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What is the New Cultural Phenomenon for the Digital Age?

Many people would say that we’re currently living in a post-cultural era; a time of mass production, globalization, and homogenization. Andy Warhol’s prescient prediction of everyone’s 15 minutes of fame is playing out on screens across the world, and there’s more than the odd allusion to Orwell’s 1984 in today’s society.

So, on a post-cultural planet, what is the new cultural phenomenon? What are people tuning into? Cultural icons that are burned into the public consciousness, such as eternal super-spy James Bond and hippy festival turned new music juggernaut Glastonbury, elicit constant public speculation about who or what will come next with them. This alone suggests that people have more of a vested interest in culture and self-expression than might be immediately apparent. They’re just accessing it in different ways to before.

Let’s take a look at the significant cultural advancements from this so-called ‘digital age’ of the past 20 years or so.

 
oasis festival

Streaming Services

Streaming video content online has come on in leaps and bounds since those first fuzzy broadcasts that took hours to load and used up all of your bandwidth. Netflix has spread across the globe to become the go-to streaming service for seemingly everybody, with Amazon Prime, Hulu and Starz racking up their fair share of viewers too.

Whereas people used to tune in to terrestrial TV to watch their favorite shows at the set broadcast time, today’s screen watchers now have complete freedom to pick when and where they will view the content they are interested in. TV has even gone interactive, with programes like Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch handing control of the storyline over to the viewer. It remains to be seen just how far this audience participation will go, but one thing’s for sure: the power is firmly in the hands of the viewer for now.

 Photo by Aranxa Esteve CC0 1.0

Music Festivals

Music festivals have been a mainstay of the summer landscape for many years now, but the past decade has seen them ramped up another notch. In the year 2000, Glastonbury Festival underwent a major overhaul thanks to founder’s daughter and current line-up coordinator, Emily Eavis. As one of the most famous and longest-running music festivals in the world, this effort from Glasto seemed to galvanize the rest of the festival scene across the planet.

Music festivals became an even more popular rite of passage than they had been before, and many people started choosing to attend in place of their summer holiday abroad. Along with Glastonbury in the UK, festivals like Burning Man in the USA and Tomorrowland in Belgium became enormous platforms for promoting and launching new music, fashion, and other initiatives to an ever-growing audience.

2017 saw the ill-fated, yet infamous Fyre Festival fail spectacularly, leaving festival-goers stranded with no food, water or shelter in the Bahamas. It served as a timely reminder that to be a success, a festival requires rigorous planning and a robust infrastructure. However, it doesn’t seem to have quelled the thirst for even more festivals happening in countries everywhere.

It’s impossible to talk about the cultural phenomena of recent years without mentioning social media. Gone are the simpler days of logging in to MySpace or Bebo on your desktop computer; social media is now an integral part of both our personal and professional lives. We access it from everywhere through our phones, laptops and even smartwatches, and continually update it with real-time information about our lives.

When Facebook first launched in 2004, nobody could have predicted that it would soon evolve into a tool that you could use for almost anything, from checking out a potential employee to selling your used car to meeting the love of your life. Instagram is now an enormous force for sales, with companies using paid ‘influencers’ to encourage new and returning customers to buy products. Social media has infiltrated almost every area of society and heralds a new age where technology will most likely become even more integral to our lives.

 Photo by ROBIN WORRALL CC0 1.0

Social Media

It’s impossible to talk about the cultural phenomena of recent years without mentioning social media. Gone are the simpler days of logging in to MySpace or Bebo on your desktop computer; social media is now an integral part of both our personal and professional lives. We access it from everywhere through our phones, laptops and even smartwatches, and continually update it with real-time information about our lives.

When Facebook first launched in 2004, nobody could have predicted that it would soon evolve into a tool that you could use for almost anything, from checking out a potential employee to selling your used car to meeting the love of your life. Instagram is now an enormous force for sales, with companies using paid ‘influencers’ to encourage new and returning customers to buy products. Social media has infiltrated almost every area of society and heralds a new age where technology will most likely become even more integral to our lives.

Written for Trendland by Alex McGareth.




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