What Is Viralism? An Inquiry Into Culture's Battle For Digital Space

Analysis


Liturgy's Hunter Hunt Hendrix and his evaluation of the Arkwork as mechanism of discourse mark a significant turn for the consciousness of the culture industry. Photo (C) 2012 Dale W. Eisinger

Abstract: This piece explores the function of technology in contemporary creative culture. Moreover, the main inquiry of this essay is whether or not viral is a relevant aesthetic stance. To achieve this evaluation, we must first discover what viral means. To do so, I engage a collective discourse in the techno-social and cultural theory of Raymond Williams, Herbert Marcuse, Theodore Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Jurgen Habermas, Ernst Cassier, Harold Innis, and Walter Benjamin. I employ mostly Marxist thinkers of the New Left for their apparent disgust with practices still in play by the culture industry--the intersection of freedom and control in technological progress is as stringent today as ever. I pair these reapplications with specific appraisals by contemporary artists, writers, and musicians involved in the discourse, namely Ryder Ripps, Hunter Hunt Hendrix, Tao Lin, Brandon Scott Gorrell, and Marnie Stern. I enter my own appraisal of examples throughout. The line of thinking unfolds slowly across the breadth of the essay--the evaluation of art as technology; explanations of what is Viral, how something goes Viral, and the sincere properties of the Viral work; an evaluation of authenticity in the digital; an explanation of Hendrix's Arkwork; the role of the viral audience and its interaction with the Arkwork; the destruction of style, through the digital, as mechanism of exclusion; technological identity and its attempted suppression of the individual; how a multitude acts as a viral, evaluative unit; the experience of the viewer and the meaning of collective evaluation; the eradication of time and space as communicative biases; these processes' application to consumer culture. I say line of thinking here because I really do mean line of thinking. In terms of this article's linear argument, conclusions unveil themselves as in the abstract of the Negative Dialectics. However, I am kind enough to state up front: Viralism is a specifically unique and isolated multimedia movement, as applicable in discourse as Serialism or The Black Mountain School or sculpture.

Body: Just like any other social function, art has a technology, referred to in various terms -- development, advancement, evolution, progress. Various aesthetic isms and markers of genre reflect the ascent and boundaries of the humanities by grouping communities through words: romanticism, expressionism, modernism, jazz, rock, folk, the hippies, the punks, the heads, the stoners, the losers, the lids.

Under the mask of cultural process, we see the course of art take the same sort of path that any other technological functions of society have: innovation, penetration, maturation, decline, and adaptation. Artistic works in style become commonplace in the culture of the dominant communicative medium. But any media in art must be understood as a method of communication, both materially and aesthetically, as art intends to transfer ideology or worldview -- or anyway, the best of art should.

The dominant communicative medium obviously acts as the vehicle by which dominant ideologies or worldviews spread. It is with every best intention that this is what the artist combats -- namely, today, with the opportunity to do so on the web. Though an argument can be made along the global North/South digital divide -- communication (and this includes the transitive functions of art) has consistently had a bias along class lines -- the habituation and engagement of the body public with the web now demands a reexamination of our methods as artists and consumers both.

As the digital age reaches its final dormant stage of adaptation, leaving its mark on the daily process of culture at large, can we add Viralism or another digitally referential marker to our collective art discourse? Moreover, is Viral a relevant -- let alone acceptable -- aesthetic stance?

I do not stand alone on the technological ascent of the arts. Raymond Williams comments on this shift in The Romantic Artist. Williams linguistically breaks down the role of Artist as eras give way to the regular ascendance of technology, from mimesis to romanticism to the realism of the industrialization: The word Art, which had commonly meant skill, became specialized during the course of the eighteenth century [...] Artist, similarly from the general sense of an emphasis on sensibility; and this replacement was supported by the parallel changes in such words as creative [...]

We must appreciate the historical context, as the missing side of this critique fits in place between the ascendance of modern technologies and the lack of necessity to frame Artists linguistically in their most original or authentic terms -- the grammar changes as the need for the signifier shifts from roles of fundamental instincts to more modern and post-modern notions of technological determinism and the continued rematerialization of substructure. The dissolution of societal responsibility to perform certain labor, for reasons directly linked to the tools by which that labor is done, reveals the mirror of modern technological innovation on language, as the roles of craftsmen, artists, and creativity become more specialized, even as the tools of those vocations become more widespread within the substructure as standard methods of communication--the meaning of the work becomes less and less.

This notion of technological determinism in the role of identity of artists and leading to consumers has been exploited to the point of hypertension today. We must note the constant grappling with tradition; modernity was perhaps the most historically violent reproduction of the relations of production, i.e. of capitalist relations of exploitation (Althusser) as the consumer and artist both had no choice but to consolidate within its means. As Williams's critique stems from his Culture and Society 1780-1950, the chronology ends just short of our seeing yet another turn in technological consequence on our language of aesthetic labor. With the end of the first electronic age -- modernity -- and the societal acclimatization of digital technologies, another set of vocabularies defines the signification of Art and Artists in the digital, postmodern era.

Digital artist Ryder Ripps -- founder of dump.fm, Internet Archaeology, co-creator of Where's The Pixel, OKFocus and a proponent of transparency in the form making his entire Facebook public as a browsable art-object -- uses the analog of a DNS Root Server to explain why this shift is important in base terms.

This is at the core of the Internet's function. That to me is really at the core of what it means to be human -- the ability to use language, connect it with meaning and emotion. I don't think to an animal an i.p. address or google.com are any different, or the word tree and the word cup. Point being, I think everything is just connecting through language, and yeah honest direct language is best. Confused, honest direct language is even better because people can read into it. My personal favorite all-time videos are Rebecca Black's Friday and Insane Clown Posse's Miracles, both of which have budgets and passion that went to someone's socially comatose dream/passion. That's so beautiful and rare. Rebecca Black truly changed the world. That girl just made people laugh for 2 minutes. She confused people to the point where they began to question reality and made them really mad. People were so mad by her video, because they didn't understand it. They were so confused. Rebecca Black was our generation's electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

This is an evaluation of authenticity, one many critics have had a hard time articulating in the wake of artistic trumps such as Lana Del Rey or Milli Vanilli or any artist really attacked for gaining speed in larger and larger public spheres as a mechanism of the manufactured. Black and ICP both function as excellent examples of Ripps' critique as realistically independent artists capable of disrupting the cultural directive. The work reflects this as blatantly confused in the world (fucking magnets, how do they work?) and hopelessly direct (Partyin' partyin' yeah, partyin' partyin' yeah, fun fun fun fun, lookin' forward to the weekend). The failure of these works critically barely speaks to their success as artifacts of Viralism. As I have written previously, the most critically successful artifacts of Viralism are capable of embracing their Arkwork--a poetic function of Hunter Hunt Hendrix. His work in the band Liturgy was contentious throughout 2011 for his willingness to discuss his theoretical impulse and his engagement with the audience. He explains the nature of the Arkwork:

Part of the Arkwork is a recognition and affirmation of this symbiotic relationship between production and interpretation. By interpretation here I most especially mean trolling on the internet, with special reference to the seeming scandal that has taken place during 2011 with regard to my band and my words. That is only one station of the Arkwork, but it has two aspects. The first is an affirmation of any and all reactions, no matter how stupid or how vitriolic or filled with hate, and a designation of them as part of Liturgy, and incorporation of this feed of text generated by bored 17-year-olds on the internet into the body of work that is Liturgy. For example I made a zine called Scion 438 which collects the first 438 comments underneath a certain video interview we did that became quite infamous and stirred a lot of hatred. It is gorgeous. The second aspect of this station of the Arkwork has to do with suffering. Because, I can't like, these things hurt. The Arkwork is therapeutic for me, I'd say. It is a conceptual architecture which I cling to... like as long as I remember the principles of the Arkwork I can keep going, in spite of whatever they may say. It is very personal--a way to keep up courage--and at the same time I think it points to something universal in the creative process.

It seems a work's aura, as Walter Benjamin would name it, is evaluative on a collective level rather than a singular level in an instantaneously judgmental society. The mass of the interpretive surrounding a work must be given as much tact as the social inertia of the work itself. When I examined Liturgy's distribution next to Lana Del Rey's in Is Black Metal More Important Than Pop?, I wrote of the necessary embrace of ...the Arkwork as central to the narrative. What I mean is not necessarily the management of discourse re a work, but the absolute embrace of that discourse--critical and mass reception, while viewable by the audience, has no hinge on the creator. The evaluation of the evaluation reshapes the critical experience of the work. This is why Lana Del Rey, completely disengaged with whatever narrative she could come up with whatsoever, is the best example of a poor Viral artist. Tao Lin is an example of an excellent one.

As with Ripps and Hendrix and other contemporaries I cite here, Lin is barely limited to one avenue of creation or incitement, as the tools of the digital are spread at large. But he is best known as a novelist and writer whose work has traded currency most in the digital sphere. Lin's ability to engage his discourse notes of the potential to spread an artifact digitally. The subject matter of Lin's last novel Richard Yates was contentious for a few reasons: the character's names and the scope of reality; whether or not this was semi-autobiographical; the stark writing style and the presentation of Google chats. It was Lin's ability to navigate a notable field of interrogators with patience, an odd mystery, and apparent ease. This applies not only to the Richard Yates press cycle but also to his everlasting junket with his infamous novella Shoplifting From American Apparel. Lin's apparent stoic willingness to memeify any aspect of his life in the press, when interrogated on the proposition of his books, allowed not just his work, but also work on his work to spread like wildfire. His thoughts on that Viralism echo those of Ripps.

In terms of other things, like something on Tumblr, Lin said, I think things that are funny and emotional have a better chance of going viral, I don't think controversy or transparency contribute to going viral. I haven't thought of going viral in terms of book-length things, short stories, or any poems in my published books. I think I currently only earnestly think about the possibility of going viral when I publish a Drug-Related Photoshop Art for Vice or an article for Thought Catalog. In those cases I don't think I'm focused on going viral. I think the only thing I view of mine that have gone viral are the acronym UFSI (a little) and cat-toad hybrid (only on Tumblr). In terms of my books, or my writing (essays, stories, etc.), I don't feel I've gone viral at all.

Given the large distribution of evaluation on Lin's entire body, it is notable that he views his most-critically disregarded works as his most Viral--or at least most consciously Viral. Though he estimates he's sold between 4,000 and 10,000 copies of Richard Yates (actually a large number of units in this era of Encyclopaedia eradication) Lin's narrative as a whole--his Arkwork-is likely more renowned than any one of his artifacts alone. It's his ability to merge the narrative of his work, paired with the simultaneous lack of distributive consciousness on the part of his serious work, that allows Lin to move with such apparent ease of independence in the digital world. It might be just one step too far to state the quality of Lin's writing is largely insignificant in the context of his Arkwork--that also might be exactly correct.

Both the notions of awareness and quality-consciousness lead to another point of Ripps' on the Viral:

I have an hysterical example, he wrote. 'Online Viral Video,' 480 views. LOL. Number one: the cast. You can't have a cast. The audience needs passion, needs to want to be there. Number two: self-awareness--this is trying to be a viral video. You can't try to be doing anything besides getting love. Number three: desperation. Honestly, who the fuck gives a shit about your stupid car, get over it. Number four: this was made to look shitty. That goes back to self-awareness and being manufactured.

As for those who are willing to lay claim to consciousness in a lack of cultural directive, Taraka Larson's recent manifesto called The Now Age: Meditations on Sound and the Architecture of Utopia articulates the notion quite well. In the work, Larson becomes more forcefully Left than she's previously shown herself to be: Notions of the artwork's aura and the formation of style as critical arc echo Benjamin and Adorno with Horkheimer at their most irritated. But Larson's most interesting contentions are on the confluence of unlimited access to nostalgia as a shield of deference.

Herbert Marcuse has entered discourse here, too, in defining romantic as aesthetic incompatibility with the developing society (Marcuse). In this sense, we are able to interpret a surge of romanticism in the aesthetic fascination with '90s culture, perhaps best exemplified in the work of Pictureplane, the rise of house sounds, the reformation of rock as a folk idiom, or Total Slacker frontman Tucker Rountree. Rountree, as one, avoids kitsch by stoicism in his obsession. He's articulate about his artistic choices in a way that recasts nostalgia as a sharp object rather than a blunt one. His music is the lastly representative artifact of this divide, though an important mechanism of his cultural foothold-similar to the cultural collective that Larson pools. In finality Larson makes a case of unrestricted cultural-temporal access to signifiers of any era at any time-i.e. the Internet, a truly deconstructive reference medium allowing nostalgia to be brandished as a weapon, to engage tradition as a tool in itself, rather than as a function of the substructure. What we're witnessing is the destruction of style as the aesthetic equivalent of domination (Adorno & Horkheimer) in the ability to instantaneously subvert the dominant force of culture.

The collision of these worlds simultaneously speaks to a moment where a lack of style as combat allows community across structural, technological, and critical lines. Larson's given us an argument of metastasis, the kind of discussion of a discussion that must happen if we're to reform the state of the culture industry.

What such an aesthetic means for the meaning-makers is a complete loss of universalized meaning in cultural symbol. The homogenization of meaning-making degrades in the face of losing a true artistic social front, giving willing subjection to capital and control-or the will of the audience. Where history is often said to be the history of domination, our greatest works of art work are those that explore the history of freedom, namely by engaging the negation of culturally accepted truths-the collision of worlds. Further, we're seeing similar notions of sampling, albeit on not such an ephemeral level, in the theoretical mainstream--Jaron Lanier is the easiest reference point, particularly his book-length rant You Are Not A Gadget. However, Larson's contention is that, while gadgets we are not, gadgets may assist us to be in identity.

For example, reexamine in the last decade the explosion of the karaoke, bubble-gum glitz of chill wave, the meandering ambiance of loop-heavy improv, the scruffy-and-scratchy sheik of West-Coast surf punk, or the minimal darkwave of witch house. Driven as much by expansive access to designer drugs and digital music as by the democratization of electronic instruments, a new, easily forged musical front came to bear with an ease of production in the early 2000s. What came out the other end of Generation Y's Pro Tools interpretation was often bland and mostly sloppy. Whether this iteration of music, known derisively as blog rock in some circles, could take itself seriously at all within the culture seems to be a moot point as the slapdash ideology this micro-movement represented consumes itself in ambition: amidst piles of discarded drum machines and soft-synths, artists are clamoring for a return to high fidelity, production values, Bands (capital B) and a sense of severity to the work that disappeared with multitudinous production. A critical surge can be observed as well, as blog after blog of often lazy and poor music writing came into digital existence, confusing legitimate critique with what John Maus derided as ridiculous word painting in an ironically placed interview on the oft-derided (often wrongly) Altered Zones.

With that site's implosion by business-model default, some have speculated an end to a certain sect of digitalism and music. Benjamin hints at such notions of loss in the preface to his The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. He writes on the mechanisms of capital on the theses of the multitude: Their dialectic is no less noticeable in the superstructure than in the economy. It would therefore be wrong to underestimate the value of such theses as a weapon. They brush aside a number of outmoded concepts, such as creativity and genius, eternal value and mystery -- concepts whose uncontrolled (and at present almost uncontrollable) application would lead to a processing of data in the Fascist sense. In one way, Benjamin notices the tendency of mass-produced artwork--in the blog rock case mass-produced by a multitude, not a singular concern -- to transcend both the sub- and superstructures. It follows that to produce a homogenized (universally understood) work, a universalized set of systems needs be in place to control content--an aesthetic logic, Viralism. In the case of capital, genre and codifier are the dependent works of the superstructure to assimilate. In the case of Viralism, to evaluate a work's aura on a collective level. This slightly contradicts the symbolic generation of culture, as Habermas interprets Ernst Cassierer's cultural philosophy in The Liberating Power of Symbols, moving beyond logic to where interpretative problems are implicit with the evaluation of worldviews. Cassier through Habermas asserts logic cannot be an interpretive aide in mystical fields (such as art or music). Benjamin's critique presupposes that neither interpretation nor transmission is the problem in the transference of aesthetic ideology -- the production, the initial definition means nothing to all else. On this side of the line, Brooklyn band The Men are a Band and that's it because only The Men are capable of labeling The Men (Althusser would assent). In the same interpretive logic John Cage might tout in explanation of 4'33, the diverse experience of the multitude, the effective evaluation of the whole of the work's significance is all of import.

Brandon Scott Gorrell, editor at Thought Catalog took up this thread over email: I think the intention of the creator is so much less significant than the consumer's experience -- the intention happened once, the experience can happen innumerable unique times. Most traditional literary criticism seems deeply concerned with authority and intention, and I have a hard time separating most of it from simple rhetorical gate-keeping.

A similar, albeit inverse, critique is reflected in the aesthetic evaluations of Tolstoy, as well as Hitler's treatise of propaganda in Mein Kampf. Both wrote on issues of control in interpretation through concrete, unmistakable intention--Gorrell suggests this line of possibility be dismissed altogether. Later discussions paralleling the manipulative side of this line of thought were taken up in early studies of communicative theory, particularly the members of the Frankfurt School, to whom critiques such as this one are so indebted. Utilized most obviously today by marketers and advertisers, the business of control remains lucrative--become a fan of my sandwich, like this deodorant, liveblog your own wedding now, now, now.

Gorrell went on: Thought Catalog recently ran a great piece that shared a similar view; in it, author Frances Dinger quotes Virgina Woolf on Joyce's Ulysses: [Ulysses is] the work of a queasy undergraduate scratching at his pimples, and Ralph Waldo Emerson on Jane Austen: Miss Austen's novels seem to me vulgar in tone, sterile in artistic invention, imprisoned in the wretched conventions of English society, without genius, wit, or knowledge of the world. Never has life been so pinched and narrow. When one experiences a piece of art as offensive, the very first, most simple reaction can be to vilify its creator; to dismiss him or her as sophomoric or solipsist or naive or whatever other adjective so-called critics use to deem a piece of art as having less objective value and thus less worthy of consideration. I think this reaction is at its core negative and fascist. I think much more positivity is added to the world when one instead earnestly discusses his or her experience with the art, rather than tries to rhetorically censor it.

Applying this to the medium by which Gorrell writes and edits, what's most interesting to witness is the necessary affirmation by the artistic substructure of the means of control, i.e. the tacit processes by which the independent artist seeks an audience, as the means of communication explode along faster and larger lines of use. While all the breadth and attention of aesthetic languages are pushed to reduction, the very same technologies that reinforce mass production and marketing become technologically socialized in the purest sense-acting in the public sphere-paralleling the movement of artistic and meaning-making mediums on the personal level of identity-construction. Eventually (currently) we've seen these principals materialize in cultural artifact.

Technology, on a timeline, begins to dominate the language of personal identification, mirroring the ascendance of artistic expression in the public sphere. Our most basic functions of communication-speech and orthography, the crutch of all other mediums, face a retrofit within the confines of new media. Further on, adapted communication techniques face the same retrofitting as their language and transference becomes homogenized with all adapted forms of communication. This can be demonstrated in the record keeping of societies under various mutations of dominant communicative technologies: as oral myth died away, so too did the identifiers of epithets. With the ascendance of orthographies, the next step was spatial identification (the development of the address in relation to the letter, a few steps further the development of the phonebook in relation to the telephone) and in every communicative monopoly, the society acts subservient to the dominant medium. The technology bends the will of the individual to define herself in relation to others by the very restrictions of that technology: I am here. Write me a letter.

This personal reduction of the will is made easiest by media's speed and breadth today. Harold Innis refers to communicative technologies as with biases, each new medium inherently having a bias of space or time, reflecting the duration and breadth of messages and media. To quote Robert E. Babe on Innis: [...] newer media facilitate the inscription of many more messages than the carving of stone, and that in turn leads to a much larger proportion of messages concerning temporal (or fleeting) matters, as opposed to enduring ones (Babe 47). Inundated in the digital, the social communicative identity of today is bound by neither space nor time, making instantaneous distribution of the banal at the ready for all who want it. As Innis wrote: the balance between time and space has been seriously disturbed with disastrous consequences to Western civilization (Babe).

Marnie Stern, an independent guitarist at the front of a band of the same name, is a student of philosophy. She offered thoughts on the subject over email: Of course attention span affects the listener and their experience with the music on more scales than I think we even realize. More and more, it seems like background music as opposed to something we sit with and give our full attention to. Ideally, people say that new art will arise from this new culture. As for now, it's a shame that we can't focus on anything for more than a few minutes or seconds. Viral usually hinders the 'indie' artist because of over-exposure. In the mainstream it helps, but the work is usually weak anyway. Usually, the more watered down the music, the more potential it has to go viral, and be consumed by the masses for a few seconds of their day and then forgotten.

Gorrell shared similar thoughts: In terms of blogging the idea behind viral content often needs to be one that is going to resonate with the demographic to the extent that by sharing the text on their social properties they're tacitly defining their identity to others. Pop songs sort of do this, in their own way. And while pop songs are the inspired work of creative people, their publishing and distribution is in the effort of making money. Virality would of course be a legitimate concern in such a case. A critic would point out here that this mindset levels culture and creates a race to the bottom where the intellectual and artistic elite are usurped by a commercial demand to satisfy the lowest common denominator. Whichever view an individual condones depends on their specific circumstance. After returning from a trip to Italy, Andy Warhol said something like, The most beautiful thing in Florence is McDonalds. Conversely, Nietzsche famously claimed: Everyone being allowed to learn to read, ruined in the long run not only writing but also thinking. Once spirit was God, then it became man, and now it has become the populace. Another century of this-and spirit itself will stink.

In the current, social networking helps to further these consequences of intense concision. Social networking makes no attempt to hide its violence in the amelioration of society. It makes users update, quickly. It makes participants change where they are in life. The advertising and general makeup is the problem with the spectacle of consumer culture. The system pancakes communication, flattening natural discourse to one or two lines, to visual representations of manufactured needs. It is the height of recycled garb, pipelined art, repressive lingo, manufactured ideology. Social networks advertise the pulsing erectile vein of commodity, of excess, of waste, the specter of fashion, the empty core of liberal capitalism, and the blind march of progress. And only the brevity in biases of digital communication attends to such malleable representations of the cultural self. Further, the audience is now able to engage the producer instantaneously and completely. The bias of space also in this case refers to social structure. The engagement of artist with audience has disrupted to a far more vast scale of discourse, by which the deconstructive notions of the web reflect the disruptive/nonexistent bias of time. Under this take, a demand for a control or command of not just the work itself but also the resultant discussion around the work becomes confounded with a simple embrace of that discourse. Hunt Hendrix offers his outlook on relinquishing that lack of control:

I write and say certain things without really being sure what I'm talking about. Being interpreted, misinterpreted, over-interpreted, that's a very important complement to my work. Otherwise it would have no life at all. I also change my mind a lot about what I meant when I wrote or said this or that, so really anyone's take is just about as good as my own, as long as they're really being earnest about it. I'm not the same person now who wrote the Transcendental Black Metal piece in 2009, for example. Over time I've become very interested in this process of production and interpretation as a symbiotic relationship... it is almost more interesting to me than whatever I was trying to express in the first place.

The standout phrase here is the notion of life. We forget that Viral, in its base sense, indicates a disease. But a disease simply seeks a host--for as long as that host allows, the Viral is alive.

My concern with culture is that right now counterculture, Hunt Hendrix writes, especially in music, is essentially dead. [The host metaphor reappears.] Bands just want to be famous, or at least get popular, or at least be cool. Culture has the power to really transform things and I wish more people saw that power and cared about it. When did punk devolve into this lazy cynicism? I try as much as possible to stay in touch with the original counter-cultural explosion which I identify with certain writers--Whitman, Henry Miller, Allen Ginsberg. I don't know quite what to do with it, except that I am pretty sure that subculture identification is the enemy.

The commodification of such negations is allowed only in a culture capable of consuming itself at its own flashpoint of existence. The consciousness of the negation, the alternative lifestyle brand, the hipster mindset, and so on only works in such a quickly moving culture, one attempting to claim its own identity before it can be claimed before the market. In that market, micro changes on a macro scale (in lifestyle, music, literature, communication, etc) get sold as anything somehow unique, if only by acting as commentary on something more productive or culturally dominant. The problem is the inability of this culture to exist independently. Where Adorno and Horkheimer laud the independence of their artist, irony or apathy as an acceptable cultural stance thrives only on the cusp of the mainstream, given its necessary evaluation of the culture at large. A high level of self-awareness is contingent in this worldview as it is wholly dependent on what has come before. This cultural reading destroys individual will by simply declaring we don't care and dilutes autonomy by sending the message, individuality is collective.

One combative force in this happens in a world of honesty and tact. The notions of oversharing, transparency, and honesty reflect most accurately the status of this battle (despite Lin's assertion to the contrary) as the boundaries of a socially responsible worldview expand to include all action as relevant artifact.

Oversharing is a value-laden term, Gorrell writes, its message being that whatever's termed as such has crossed some subjective line in the sand, one that denotes appropriate sharing from sharing too much. The word seems very Puritan and culturally-oppressive to me. And I think it's becoming redundant at this point. The reality of the internet generation -- the generation that will eventually control much of the cultural context -- is simply that, as pretty much all previous modern generations, they want to draw their own boundaries. They want to create a world in which they're OK, and will eventually do so by establishing new norms via continually exerting their influence. The group of people who have contentions with so-called oversharers only seem to want to censor them via shaming, ridicule, and tribal exclusionary behavior. The majority of the group is not positive, useful, or constructive at all. Thought Catalog and Muumuu House have been at the front of the recent-wave of this cultural expansion because we're some of the only ones who decided we wouldn't be shamed... into obscurity, as the Metro recently wrote of their own intentions regarding us. As we have moved forward with our vision it has become obvious that there is a great demand for it. And I think the demand exists because we're challenging and breaking norms that younger people have felt oppressed by.

But it is the intense, instantaneous malleability of the faux-culture that separates the movement from a legitimate social cause as the continuous redirection of the movement indicates a thorough lack of focus -- a heavy criticism of the Occupy movement. What results in the dysphoria is a redaction of all cultural truth-values in purpose and intent, as the lack of unity reveals itself in the anonymity of the nets. This level of meaning, where irony works as, and for, a structure of meaning, could not exist in a slower-moving culture, as the realization of just what negates the mainstream would lack capital impetus on a larger time scale. However, what has resulted in the commodification of the immediate negation is a negation of that itself--a shadow culture, or the shadow of a shadow culture. This approach comes only at the hands of awareness of the dominant. Certainly aesthetic reactions obviate the negation always appearing in the social, but the very definitions by which counteraction define itself are nothing more than industrialized codes for progress. And still, rebellion breaks down as just another social function. The recognition of rebellion in the mainstream indicates its loss of worth. The fascination in interpreting beauty, the reification of the negation remains the only constant. It becomes clearer, then, the issue is ideological. To retain the ritual nature of the authentic, rebellion becomes a necessary component of the artistic method to realize that engaging the social means engaging in repressive practices.

Without this construct, the positive process of amelioration crumbles. Digital, and really all culture, retains only capital power and, at present, acts with relentless power. Freedom exists always at the periphery and real change is everything beyond our grasp. The benefits of subversion thus defined lay not in revolution but in system. Hence, subversion of all things at this point remains an immutable, driving component of this cultural space.

Yes, the Viral works in the space of negation. Yes, pure, unopposed culture sits at the periphery of the tangible. Yes, technological progress must be adhered to in order to maintain dialogue with the individual. And the three interlinked represent the status of the Viral -- an engagement of the new, the authentic, the unopposed, in a space that informs the public sphere, there is always a better way.

The utopian claim in this statement has little to do with capitalism, but with consciousness and liberation. Yes, history is the history of domination, but we mean this also in the revisionist sense: To art, history is the history of freedom. Viralism simply refers to the independent boundaries of a digital artifact's interaction on part of audience, critic, and producer. The honest, subversive, passionate engagement of that process is all I intend to understand.

Share this article

More News from IBT MEDIA