PhD research: Simon Reynolds on how taste is formed in web 2.0 environments
Today’s offering is from Simon Reynolds.
How is taste formed in web 2.0 environments? How is taste formed in the print media? How would you identify the crucial differences, if at all?
Difficult to say, buzz seems to condense around artists in a more diffuse swarm-like or flock-like manner than it used to. However I daresay if you were to break down and closely analyse any given “hype” (I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense particularly) you would find that there are still some key actors who get the ball rolling. Back in 2005 or 2006 or whenever it was, the buzz around M.I.A. seemed to spring up out of nowhere on the web, but at the same time Sasha Frere-Jones’s piece in the New Yorker was a key threshold moment in terms of the phenomenon’s escalation and lift-off. Clearly it is possible for leading critics to have sway but they are loud voices within a panopoly of voices, a hubbub of opinion. Those other opinions doubtless always existed – in pub conversations and so forth– but they now they have a visible venting place.
Overall I think there is less group-think, in that web culture is driven by the impulse to differentiate oneself, so there is a lot less cultural capital to be generated from agreeing than there is from disagreeing. To stand out in the blog world or on message boards requires forming a different opinion, so I think there is a kind of innate digiculture logic towards dissensus rather than consensus.
M.I.A. was a rare example of the opposite tendency, it was almost a throwback in terms of there being a lock-step thing of nearly everybody – professional, semi-professional, and amateur opionators—getting behind her. But there were still a fair few dissenting voices, sceptics like myself.