My brother proposed a theory to me the other night on the phone. He said that the Internet had slowed cultural change. Specifically, I think he said something like, “Things haven’t changed much since 1995 when everyone got online.” His feeling was that people are spending their time on the Internet and participating in online culture, and they’re not out in the world developing new trends in fashion, music, film, etc.

You know, I felt skeptical the moment he said it, I thought–well, things are certainly different than they were in 1995. Then the last couple of days I’ve paid a little more attention to songs on the radio and to fashion in the media, on blogs, etc, and I started to question my own skepticism. Some things may be different, especially if we go back as far as 1995. But what if we consider say, just the last decade when many more people have been actively participating in online culture.

The music I was hearing called “new” and “innovative” on all of the year in review shows and new for 2010 shows on the radio didn’t sound all that “new” to me. Granted, my tastes may have changed, but I’m not saying I didn’t like the music, I just wasn’t struck with a sense of newness.

When is the last time you saw a new fashion trend that seemed really different? I know fashion is often about revisiting popular ideas of earlier times and re-invisioning them, but I was just reading a round-up of various “favorite” fashion blogs and while I liked a lot of what I saw, I was struck mostly by their sameness.

I’m not actually advocating change for change’s sake, I’m just curious–do you think that the Internet could have caused a cultural slowdown?

Cultural Slowdown?

10 thoughts on “Cultural Slowdown?

  • January 8, 2010 at 2:19 am

    I just feel like there is nothing new, and it doesn't have to do with the Internet. We re-did the 70s in the 90s and now the 80s are back. It's interesting because when I think about current styles I think they stole a lot from the 80s, but then I look at the 80s fashions, and today's are much more streamlined and borrow a lot from a “traditional” goth look. The internet, you'd think, would make people more innovative because you are exposed to more things that you'd totally miss in the past. It's frustrating if you're used to being “different” to have more people doing things that used to be harder to get access to but to me it's about more different fashions, etc., rather than less. I don't know how we lived with just three networks and 9 mos. or less of new TV shows, frankly.

  • January 8, 2010 at 2:21 am

    I was just thinking too that I don't go to traditional media much anymore anyway – no radio or network TV. I think that music is “all the same” but that's more about being 40, I think, than it actually being “the same”. One of those “grandpa rants” I was just hearing about on the comedy podcast I listen to.

  • January 8, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Dear Amy,
    I know this is off topic but I just found and am in the process of making your Sweet sweater. It is so mathmatically genious. (sorry about the spelling) How did you figure it out? I like this pattern because the hooker is not just making fabric pieces like a seamstress cuts fabric pieces, but the sweater just grows. Great job!

  • January 8, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    In my time at looking at this, I find that innovation comes in spurts and spates. And it generally follows periods of great disruption, like a war or a depression or something like that. Maybe it's that in the 30's and 40's , we had a lot of disruption and therefore a lot of innovation that followed in the 50's and 60's. I think we've been coasting on that innovation pretty much since. Through the 70's and 80's, things had been calmer and the innovation will follow this latest period of stuff that's going on in the world.

  • January 8, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Hey Salli–glad you like it. I was inspired by knitting patterns that use a
    similar construction. There's a classic book called *Knitting from the
    Top*by Barbara Walker that describes the proportions and percentages
    to make all
    kinds of one-piece garments. It's worth a read, even if you don't knit.

  • January 8, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Hmm it is and interesting questions…since yes there seems to be alot of sameness and revisiting movies and songs. I mean how many times can you hear a retake of Life is a Highway, right? Also in movies there is a remake of Clash of the Titams coming out this year.

    Then there is Avatar-wow, what a movie! I don't necessarily think that culture has slowed down as it has taken a different route. Even 10 years ago we didn't have texting, Facebook, Twitter or Ravelry and most of these terms have become part of the vernacular being used in tv shows, etc.

    So I don't think that it has slowed as much, just changed.

  • March 12, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    I never really considered this but I think anything that keeps people from using their minds, hands, eyes and ears to create slows down cultural change. The internet is likely having the same affect that television had. If you are occupying your mind with television or facebook or linkedin or twitter or whatever, then its not occupied with creating, thus the slowdown.

  • March 13, 2010 at 1:33 am

    Of course, in some ways the Internet encourages people to use their
    hands–for instance, I'm constantly looking up recipes and getting ideas for
    crafts from the web. Thanks for your comment!

  • July 12, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    I don't buy it. There are so many new, interesting and exciting things going on. Have you seen the stupid online videos that people take and make fun, quirky autotune songs out of? Silly, but cool. And new.
    The lego projects going on- the house made of the lego, the project “restoring” old walls and stonework with lego updates.
    How about the explosion of webcomics? The art online? The incredible sharing of ideas in mediums like textiles?
    And the new music isn't on TV or the radio, it's on someone's youtube channel. I'm not talking about Bieber, here, I'm talking about the incredible stuff you see of people writing new, fantastic music and being able to share it so easily.
    How about all the great videos on youtube? Between webseries, hilarious shorts, sharing of small projects and short films there is so much to see! Even old standards like SNL have amazing digital shorts. College Humor is doing fun, interesting stuff. has enough lists to keep you entertained for days.
    Blogs are making news fast, accessible and incredibly varied. Their ability to report without the bias of a network can make them more or less reliable, but the huge variety out there gives us much larger access to all sides of an issue.
    And how about the sometimes amazing ways in which Twitter has been used? People twitting about an incredible, world changing event, something scary, something that needs to get to press- and doing it instantly. We didn't have that in '95
    How about all the video footage that gets posted of any event? The G20 had so much footage online, and yet so little shown in traditional media.
    And you should know that the crafting forums are alive with unique, fun and amazing works!
    There are so many new, fascinating things going on because of the internet. It's not keeping people from using their minds- in many cases, it's inspiring them to use them in a new, fresh way!
    Yeah, if you look at the same old mediums, TV, Radio, etc, sure, nothing's new. And if you're using the internet in the same way, to read a newspaper online and to check your email, then yeah, you won't see what's new an incredible. Sure, it takes some looking. After all, the internet is huge.
    But saying there is nothing new? That we haven't evolved at all culturally? It sounds like the same old “Kids these days!” shtick. Culture always keeps expanding, and kids these days will always seem awful to those who look at them that way.

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