The Long Tail of a Hipster

There is a constant drive of innovation in technology, making it faster, smaller and cheaper. All sold with the premiss that it is better than the last iteration which was released 5 months ago. This though does not make any previous technology irrelevant, as there is an ever growing long tail of technology. A long tail from a cultural perspective it has been defined by Chris Anderson as “content that is not available through traditional distribution channels but could nevertheless find an audience.” meaning that even once content has been distributed through traditional means it can still be acquired through alternative sources such as VOD (video on demand). By enabling the access to content and technology long after the original distribution allows for a second wave of meaning to come from it.

in the history of technology, it is not rare for technology to gain significance long after their inception

Theodore Adorno (1969: p. 283)

This form of long tail is becoming significaly more important in current culture and technology. Does the fast movement forward of technology and culture mean that we take comfort and nostalgia from old mediums; does it mean we still value them so much we can’t bare to let them go, is this the beginning of a post-modern technology movement/enabler? Whatever it is it is an ever growing trend with some notable examples:

  • Instagram: An app for Android and iOS, and a social media photo sharing site which allows the application of ‘vintage’ filters to images, making them look like they where taken on old film cameras. Also allowing them to be shared to the masses on other social networking sites.
  • Lomography: Old film cameras which reproduce image as though there where taken with granny cameras. Allowing you to buy multiple different one, accessories, and again share them online.
  • Vinyle Records: These have been on a steady decline for year, however they are still the go to medium for DJs. Recently the sales have sored, with people are now willing to pay on average £16.30 for one in comparison to £7.82 for a CD in a shop.

All of these movements started out small but have eventually had a boom phases. Instagram now has upwards of 100 million registered users and is still growing. These initially could be classed as cult (counter cultural) movements, only attract the people willing to hold onto the technology and belief in the technology. However through these techonologys being legacy and iconic has this meant that these sub culture(cults) are accessible to the masses? Does making a cult into an app mean that people can be a member of the cult though a glass screen? Through people trying to be individual does it mean that cults become the norm? Do they become main stream, meaning that the person next to you is as induvialual as you, which is not that individual at all. However as they are contained to a device or product which can be concealed, means that internally you believe you are individual, and can be individual at will, individual when you want to be, breaking the rules of the norms at any time, when infract any one can do that, thus the hidden individualism is just a hidden norm.

Does this retro furterisum allow for a post hock reflection on technology? Does it allow use to discover and instill romanticism into technology when once it may have been seen as clinical and impersonal. Sales of the Soda Streams, and hostess trollies are on the increase after they have been introduced with new sleek slender and easier to use designs, is this a throw back to a time we think was better, when we entertained and made out own pop. There was a reason these vanished for a time, and are we forgetting this vanishing and just remembering the nostalgia, this could definitly be said for film cameras; where production of film is now at an all time low, and is at all time high prices but people still buy them for vintage camera where the cost for getting the final picture is significantly higher than using digital. Thus are these reinventions/cults doomed from the start?

It could be argued that these mediums become an accessible art form for the masses. Once they have been commoditized such as 35ml film and vinyle, and then decommoditized there is still the cultural demand (cultural commoditization) for them and that the knowledge barrier for there use has been over come. Thus as cultural value is high and supply is low they start to be valued as an art form, thus vinyle is place on the wall for it’s cover art, and people treasure the grainy photos taken with a Lomography camera, even the bad ones.

Does this mean that for technology to gain human meaning we should follow the hipster. Are these brogue wearing, gin drinking, vintage cloths wearing the trend setters for the social retro technology movement, indicating which technology has significant cultural meaning and limited supply thus making it is a new form of pop art.


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