Hello everyone! I am Kaiserpingvin, new blood here at the Super Fanicom. Pleased to make your acquaintance, and I hope to bring about many a useful contributions to the discourse of this strata of the bloggosphere. And a big thanks to Pontifus, for giving me this opportunity! If perchance you find me fascinating, I will direct you to the About page to dispel such temporary (yet comprehendable) delusions.
I should really just have trailed off into something fun and entertaining now. It’s my first post after all, and first appearances count. Yet I’ll have to disappoint you – hereafter follows no such thing, but a theoretical foundation for my writings – when my writings follow my theoretical foundations, that is, which is seldomly the case (I prefer writing something entertaining – brainservicewise – than actually writing something I think might be true, as that’s often more boring). Stay till the end for bewbs.
Justifying my Hedonism
One of my main interests is how we affect culture and vice versa. This is, of course, a rather large thing to tackle, so it’s useful to have some kind of restrictions that limit the effort needed without lessening the accuracy of the models you develop by any significant degree. One simple thing to do, then, is to choose a subculture as an object of study, which has led to me trying to observe what is produced that nerds in common digest, and how nerds react to it, et cetera. That’s just a rundabout justification for being able to watch anime days on end and buying Exalted supplements (me desires the First Age book), of course, but that is irrelevant1. The means justify the goal.
A small problem is of course deciding exactly how nerds think, act and feel. We’re no longer a homogenous group of spectatles-bestowed, shirt-wearing, borderline-sociopathic stereotypes (well, we never were, and I still am one). The anime-watchers, the otaku (a loose definition of that word do I carry), claim membership of all from emo body-builders to spectatles-bestowed, shirt-wearing, borderline-sociopathic stereotypes. Luckily, such diversity applies to all cultures, be they sub-, ultra-, post-, de- or proto-. There will possibly still be a leeway of very common values, weltanschauungen and socially codified behaviour. As an extra bonus, this subculture is the one I’d wager is the most internationally communicating one, by grace of our beloved intertubes and their magnanimous2 gifts, and the possibly still far-too-prevalent real-life social maladjustment. Exactly how I’d utilize the web for these sociological pursuits is the topic of a later3 post; now is not the time for escapades in the land of empiricism. Nay, it is time to look closer on the exact definition and nature of culture, and the parts of it that are of interest.
Culture stems, like oh so many other hard-to-define words of some intellectual pretention, from Latin – cultura, which in turn comes from colere, which means to cultivate or worship4. This is still a rather apt metaphorical definition, allow it to in your minds eye cast The Culture as a vast holy garden, with pines in peculiar shapes there, beds of starkly coloured flowers there, and mazes of hedges there. In this garden we walk, and the plants mutate and change for every step, we grow new ones, tend to old ones, sometimes we burn down a whole swath of The Culture and use the nutritious ashes to grow something very new. We also eat and live from it, and in the end, many of us blindly worship it, as it is all we know and can think of. Well, no time to wax lyrical, we’ve got places to go to, people to meet (again metaphorically).
Culture is profoundly human. It’s the height of our cognitive processes – a massive organic machinery of meaning, semiotics. It’s through culture symbols, such as words and letters, attain a mutable meaning. It’s through human processes culture come into being, and it’s culture that determines what those human processes mainly are. The process is deceptively simple – whenever a symbol is used in a certain context, the symbol attains a certain amount of attachment to other symbols used in that context. When this happens in large scale – which is the case with mass culture – meaning can mutate very fast. Simple examples of this process could be, say, how the cross went from an execution device to a symbol for a particular religion, and now also denotes death, a casualty. But symbols are not only words and pictures – symbols are patterns (I might pick up that another time) – and as such clichés, archetypes and stereotypes applies.
The important thing here is that these meanings permeate our thinking. Human thought is, I believe, largely or at least significantly symbolic in nature – symbols pointing at (I’ll have to brush up my Lacan but here I think signifiant/signifié would be better words to adopt – or symbols to hijack and mutate in meaning) which means that as the meaning of the symbols mutate – originally merely pointing at an observed fact or thought – so does the worldviews and possible actions of people affected by the culture. This makes culture into something moral and weighty – it is not merely entertainment or distraction, it is what decides large parts of our mass psyche, actions we take, ideas we have.
End Thesis (and some gratuitious fanservice)
In short – humans associate meanings with symbols. A symbol is a vehicle for meaning – a symbol is largely unchanging but invariably contains meaning. At their most base level, they have a single thing they symbolize – the original meaning of the symbol. Meaning is a metapattern – how this pattern is made to interrelate with others. When this happens at a large scale, that’s culture. Because at least a significant part of thinking is decided by symbolic (or at least uses it as a tool, a vehicle), culture is responsible for how communities work. That also means we are responsible for culture, of course, as it’s not an autogenerative phenomenon – it might be unavoidable, but it certainly is not independent of us who create us (that’d be pretty stupid).
If you’re familiar with memetics, you have probably already noted the rather significant similarities. You could say this theory is a combination of, in part, Baudrillards and Ecos postmodernism/structuralism, semiotics (which again Eco is rather deep into), and said memetics. Of course, bastardized and made cuddly. For dissecting meanings and the like, maybe Derrida is a good way to go.
This has been a boring post.
This has been a long post.
You know that you deserve it.
So here she is.
Only 35% away from naked.
A good way to earn instant friends is to end your posts with women-objectifying imagery. It also justifies the 13+ rating we, after all, have.
1A lie, in my first post? I pray you look the other way, madame.
2 I love how this word clashes ever so slightly in its hyperbolic antropomorphing of the simultaneously dead and very cultural Web.
3 Highly eventual. Mainly because this does not interest me as much as the other part.
4 Don’t believe in the me who believes in you, believe in the Wiktionary which believes in you!