This past week kicked off the first ever London Menswear catwalk shows and it was the perfect summation of the wide range and eccentricity of English fashion. Inspirations were present from across the board, from stately modern takes on English Prep, to an avant garde androgynous pastiche straight from the animated gifs of Tumblr. One of the most impressive elements of the collections was the extremely varied take on what comprises modern English fashion. As Patrick Grant, who showed his E Tautz collection, noted in a New York Times piece about the shows, designers have been exploring every facet of the English aesthetic instead of sticking to the molds they’ve become accustomed to: “The great thing about British fashion is that it is going in every direction,” Mr. Grant said. “In the past, people pigeonholed us as either dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists or streetwear designers, and they didn’t imagine anything in between. I think we have been a bit braver.”
English fashion has a long tradition of elaborate experimental designs that have been at the forefront of innovation while simultaneously changing what the mainstream perceives as wearable. Vivienne Westwood almost single-handedly ushered in the punk aesthetic while contemporary designers like Alexander Mcqueen continually pushed the boundaries and artistic decadence of modern fashion, and their influence was consistently present in a number of the menswear collections. This upcoming generation of English designers has really shown they’re creating some of the most otherworldly and forward thinking collections in modern fashion.
Design team Meadham Kirchoff presented their collection in an alternative venue comprised of a two room installation full of dingy mattresses, dollar store linens, and the leftover debris from a night of excess. It was an amazing blend of a Harmony Korine-esque post-rave squalor with a neon and floral color palette accented by dozens of dead roses and squatter fuselage. The look was an androgynous post apocalyptic gypsy dreamscape that combined Eastern tunics with American vintage sportswear, day glo Nikes, and multi-hued pajama bottoms and sloppy boy shorts. At least some part of the aesthetic was also reminiscent of the current Tumblr hyper-pastiche looks floating around the web, eliciting many URL in IRL moments. It was one of the most jaw dropping but also strangely organic collections this season, which completely shattered any semblance of conformity, as noted in this quote by half of the design team Benjamin Kirchhoff: “There is no idea of personal freedom or personal style anymore. It’s something people have lost in London and around the world.”
Sibling’s designs comprised another audacious collection that perfectly exemplified the tenacious experimentation of English designers. It was a futuristic take on hip hop tropes and tailored sportswear with bizarre headpieces and facemasks that looked like mutated q-tips or streamlined jousting masks. It was a decidedly white palette with tons of gold and gaudy accents with intricate knitwear designs and pants that very often resembled baseball uniforms cut below the knee. A lot of the designs reminded me of the Hood By Air homo thug designs that blend sleek urban sportswear with hyper-stylized minimalist touches that automatically invert any overtly masculine cues. There were even bling emblazoned baseball caps matched with a severely plunging neckline hoodie and exposed full body tattoos that were both subtlety threatening and a tad bit decadent twee. Overall it was such an interesting mix and match aesthetic that seems like a harbinger for every rapper’s wardrobe in maybe 2030 or so.
Ever since my trip to Asia, my perspective of New York has changed. In the last few years, NYC has become a tech mecca that’s able to rival Silicon Valley. It’s bubbling with young entrepreneurs who are hungry to save the world and it’s certainly a refreshing change of pace. But lately I’ve been wondering if there’s too much saturation in metropolitan cities and maybe the solution is that some of the tech talent could venture to other locations to help save our economy. Would it make more sense for someone with my skill set to help individuals in other up and coming communities? Shouldn’t professionals like us help these cities by creating new economies and sources of income?
Do we really need more Fashion and geo-location apps? A bulk of the industry is competing in very similar areas and they might be better off in completely different surroundings faced with real problems and their practical solutions. A perfect example – I grew up in Miami and every time I go back I’m astonished at the lack of infrastructure down there. Can Miami continue to survive only on tourism and service based industries? Florida was severely affected by the recession, so it seems like diversifying their income stream would definitely benefit them in the long run. So as Tech Entrepreneurs how can we help these other communities? As an innovative DIY tech generation couldn’t we learn the challenges and understand their dynamics to create new ways for individuals to generate revenue? I think so.
The main idea behind it is if you have an online business or technology skills you can offer your services from anywhere around the US or the world, and with our current economy crumbling doesn’t it make sense to utilize our skills to create our own alternative economy? These are the types of questions I’ve really been pondering lately. Let’s face it – with technology, collaborating around the world is as easy as connecting to a Wi-Fi network, and there are endless opportunities to expand our global reach from any home base we set our sights on. What are your thoughts? Would we be more productive if we went to our original cities or suburbs to help these communities?
1. New App lets you Communicate through Animated Images
A new app for iPhones called MotionPhone was recently released that allows people to communicate through animated images instead of voice or text. The app allows you to create and design your own abstract animated images which can then be shared with your friend’s images to create new and endless animated combinations. It’s definitely an innovative way of using mobile techonology to communicate in a very unorthodox fashion.
The Apple rumor mill never stops churning out new stories. According to the Huffington Post, when the new iPhone 5 is launched it’ll be made of a liquid metal alloy casing instead of glass, it’ll be 4G LTE compatible, and 0.44 millimeters thinner then the iPhone 4S, which definitely makes it seem like an entirely new design, versus the interim changes on previous models.
3. YouTube Now Offers Over 100 Channels of Original Programming
In a move to compete with the online offerings of Hulu and Netflix, YouTube recently launched over 100 channels of original programming. The content ranges in every category you can think of; home improvement, science queries, music / TV / entertainment news, and even something called “American Hipster” which is probably amazing and leaves you befuddled at the same time. There are probably tons of unusual gems among the content; a good bulk of the programming was culled from the more successful channels that were on YouTube before the original programming launch.
4. Mobile Lorm Glove Allows the Deaf and Blind to Communicate Through Mobile Technology
The Mobile Lorm is an amazing form of technology that allows deaf and blind people to communicate through mobile devices. The Glove itself relies on Lorm, which is a tactile signing language that’s then transferred to sensors on the glove which is then translated to a mobile device and converted into speech or a text message. It even allows the user to send and receive text messages through the glove. It’s definitely a huge advancement in bringing the world of mobile tech and communication to the disabled.
Science and Singles became an unlikely combination recently with the launch of Pheromone Parties. It’s a social event where you bring a T-Shirt you’ve worn for three days prior without washing it in a plastic bag and then everyone smells the shirts to determine who they should be matched with. It sounds kind of odd at first, but maybe it makes more sense then meeting potential suitors based on eHarmony algorithms.
“Wavvy” is the first track from Mykki Blanco’s upcoming mixtape Cosmic Angel and if the rest of it sounds anything like this, it’ll be one of the most raw and next level releases out this year. Blanco is a cross dressing performer that’s part of a new quasi-movement of gay rappers that are making some of the most innovative rap music out right now. Also check out the interview Pitchfork did with Blanco and other artists about their new perspective on hip hop and how they’re changing the genre.
iamamiwhoami created a huge mystique around her identity through her beautiful but cryptic viral videos and atmospheric sounds. Eventually her identity was revealed as musician Jonna Lee, but it didn’t detract at all from the amazing project and tracks. She released a new video this week for the song “Idle Talk” and it’s just as mesmerizing as the other vids in her iamamiwhoami catalogue.
Cassie is one of those artists that has such a huge cult-following that every time she releases a track, even if its years between them, the entire blogosphere turns to shambles. Her most recent club ready junt “King of Hearts” got the amazing Kanye West remix treatment a few weeks ago, and now Richard X, who’s worked with Annie and M.I.A., has also remixed it into a 4 on the floor club thumper with tons of murky synths stuttering under Cassie’s saccharine vocals. If Diddy ever gets around to releasing her second album, bloggers will positively implode with excitement.
9. Pitchfork Article: Social Media and the Influx of Music Writing
This is an interesting article from Pitchfork’s extremely well written and always astute Resonant Frequency column that discusses how the influx of music writing, mostly due to Social Media and web culture, has changed our opinions and how we think about music. The author Mark Richardson brings up some really interesting points about the collective music critique culture online and how it changes and informs our own perspectives on music.
10. New Interactive Animal Collective Website Recreates Guggenheim Installation
Animal Collective has just launched a new website that seeks to recreate their 2010 Guggenheim Installation accompanied by music from their recent Record Store Day Limted release Transverse Temporal Gyrus. By combining video and images by artist Danny Perez, and the signature atmospherics and otherworldly sounds Animal Collective is known for, the website is probably the closest thing to seeing one of the world’s most experimental bands take over an entire Frank Lloyd Wright architectural landmark.
Death Grips new album The Money Store was released this week and it’s an unreal almost indefinable sound; its nonstop abrasive noise and industrial elements with earworm synths and guttural rap vocals. The most interesting aspect is it was released by the major label Epic and they were signed by L.A. Reid, who famously also signed Outkast to their first record deal. They don’t have a lot in common as far as their sound, but they’re both similar in being completely experimental within the rap genre. Also check out the interview Pitchfork did with Death Grips member Zach Hill, who’s also a member of Hella and Boredoms. He gives some insight on the philosophy and sound behind the group.
Purity Ring, along with Sleep ∞ Over, have perfected the art of hazy atmospherics and dream-gaze synths over half-cooed vocals. Their new single “Obedear” is the perfect evolution of their sound with an electro-backbeat and woozy infectious synth lines. “Obedear” is the first single off their forthcoming debut album which comes out via 4AD on July 24.
Planet Mu has almost become the de facto record label for popularizing juke and footwork music in England and all over Europe. Traxman is their latest artist that really represents the culture and roots of juke and ghetto house for the seminal label started by idm godfather Mike Paradinas. Also check out Traxman’s recent FACT mix for a essential primer on juke and footwork, and their earlier incarnations ghetto house and ghetto tech in a masterfully put together set.
14. Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule “Life and Death” A.V. Club Review
John C. Reilly has inhabited a diverse array of characters over the years but Dr Steve Brule is probably the most engrossing and absolutely bewildering of them all. Just watching a single episode of Check It Out! could leave you befuddled for days. A.V. Club writer Brandon Nowalk does a really great review of the second season episode “Life and Death” that really hones in on some of the influences and stylistic elements of the show.
15. Grimes plays “Genesis” on Later with Jools Holland
Indie darling Grimes recently played her track “Genesis” on the British late night show Later with Jools Holland and gave an amazing performance that keeps reminding listeners why her 4AD album Visions is one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year. It’s an enchanted and intimate performance that really brings the track to life.
Weeks after the massive fanfare for Tupac’s digital return to Coachella, TLC announced that Left Eye will join them on their upcoming reunion tour. The details are still up in the air whether it’ll be similar technology to the Tupac performance, or if they’ll use archival footage, but it’s definitely an interesting concept that’ll defeintely be a big draw for their upcoming tour.
17. P’Trique Tells Everyone About Charlotte Free’s New Gig
P’Trique and a gaggle of fashion’s who’s who star in this campy viral vid as they play telephone spreading the word about model Charlotte Free’s new gig with Maybelline. Everyone from Betsey Johnson to RHONY’s favorite yenta Jill Zarin makes hilarious cameos.
Every aspect of our lives have completely merged with Social Media, including the entertainment we take in and how we interact with it. Out of all the mediums television has definitely seen the most seamless integration with a huge a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and tons of different websites that solely focus on fan participation. The viewing experience has taken on a completely new level of interactivity in addition to the benefits of essential marketing and research tools only available on Social Media.
One of the major changes that has come with Social Media integration into television are fully interactive viewing experiences. There are shows that have premiered in the last few months where Social Media has allowed the viewer to actually become another character on the show. One of the best examples is the recent NBC reality show Escape Routes. It’s an Amazing Race style series that pits teams of two against each other in urban locales as they go on scavenger hunts to accomplish different tasks, but the major difference is the viewer at home can help out the teams with their missions in real time, through Social Media as a virtual teammate. The competitors on the show update their whereabouts and specific tasks while getting assistance online from the viewers at home who become virtual team members and if you’re local enough you can go to the city they’re in and help them out with the tasks, which completely breaks down the wall between a passive audience member and actually becoming an part of the show.
Escape Routes is one of the best examples of a fully interactive and immersive television experience, but lots of producers have integrated Social Media into different facets of their shows. Watch What Happens Live, a late night talk show on Bravo hosted by reality show dilettante Andy Cohen, takes questions from Facebook and Twitter followers in real time that alter the show’s content and sometimes get a rise out of otherwise stale guests. Bravo has been one of the early adapters of Social Media presence for their stable of reality show franchises. They encourage their most prominent cast members to maintain weekly blogs that expand on each episodes weekly storylines, and they air what they call “Social” editions of some episodes that have pertinent tweets from the cast members commenting on the storylines as the action unfolds on screen.
Beyond integration with Social Media into a show’s actual storyline, producers and creators have turned to Facebook and Twitter as another gauge for a show’s success. Before the Internet one of the only ways for a network to grasp the popularity of a show was through Nielson boxes, which are doled out to a mix of different demographics to get a numerical gauge of actual viewership. Social Media hasn’t made Nielson numbers irrelevant, (they’re still the main way that advertising revenue is determined for networks), but Social Media has become a different type of barometer that can sometimes even save a low rated show from cancellation. One of the best examples is the cult favorite absurdist NBC sitcom Community. Even though it was shelved midway though it’s third season, the outpouring of support from its dedicated and mostly younger fanbase was enough for the network to let it finish out the last 12 episodes of its season and then make a final decision after that.
Series creator Dan Harmon attributed this turnaround to a new television audience that does most of their viewing online in unmeasured venues outside of the Nielson system. In an interview with The New York Times Mr. Harmon said, “The most coveted demographic, and most coveted of that demographic, these very smart, upwardly mobile, college-age kids just don’t watch TV anymore.” Social Media has become such a huge factor in not only changing the television experience, but also as marketing research for show developers and networks who can get tangible real world opinions from their actual audience instead of the sometimes unrealistic Nielson numbers. The Internet has completely reshaped the entire entertainment industry, and especially television has gone through a complete transformation in every venue, from the couch, to the computer screen, to the boardroom.
A new kind of Korean pop music has been taking over the American airwaves recently and it goes by the name of K-Pop. While on my recent stay in Asia I experienced this new wave of boy bands and pop music first hand. Not only are these groups huge in their own country, but they’re also turning their success into international fame. In Korea the term is “hallyu” which translates simply into Korean wave, or an influx of Korean culture into different foreign markets. It started in the 1990s with massively popular N*Sync and Spice Girls style boy bands and girl groups, and slowly over the years they’ve begun to expand their fanbase into different Asian markets and eventually into America. Everyone from The New York Times, to Gawker, and even The Guardian have written recent stories about the growing K-Pop phenomenon.
If you take a closer look, K-pop has actually been making huge strides in America over the last year or so. Girls’ Generation, one of the most popular K-Pop all girl groups, performed on the The David Letterman Show, and they also recently signed with Interscope Records to release their latest album in the US. Another girl group, Wonder Girls, even made a TV-movie for the TeenNick cable channel, which goes to show there’s definitely an expanding interest for K-Pop in tons of different American venues.
Last year one of the largest K-Pop production companies SM Entertainment hosted a sold out Madison Square Garden performance for their diverse roster of stars, some of which even covered American pop songs like Kesha’s “Tik Tok”, which is definitely an aesthetic parallel to the visual and musical component of the genre. Although K-Pop is popular in the US, it’s not as widely covered in the mainstream media, so the ardent fans are using Social Media and other platforms to really expand the fanbase and share in their adoration of this cult-like phenomenon. K-Pop music videos are some of the most widely watched clips on all of YouTube, with the recent Girls’ Generation #1 single “Hoot” racking up 2 million views on YouTube within 24 hours of it’s release.
Musically K-Pop shares tons of different similarities with Western Pop, Electronic Music and Hip Hop culture. A lot of the tracks are a perfect pastiche of over the top trance and electro with modern R&B and Hip Hop tropes thrown in for good measure. Famed East Coast Rap producer Swizz Beatz even recently partnered up with the Korean entertainment group O&Media to a create a cross-pollination of influences across the two diverse markets.
In a recent interview with MTV he talked about his admiration for the work ethic and marketing strategies within K-Pop culture, which is something he said was sorely lacking in American pop music: “They still do artist development [in Asia], where back here in the States, the labels and our culture lacks artist development,” he said. “Nowadays, an artist can go into the booth, put out a song the next day, and that person thinks that they’re a superstar. But within the K-Pop movement, artists actually go through artist development. They take music classes that allow them to be ready for when they do become that big star.”
Aesthetically K-Pop artists blend a huge mix of eclectic influences into their visual amalgam. Many of the K-Pop girl groups have styles reminiscent of the classic Fruits magazine candy colored Harajuku style with different contemporary stylistic changes and nuances, while the boy bands, especially the massively popular Big Bang, has a really diverse and far reaching palette that often times mimics and remixes popular western fashion trends.
At certain times they’re resembled classic but punky Ralph Lauren yuppies, to rocking old school Nike and Reebok sportswear, and recently they’re gone a little bit into the Lady Gaga route, with androgynous retro-cyberpunk costumes, mixed in with a little Harajuku avant garde street style and fully customized getups, awesomely displayed in their recent video for their single “Bad Boy” which oddly enough was filmed under the JMZ subway tracks in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (which is definitely another nod to their influence and appreciation of Western culture).
While I was in Asia I was so excited to see this K-Pop movement in all of it’s awesome poppy and eccentric glory from billboards to clothing stores, and even MTV Asia, and then coming back to the states it was interesting to see NYC and other markets really embrace this amazing new style of pop music. It’ll only be a matter of time before K-Pop has completely taken over the American charts.
Throughout the last year or so a new hip hop movement has emerged that many critics and fans of the genre has deemed “weird hip hop”. With their nonstop release of free mixtapes, weekly YouTube videos, and a new more accepting audience with an eclectic taste, weird hip hop has really become an underground phenomenon that’s bursting from every corner of the web. Beyond the relatively young and more tech savvy artists, weird hip hop has had a long and elaborate history in its rather organic and experimental evolution. We’re going to give you a little primer on the most important artists within the movement and exactly how they fit into some of the most exciting and next level music that’s being released.
If Cam’ron was white and from Portland, there would an endless amount of students writing their Graduate thesis’ about him instead of Beckett. Cam’ron and his Dipset compadres effortlessly cram as many Theater of Absurd non sequiturs and bon mots into a 3 minute song that makes Endgame look like Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. He weaves complex narratives and nonsensical witticisms from intricate syncopated homonyms, self-created inside joke slang, and tongue twisting alliteration, all while maintaining the most astute anti-hero / stand up comic persona that’s ever been put on record. He’s from Harlem but his Dada overtones are straight out of the marrow bones wafting out of every Paris brasserie.
E-40 has been recording and releasing music longer then most of us have had fully developed ear drums. He personifies the authentic, never contrived brand of west coast experimental gangsta rap that is seen as an absolute pinnacle within the genre. From his use of extremely off kilter flows / cadences, and his creation of the some of the most innovative and commonly used slang has made him an absolute legend within the genre. He’s probably one of the most original and inimitable rappers to ever come out of the west coast gangsta rap canon.
The Wu Tang Clan has been creating some of the most innovative and absolutely avant garde east coast rap music since their inception in the early 1990s. From their use of eastern philosophy, martial arts metaphorical life lessons, and some of the most obtuse and abstract slang ever put to record, they’ve always been ahead of the curve compared to their mainstream counterparts, while at the same time being able to crossover and attain mass fandom. Every member contains their own amazing idiosyncrasies, but Ghostface Killah has some of the most avant garde and wtf rhymes that have ever been uttered. You could spend months just dissecting their catalogue and you would only be able to grasp a small portion of their prolific output.
Some might argue that Freestyle Fellowship doesn’t necessarily fit in with some of these other groups, but their progressive and next level records have decidedly laid the groundwork for every contemporary MC that might mildly pass within the “weirdo” conglomerate. They have some of the most mindblowing flows / cadences that have ever existed in rap music, which were very often based on the scatting and improvisation commonly associated with Jazz music. Every single member has their amazing individual flourishes, and especially Aceyalone and Myka 9 are two of the most important MCs as far as the legacy of their influence. Everyone from Bone Thugs to Anticon would have never had a blueprint if wasn’t for what Freestyle Fellowship was recording over twenty years ago.
Anticon took the blueprint laid out by Freestyle Fellowship and the entire west coast underground and expanded upon it into absolutely unheard of territory. For the last 15 years Anticon has released the most experimental and progressive hip hop that has probably ever existed in the genre. Besides the releases on their own label, if you sought out the solo albums and group affiliations of each member, there is an endless array of records one more mind-blowing then the next. Even if the collective never released another album, their catalogue will always be known as one of the most forward thinking and next level discographies in possibly the entire hip hop genre.
Southern Rap has always really had a special place in experimental and progressive hip hop. Over the last decade or so it’s really become more popular and radio friendly, but there’s so much innovation and raw energy behind so many artists that could easily be seen as the origins of the weird hip hop movement. Outkast has been releasing some of the most otherworldly and highly listenable rap music for the last nearly twenty years. Way before southern rap was accepted as a genre staple on the east coast, Outkast was making music that they wanted to hear, without contemplating if their fans would understand it. They’ve effectively created an amazing formula for themselves incorporating some of the best aspects of the diverse hip hop landscape; the raw 808s of Miami bass music, the experimental synth lines of Bounce and electronic music, and some of the most interesting flows and cadences that have influenced generations of Southern Mcs. Not to mention “Hey Ya!” by André 3000, is probably considered one of the best pop songs ever recorded; they can really do it all and make it seem effortless.
No mention of weird hip hop is really complete without talking about Kool Keith. He was almost similar to a golden era Lil B before the Based God was even able to lace up his Vans. From his early output with the Ultramagnetic MCs, to his increasingly strange solo albums, Kool Keith is a rapper who never ceases to amaze. Just a short listen of his outer space gynecologist concept album “Dr. Octagonecologyst” to his amazing smooth R&B 808-centric “The Personal Album”, you’ll begin to realize his catalogue is just as diverse and outlandish as the multiple personas he creates for nearly every album. He would have been right at home with Dali and Ernst in the Surrealist movement, eating snails out of a conch shell while coming up with non-sequiturs assembled from discarded napkin fragments.
Lil B has just as many fans as he has detractors, but no matter what you think of him, his massive online fanbase and prolific output has become one of the most substantial catalogues in experimental rap music. From his creation of the “Based” genre, a philosophy that incorporates free association rhymes gathered from your subconscious, he’s taken the innovation of the last 30 years of hip hop, put it all in a Cusianart and out comes the most amazing smoothie that appeals to even the most discerning of palettes. Through his innovative and steadfast approach to Social Media, he’s garnered a massive cult following that crosses all cultures, ethnicities, and demographics. He’s making some of the most progressive and experimental music that’s ever been released in any genre, while completely utilizing every tool within the hip hop canon. He’s abstract like Rothko, a maximalist like Hirst, with a touch of the tongue in cheek humor of Warhol or John Waters to boot; every song he releases is innovation in its purest form.
The last few months have definitely seen tons of new cultural backlashes emerge on the Internet, and none have been more interesting to watch and dissect then the majesty of Lana Del Rey. From her self-produced YouTube hit “Video Games”, Del Rey rose from a meager viral hit to an Interscope record deal in a matter of a few months. Almost as immediately as her video was reaching millions of views, the Social Media bandwagon began heralding her as the downfall of authentic indie culture as we know it. Not to mention her signing with a major label and subsequent poor / ill-prepared SNL performance, which eventually made the backlash movement delve into overdrive as she became a perpetual trending topic for all the wrong reasons.
One of the most important questions and cultural signifiers that’s raised within this indie-meme is does she really deserve such an onslaught of negative criticism, and how does the culture of Social Media change the landscape and sway the opinion of the masses? It seems that a lot of the discussion of Lana Del Rey almost sidesteps the actual quality of her musical output, and instead focuses on her aesthetic being sold to the masses under the guise of indie credibility.
People are used to the svengali wrangled boy bands and pop groups that have existed as long as popular music itself, but they aren’t as comfortable with being sold what seems like a pre-packaged all encompassing musician within the realm of the indie sphere. From her name change, to her earlier more mainstream oriented material, and the nonstop Instagram pictorials with her Real Housewives pouty duck lips du jour, and “gangster Nancy Sinatra” pandering, no matter how authentic or contrived the mélange actually was, it had literally every tastemaker and even their most uninformed underlings crying fowl.
Even Brian Williams, who wouldn’t even qualify as a Guided by Voices cool dad, jumped on the anti Del Rey bandwagon when Gawker released a snarky email he sent to their Media chief Nick Denton, but is all of this hoopla just the Internet overreacting as it always does? Sure maybe her image was a little too grungy polished, like the fashionistas who spend $3,000 to look homeless, but is her music really of such low quality too deserve such a massive indie-meme backlash?
Sometimes what happens especially with Social Media is these trends or anti-trends kind of snowball quickly accumulating muster from minute specks of gravel. Once Pitchfork picks it up, then it’s The Fader, then Gawker, and it eventually trickles down to every grassroots blog and Tumblr with an attaché RSS feed. Hipster Runoff, probably the all time most important meta-scathing hipster blog, even temporarily changed their name to the “Lana Del Report” and for a few days they had literally up to the minute coverage of every tiny revelation in the Lana saga, which was especially honed and perfectly articulated in their infamous Content Farm post that critiqued the way indie blogs feed off of alt-memes just to satiate their audience’s thirst for negative criticism and new culture to dissect and disarm.
Overall it’s really important to take a look at how Social Media can alter and affect the sway of public opinion, even in these micro-genres and indie circles. There’s definitely some aspect of Del Rey’s aesthetic and output possibly being contrived, but with the advent of technology and instantaneous sharing of opinions, these memes and their subsequent backlash can literally take form overnight. Sometimes it’s important to not formulate an opinion until the entire picture presents itself. The majority of this happened way before her major label debut was released, and then after it came out and was number one in 11 albeit mostly European countries, their was then the inevitable backlash to the original backlash, which goes to show how quickly these things can emerge and dissipate, just to make room for another indie-meme to be roasted over the coals.
For the last few weeks I’ve been working on a project in Asia and during my travels I’ve learned a few interesting things about the Social Media landscape in Asia. For starters, the Social Media consumption in Asia is greater in some markets than it is in the US. Countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines widely use Facebook, and the mobile internet market share is also much larger in these countries than the global average.
Countries like China, Japan and Vietnam use different but similar platforms such as Weibo and Renren (in China), Mixi (in Japan) and Zing (in Vietnam), and Google+ is also slowly gaining popularity. It doesn’t have as much penetration as the larger more established platforms, but brands like Cathay Pacific and Uniqlo are among the first to create their own Google+ pages.
Overall, the Social Media behaviors vary in these countries because of their inherent cultural differences. One of the main reasons is because Asian culture is more shy and reserved, and it’s usually considered rude to promote yourself directly. Some of the main ways Social Media in Asia is utilized is through pop culture re-mashing, sharing photos of yourself out socializing with friends, learning about products online, and sharing tips instead of self-promotion and touting how great you are, which is definitely more common with Social Media in the US.
Even though there are some similarities, each country has its own specific behavior and Internet content usage patterns; here are some of the highlights of the Asian Social Media market:
Photo sharing – Photo sharing is HUGE in Asia; literally any occasion deserves photo sharing. The general audience doesn’t use tools like Instagram as much we do in the US, but instead they directly upload them into their Facebook pages. Although Instagram is slowly making strides in the Asian market. A great example is Candy Mafia, a Thai pop group, who avidly use Instagram, and pop groups in general have a huge Social Media presence. Beauty and Fashion sharing is also extremely popular online; I’ve seen users taking pictures of their new possessions from Louis Vuitton to their North Face collection. There are also entire Tumblr sites dedicated to sharing picture collages of pop stars and TV shows, along with a variety of different gifs.
Social Media Games – Social media games are used as stimuli to drive new users and gain reach within existing users, while actual content sharing is more popular among the more experienced users.
Bulletin board systems underpin popular Social Media behavior in China; more than 80% of their Social Media content is based on bulletin board systems.
Product Reviews – Online product reviews are increasing their influence on purchases in India, particularly for consumer electronics. 55% of Indians that read online product reviews have purchased products based on feedback. Consumer durables / electronics are the most common products that are purchased based on reviews (64% of purchases).
Tweeting: Among theAsian market, Japanese Internet users are the most avid bloggers globally, posting more than one million blogs per month, which is significantly more than any other country in the region. Japan’s adoption of Twitter also continues to grow, with unique visitor numbers increasing in the last year from less than 200,000 to more than 10 million. 16% of Japanese Internet users now use Twitter, compared to only 10% in the U.S.
Google Plus is now welcoming an entirely new teen audience with its recent lowering of its age restriction from 18 to 13. When it initially launched in June of 2010 it was an only 18 and over service during the initial beta stage until they were able to tailor a new teen-centric version of the defaults and content sharing functions. It’s basically the same exact service that’s available for adults, with just a few minor changes to the default settings for sharing and privacy options.
The defaults for teens protect more of their privacy online and give them more options as far as controlling who they share content with. The main sharing portion of Google Plus is within its Circles feature, and a teen’s profile is more restrictive on sharing content outside of their Circles. The same goes with a teen’s posts; only people within their circle can comment on their posts, but for adults anyone who can see their posts is able to comment. Another interesting aspect which has proven to be one of the most popular parts of Google Plus is their Hang-Out Video Conferencing feature; the only difference for a teen’s default is when someone from outside their Circle joins the Video Conference, it pauses their feed and asks them if they want to continue the conversation.
It’s definitely commendable of Google to put these few but important safeguards in place to make teens feel like they have more control over their Google Plus content, and of course parents always benefit from any extra online safety measures. The important thing also to remember is these are only differences in the basic defaults of the service, which can be changed at any time to resemble the conventional settings for those who are 18 and over. Defaults exist more as guidelines for how a company thinks a service best works for certain users, and more often then not, people tend to stick with whatever the original settings are. Another interesting aspect of Google Plus is how Google intends it to be utilized by the teen audience. They want it to be more of an extension of their real life, instead of a venue for them to create a persona or misrepresent themselves, which is often what happens with more freeform Social Media like Facebook.
What will be interesting to see in the future is if the proportion of teens embracing Google Plus will rival the enormous market share Facebook currently has in younger demographics. There are definitely features available on Google Plus that Facebook lacks, especially the popular Hang-Out Video Conferencing feature, which Facebook users usually leave the service for to utilize in Tinychat rooms for video socializing and even curated online DJ nights. Google Plus definitely offers a structure and features that teens will find as an interesting contrast to Facebook, and with their specifically tailored defaults and sharing options, it may eventually become a solid competitor for the massive Social Media teen market share.
This is a great article from the Huffington Post that outlines the Google Plus rollout for the teen market.
The Internet and especially new web culture have completely ushered in a new era of cultural reinterpretation and repurposing. A large part of the underground artistic movements that are occurring online are sourced from previously existing culture. The idea of sampling or remixing has become so commonplace for a net artist or a tech savvy Millennial, that sometimes no one stops to think if their reinterpretation is actually accomplishing something new. There are definitely positive and negative attributes to this vantage point of creating new cultural models based on the old culture, but is this movement really benefiting the culture as a whole, or is it simply regurgitating the old principles without expanding on them?
The rapper / singer / former Degrassi maven Drake recently made an interesting statement on his blog about his decidedly negative outlook on the culture perpetuated by Tumblr:
“I’m really scared for my generation, you know. The thing that scares me most is Tumblr. I hate what Tumblr has become. Because it like, it reminds me of those clique-y girls in high school that used to make fun of everyone and define what was cool, but in five years, when you all graduate, that shit doesn’t matter. No one gives a fuck about that shit. Instead of kids going out and making their own moments, they’re just taking these images and living vicariously through other people’s moments. It just kills me. Then you’ll meet them and they’re just the biggest turkey in the world. They don’t actually embody any of those things. They just emulate. It’s scary man, simulation life that we’re living. It scares me.”
Although Drake the musical artist has definitely had some backlash from the hip hop community for his Woody Allen-esque softly crooned testimonials, he definitely makes an astute point about the possible negative aspects that Tumblr culture creates. A massive part of Tumblr are the Notes and Reblogging features that allow someone to grab content for their Tumblr without having to actually create any of it on their own. It’s similar to someone curating an art show or a compilation where their keen eye is the only lens that creates the overall aesthetic of the package. When a compilation, a mix, or an art show is put together well it really highlights the astute focus and necessary editing that goes hand in hand with a competent curator. Within culture there’s a practical use for the curator, even with online culture, but what Drake mentions, and is definitely commonplace within some social media platforms, are the people who only create their brand through the culture and abstract identities of other brands and entities.
The Internet and especially new web culture creates an atmosphere where the physical origin of this media becomes extremely secondary, and it’s really easy to forget that almost everything that exists online comes from the real world. Besides of course CGI graphics created with computer programs or other forms of entirely computer created content, almost everything else existed in a physical version before it landed online. Every single old press photo of embarrassingly dressed celebrities, magazine advertisements from the 70s, old TV show clips, Z-movies, ironic / un-ironic / post-ironicclothing; it all existed before the Internet and someone had to take the time and effort and their insightful aesthetic lens to actually archive or capture it to be preserved in the digital realm. Besides for user created content, a large amount of the clips on YouTube are from dusty rundown VHS bungalows or someone’s grandma’s attic ensconced treasure chest. It’s not that simply recycling this culture negatively impacts it, but it’s important to remember that the Internet is merely a point in its destination, but very often not the origin.
Another tangent on the concept of repurposing culture are the recent influx of massively popular capsule collections that have popped up at H&M, Target, and other mass retailers. A large portion of the interest for these collections is both the lower price point that allows the mass market to own a brand that might otherwise be out of their price range, and to also resurrect certain aesthetics and cultural motifs that otherwise would have slowly faded into obscurity. One of the most recent collaborations that’s set to go on sale this week is H&M teaming up with Versace. In a recent article on MTV.com both Nicki Minaj, Big Sean (a rapper on fellow fashion provocateur Kanye West’sG.O.O.D. Music record label), and Donatella Versace discussed why right now was the perfect time for a capsule collection at H&M:
Donatella could clearly sense nostalgia was in bloom. “It’s a moment that I felt was the right moment,” she said of launching the mass collection. “It’s a lot of requests for Versace iconic pieces like printed shirts, and everybody is doing homage to Versace so I decided to give them the real thing to H&M, to the kids!” she smiled.
What’s different about this concept is the culture is being repurposed and relaunched by the same person (or at least related to) that originated it. As Nicki and Big Sean discuss in the article, there’s been a long standing love affair between the hip hop community and the Versace sense of gaudiness and absolutely outlandish ornate prints. The Notorious B.I.G, famously referenced the label in the J.U.N.I.O.R. Mafia song “Get Money“ with the lyrics “My Moschino ho, my Versace hottie“ as well as him and P.Diddy garishly dancing around in matching Versace silk shirts in the video for the track “Hypnotize”.
P. Diddy and The Notorious B.I.G rocking Versace in their video for Hyptnotize
The real question though isn’t whether or not there’s an audience for this capsule collection, but is it really beneficial to the brand, the aesthetic, and the Versace legacy? You can still find vintage Versace pieces on Ebay, Etsy, and other high end consignment shops, sometimes at a very similar price point to the new H&M collection, but is there some aspect of authenticity getting cleansed from history by reinterpreting your own landmark prints and aesthetic? There’s a facet of it that’s almost nice of Donatella to dramatically decrease the price points of their staple Italy via Miami via Guido Renaissance prints, but as we’ve seen with similar capsule collections from Missoni, Vera Wang, Stella McCartney, and couture hologram himself Mr. Lagerfeld, the original price points are tripled and sometimes quadrupled in the resell market on Ebay and other sites. Even though aesthetically the collection definitely maintains the original vision of the best Versace garments, doesn’t it make more sense to just buy an original vintage Versace piece instead of waiting all night in line to wail along with the throngs of agitated shoppers grabbing at racks of a derivative take on a classic fashion totem?
More then anything there’s positive and negative aspects to cultural reinterpretation and repurposing. A lot of it has to do with the intent and the overall contribution it’s making to the culture. Even if someone curates their Tumblr with content solely created by other people, it’s still possible that their astute lens will positively accomplish a new vantage point or way of considering culture that wasn’t previously articulated. It’s always important to remember that a large portion of Internet culture was harvested from physical artifacts, and someone somewhere had to put the effort and consideration in to archive and purposefully capture these items so they could live on in the digital cloud of perpetuity. It’s not bad to repurpose and reinterpret as long as it’s expanding the culture instead of diluting and diminishing its original impact.