Thursday, August 23, 2007

Imagination's Demise: Pop-Culture

The development of pop-culture in America has had a myriad of effects on our culture at large. There are a number of cultural historians who continue debate the benifits of pop-culture. I want to tred carefully here, and for a number of reasons: (1) I am not a cultural historian, (2) I do believer that latter developments in pop-culture will foster a very good imagination. That being said, however, early on the development of pop-culture did, I believe, help to diminish our imaginations. Here's how.

First, through specialization in instant gratification. The very nature of pop-culture is bound up in instant gratification. Transitioning from high-culture, where art and music required thoughtful investment by artist and audience alike, pop-culture brought the level of involvement down. The culture could now be "entertained." The imagination, however, takes real time and creative investment. There was now a tendency to extreme expressionism (see absurdity of modern television's reality tv and game shows), and the accessibility of content. With these developments imagination simply took too much time, and thought.

Second, through the stress on entertainment over art. Ken Myers writes:

Entertainment reaches out to us where we are, puts on its show, and then leaves us esentially unchanged, if a bit pooerer in time and money. It does not (and usually does not claim to) offer us any new perspective on our lives or on other matters in creation...Kaplan remarks that 'a taste for popular art is a device fo rremaining in the same old world and assuring ourselves that we like it.'

This distinction, following on the heels of the shift towards more instant gratification, only further increased the devaluing of imagination, which took to much time and thought.

In a future post I am going to argue in favor of certain elements of pop-culture for the imagination. But suffice it to say that it was the early developments of pop-culture that led to a decline in imagination in our culture.

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