Go-jasu, Derishasu, De-Hallo!

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.

Dissection

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.

Kyou.

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.

Notes

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!

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15 Comments

  1. lelangir

     /  24 June 2008

    Baudrillard, Eco, Derrida, chalk up three more for the already massive reading list.

    And nice to see you’ve inserted your web-presence into a more “formal” space, unless I’ve looked past the places you list in your MAL.

    Reply
  2. I especially like your sixth paragraph. The alterations to meaning made by use are something of a hobby-horse of mine, and I’m firmly of the opinion that the quickest way for a blogger to change a word’s meaning is not to write a definition post, but simply to use the word a lot.

    Also, 35% sounds suspiciously precise. How’s that calculated? Because, with the thigh-highs taken into account, I’m not sure 35% is accurate.

    Reply
  3. @lelangir: Thank you! I’ve been in part inspired by your writing, although mine is less precise and sharp. Out of these three, I’d say Eco is the one you should start out with. As he writes literature too (good literature, I can have IKnight vouch for that I believe), he’s clearer and more enjoyable. Derrida is at times rather oblique, and Baudrillard may at times state things that are bombastic merely for the sake of doing it (I enjoy both those styles, though).

    @IKnight: Pshaw, flattery! And I agree on that the less you define, the more meaning changes (paradoxically, maybe). Why this is so sounds like an interesting subject, but it’s late and I should go to bed.

    The art of calculating exactly how naked a woman is is perilous and complex – tighhighs account for less obscurity than pants, as they are pretty slim, fetishized and slightly transparent. I suppose my dedicated nakedness-calculator (that is, eyesight and guesswork) could have committed a mistake somewhere, though. One must also keep in mind that a lot of the back is exposed, judging by the look of the lingerie, and that being 35% away from nakedness is slightly different than being 35% naked; there’s also the effort required to reach this unclad state and so on.

    Reply
  4. HEEY!!!!!!! XD

    LOL YOU SOUND SMART ALREADY, I’M JEALOUS

    Reply
  5. That’s just because I can namedrop and write obvious things in nonobvious ways :3

    Reply
  6. I’m glad you’ve found a place for your writing. Having another Baudrillard-monging writer around is a win in my book.

    Also, LOL @ your reply to blissmo. Glad to see that you have a self-deprecating sense of humor to balance out the pretentiousness. *thumbs up* Need moar of that yin&yang balance in the blogosphere.

    Looking forward to reading what you’ll crank out of that nerdy head of yours in the near future.

    Reply
  7. I agree with itsubun: too much pretentiousness can make for an annoying read. It’s like, “I can understand what you’re saying, but are all those complicated concepts and terminology that you use (which seem to be used to show off your knowledge more than anything else) really necessary to establish your point?”, so it’s good when people admit “not really, no”, and have a little fun with it like you do here.

    Good to see you finally plan to post your thoughts in a blog, and can’t wait to see what comes up next… It’s hard to say something different then what’s already been said. Jeez. :P

    Reply
  8. I kowtow to thee. It’s not every day you’re being called a taijitu, and it’s a nice day when you are called a taijitu. I too find too much pretentiousness suffocating; after all, it’s done for the laughs and entertainment and not for the academia when posted on a blog.

    Reply
  9. LOL I THINK YOU’D AGREE WITH LELANGIR, KAISERPINGVIN

    NIAHAHAHA

    Yeah, your post really dissected that simulacrum-simulation dynamic. :)

    Reply
  10. Kawada

     /  27 June 2008

    I caught the fanservice at the end. Good add. XD

    In all seriousness, I enjoy reading people’s thoughts on fandom and related matters, especially what you have to say about them. You brought up some interesting ideas that sparked some of my own. Here you go:

    1) It would be possible for someone to dedicate (at least part of) their life to researching and immersing themselves in a sub-culture. His viewpoints at the beginning and further on would be recorded in written form, making it possible to compare how his mindset and overall outlook had changed over time. Starting out by watching DVDs and making notes, eventually turning to fansubs and image galleries, and ending up an obsessed anime-watching hikikomori. I imagine the impact from something like that being able to turn some people off from any sort of fandom (or at the very least, it might inspire a best-selling manga ;D).

    2) While the anime/manga culture doesn’t play a huge role in the current history of the world, it’ll likely leave enough of an impact that over a century from now people will be able to look back on it and comment. You’re completely right: we the fans leave an enormous impact on culture. Whether we screw up what we have going for us now or make it better and more accessible to the world as a whole, future critics will use it to show what would happen in the case of such a hedonistic society. Or if we’re lucky, this idea will take hold and several generations will experience a euphoric utopia. Here’s hoping.

    3) I forgot. Damned Kyou.

    You made a fantastic first post, comprehensible or not. Keep it up!

    Reply
  11. @Michael: It’s a shame I’m pretty weak with blood; elsewise I’d have tried to cut it into further smaller pieces.

    @Kawada: Domo arigatou, to be suitably otaku!

    1) I’m doing that, in fact. Sometimes I even wonder if Satou isn’t, in fact, based on me… Then I watch some Haruhi and forget all about it. Nevertheless, it’s definitely a technique that should not be underestimated, in the ways of empirical research on culture. It’s kind of field-work in antropology, only with more home-cooked ramen.
    2) Yes, the size of the Western fandom is large enough to count with at least some effect on thinking and meaning in the future. I doubt my method would lead to an utopia however.

    (After all, the plan was to brainwash everyone and then rule the world. From Siberia.)

    3) She’s a mnemotechnic weapon. Can also cause anemia in all regions save one.

    @The Lelangiric trackback: I can’t comment! Doesn’t seem to be any problem with cookies nor JavaScript.

    Again, thanks all. You make me feel all fuzzy at your welcoming gifts. They’re nearly wasted on me.

    Reply
  12. Tis just a wrong start. I read your post, found some interesting viewpoints, not at all original, but it is your first one, after all, but the first part of it… while you brag about reading Eco and Derrida, maybe Eliot is the one you will find missing in your reading list. Art is not derived from theory, tis the other way round. Writing is a mimetic art, it presents something to someone. You have obviously failed to determine who are you writing for. If you are writing for nonwkiitionary-addicted audience, then they will be bored by the post and you have failed to achieve their comprehention; while, on the other hand, your post is explained as „it’s done for the laughs and entertainment and not for the academia“, so… either take it more seriously, or you have allready given up on advancing and consider sarcasm to be the best you can do?

    Reply
  13. of course a deep, obnoxious question running underneath all of this like some malicious sewer current is the role of the unconscious: a lot of symbols work unconsciously (at least, i’m guessing they do coz of course i’m not and can never be aware of it) and so beneath culture there must be some monster para-culture of shadows.. it might be then that culture as such has absolutely no bearing on our actions, but only on the way we view those actions . nietzsche, freud, throw both those boys into the mix!

    Reply
  1. “lelangiric” » Kyou-sama: The Semiotics of Skin
  2. Three Can Play At That Game « The Animanachronism

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