’s cultural products have been consigned to the same historicised status as modernism and romanticism, its intellectual tendencies (feminism, postcolonialism etc) find themselves isolated in the new philosophical environment. The academy, perhaps especially in Britain, is today so swamped by the assumptions and practices of market economics that it is deeply implausible for academics to tell their students they inhabit a postmodern world where a multiplicity of ideologies, world-views and voices can be heard. Their every step hounded by market economics, academics cannot preach multiplicity when their lives are dominated by what amounts in practice to consumer fanaticism. The world has narrowed intellectually, not broadened, in the last ten years. Where Lyotard saw the eclipse of Grand Narratives, pseudo-modernism sees the ideology of globalised market economics raised to the level of the sole and over-powering regulator of all social activity – monopolistic, all-engulfing, all-explaining, all-structuring, as every academic must disagreeably recognise.
And speaking of ”Trances" - for those of you who haven’t abandoned this little summary and started to read the text proper, bear with me a second - the close of this essay left me feeling lungless. If you’re crunched for time click through and skip to it.
I refrain from quoting it directly to preserve it’s effect.