October 31st, 2011
what we really need: some thoughts on culture

What is often missing in modern culture is this depth of connection. When you see a culture dividing into simplistic polarities — which is all of our politics nowadays and most of our religion — what’s going on is a loss of soul. People who are in touch with their soul know what they’re supposed to be doing in the world and what their way of contributing to life is, in the same way that people know what music they love and what food they enjoy — not just life-sustaining food, but food that has flavor, that makes you feel nourished, even inspired.

The U.S. has become mired in spiritual materialism. People are substituting material accomplishments or possessions for the thing the soul loves, such as music and meaningful speech. The soul even loves suffering when the suffering produces realization. In a mass effort to find superficial comforts and avoid suffering, the whole culture has lost soul.

Everyone needs some help learning who they already are. That’s the root of genuine education and the task of real culture.

-Michael Meade
(from an article in the Sun Mag which I have read and reread many times this week.)

thoughts (unfinished)

-media used to be the only thing that was commodified (magazines, newspapers, television, radio), by commodified I mean that advertising began to influence the content. Now with the advent of blog advertising (and we could also add social media) it is our very lifestyles that have become commodified. Our lives are now advertisements. Everything is for sale. The clothes we are wearing, our children’s clothing, their toys, the cream we use, our shoes.

-As with traditional media, and now with the prevalence of blog ads at some point the content exists merely to feed the advertising (no longer does the advertising support the content). Loss of honesty/integrity results.

-our relationships with people should not be connected to or influenced by consumerism.

-it used to be that culture was created by the artists. They held strong beliefs, had very strong political ideas, integrity was everything.

-now the lines between entertainment and advertising are becoming more blurred/non-existent. Advertising is entertainment. Thus advertising is culture. So culture is now formed by corporations who have no interest in the greater good of society or the planet and are self-serving and profit driven.

-what are the implications of growing up in a culture where everything is a commodity? what are we teaching our children to value?

-what is most surprising is the apparent acceptance of advertising and product endorsement as just part of the culture, especially in places where it was formerly taboo (i.e. Mothering Magazine). What has happened to the cultural consciousness that makes this okay? So-and-so is doing it so it is okay for me to do it too?

Culture is not about what we buy, or what our friends are buying.

What we really need…

What we are craving is true connection with ourselves and the people in our lives. That means deep and messy interactions. The internet makes everything tidy and keeps relationships at arms reach.

is to place value on things that actually benefit society (social welfare, health, soul, art). take the power away from corporations.

I am thinking about these things as I prepare to do another interview on the advertising and culture (re: web and social media).

Oct 31 2011
1:35 pm
kelsi writes:

Well said.
Have you read “Cloud Atlas”? A portion of the book imagines a society that is not a democracy, but a corpocracy.
You’ve given me a lot to think about.
I appreciate you being ad-free.

Oct 31 2011
1:35 pm
Lizzie Jane Oliver writes:

I so agree. You can do anything these days without advertising blaring at you from every angle in one form or another. It can be quite intrusive and disturbing. Its also sad that those dollars are shaping our culture, are out culture, and that we as a people have somehow lost the things that should matter.
I ofter turn off the media as much as possible to be in my own life working and trying to have a balance. We must work to take back our power in what ever ways possible no matter how small.

great blog post

Oct 31 2011
2:08 pm
folkscallmejonny writes:

Hasn’t it always been that “he who pays the piper, calls the tune”? Has culture ever been free?

I’m very disappointed with magazines – so many pages of advertising of pointless products at daft prices.

The way we spend our money is our most powerful resource. By shopping locally, ethically and modestly, by making our own things, by being generous to our neighbours, by not relying on things for status, we can make a difference.

Oct 31 2011
7:46 pm
suzy writes:

I enjoy reading your thoughts on this very much. I am disturbed by the creep of advertising everywhere. On blogs, and also in other areas of life. In Australia companies can “sponsor” local primary schools and hang their logos on the fence. Playgroup used to be a non-commercial space, but now there are ads all over the email newsletter and corporate groups come to sessions to “demonstrate” new products. It upsets me that there is almost nowhere I can take my child that is not commercialised in some way.

Nov 1 2011
3:02 am
Pania writes:

Keri, I completely agree with you. And I also agree with Folks Call Me Johnny’s rhetorical question. But I think the key is to be aware of advertising (especially in blogs as they tend to present themselves as “life” rather than “advertising” and are all the more insidious for it) and somehow inure ourselves to it. Also, do you think that the bloggers who allow advertising on their sites, and who advertise products in their posts, are aware of the effect they’re having on culture, and their medium? I don’t think they are. Or if they are aware, they can’t care, or they wouldn’t do it, right?

Nov 1 2011
4:08 am
Melany writes:

Beautifully put. Thanks for writing this :)

Nov 1 2011
3:43 pm
HerNameWas writes:

Do you have a link to this article or can you tell us the issue number of the Sun Mag?
I’m very interested to read the entire thing.
Also, very insightful questions and statements- especially about how deep relationships are messy and how that becomes more challenging to face in an ever increasing tidy web world.
Thanks for posing this!

Nov 1 2011
3:46 pm
kerismith writes:

It’s the November issue #431

Nov 7 2011
2:17 pm
Sarah Zoutewelle writes:

Keri, you’d enjoy david Gauntlett’s book, ‘Making is Connecting’ if you haven’t already read it. He addresses a lot of these points freshly.

Nov 12 2011
10:58 am
Christina Rosalie writes:

So many things here deeply resonate. I’ve been thinking a lot about commodity and how we’re at the phase now where we’re commodifying human elements: personality, action, etc.

Commodification and technology are inherently connected, aren’t they? And technology always wields enormous power: for the creation of good and for destruction of culture.

How do you, as an artist with a strong online presence and big digital components to your work reconcile those two? I have always loved your words + work (since wishjar) and that you’ve remained ad free. For me, that’s created a reason to trust your work as an artist–even as you have shifted more into the digital realm (with an app, etc.)

I’m so interested in your thoughts if you have time for a reply…

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