[FoRK] Culture

Stephen D. Williams < sdw at lig.net > on > Sat Sep 23 13:14:32 PDT 2006

Stephen D. Williams wrote:
>  Now days, the bulk of our cultural education is based on far more.

Recently, talking with my European friends, a couple of us made a 
reference to "The Wizard of Oz".  They had never even heard of it, while 
I remember seeing it every year on network TV since I started watching 
TV.  After describing it and deconstructing its allegories a bit, I 
realized that it was a key part of US culture, along with classics like 
"To Kill a Mockingbird" and "It's a Wonderful Life".  (The latter 
overtly religiously themed, but really I think a purely Humanistic story.)

While big parts of modern popular culture might get exported, they are 
filtered through tastes and voids in local cultures.  It would be very 
interesting to define and characterize the key touch points of modern 
and recent generation culture in key areas of the world.  I would argue 
that in most of the developed world, popular culture/literature/media 
along with certain parts of classic literature vastly outweigh religious 
doctrine for most people.  This seems to be the opposite for Middle 
Eastern countries.  There was just a note in the Washington Post in the 
last day or two about the release of the first feature length movie in 
Saudi Arabia.

People complain about the wrong-headed or regressive nature of a lot of 
pop media, and they may be right, however I think that everyone 
automatically classifies works and elements as either patterns or 
anti-patterns.  Because nearly everyone gets a different mix of cultural 
input, I suppose we have a lot of "cultural sex" going on, something 
like a Monte Carlo simulation, which allows the fittest version of 
culture to emerge on average.

All of this comes back to thinking about who controls what people see, 
to what extent.  Obviously we have far less control exerted on us than 
in pre-Internet, and especially pre-Satellite TV days.  Still, schools 
choose what literature we have to read, somewhat standardized by 
state-wide testing, and movie studios and rolled-up media owners control 
a lot of money and content.

The US has been said to have no culture.  I wonder if the intent was to 
show that the US lacked central cultural control or to lament the low 
standards of popular culture.

On the subject of popular culture, especially TV series, mini-series, 
and cinema, it seems to me that the quality and depth, of the best stuff 
at least, has taken a huge leap in the last 5 years or so across the board.


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