“But Is It Art?”: The Aesthetics of Social Culture
Media theorist Marshall McLuhan famously envisioned a cultural “global village,” a collective identity shaped by the media we share. To a remarkable extent he foresaw how social media would change the game of culture, putting the power of creation in more hands than ever before, and this change in itself would be the new culture. Now that that future has arrived, have the inherent limitations and transitory nature of YouTube videos and Facebook postings made the new aesthetic canvas so small that no great work could emerge – like a (Rebecca) Black hole collapsing in on itself? While McLuhan insisted that the value of the content itself wasn’t as important as the channel that served it, in a quick-hit landscape where the memes of “Charlie Bit My Finger” and “Friday” are major touchstones, it’s fair to ask whether the changes in media have raised mediocrity and banality to an art form. So is the new social culture a vital democracy or decomposing exquisite corpse?
Dana Vachon's writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, Slate, Salon, Esquire and The New York Times. He recently adapted Robert Greene's The 48 Laws of Power as a drama for HBO. He lives in Brooklyn.
Before moving to Harvard in 2011, Jeffrey T. Schnapp occupied the Pierotti Chair of Italian Studies at Stanford, where he founded the Stanford Humanities Lab in 2000.
A cultural historian with research interests extending from antiquity to the present, his most recent books are Speed Limits and The Electric Information Age Book (a collaboration with the designer Adam Michaels of Project Projects (Princeton Architectural Press, January 2012). Also forthcoming in 2012 are Digital_Humanities (MIT Press), a book co-written with Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, and Todd Presner; Modernitalia (Peter Lang), a collection of essays on 20th century Italian cultural history being edited by Francesca Santovetti, and Italiamerica (Il Saggiatore), vol. 2, co-edited with Emanuela Scarpellini.
His pioneering work in the domains of digital humanities and digitally augmented approaches to cultural programming includes curatorial collaborations with the Triennale di Milano, the Cantor Center for the Visual Arts, the Wolfsonian-FIU, and the Canadian Center for Architecture. His Trento Tunnels project — a 6000 sq. meter pair of highway tunnels in Northern Italy repurposed as a history museum– was featured in the Italian pavilion of the 2010 Venice Biennale and is currently on exhibit at the MAXXI in Rome in RE-CYCLE. Strategie per la casa la città e il pianeta (fall 2011).
Faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, he is Professor of Romance Languages & Literature and also on the teaching faculty in the Department of Architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.
He is the faculty director of metaLAB (at) Harvard.
Tim Sheridan is a writer, creative director, husband and father. For over 14 years he has been working professionally in interactive media and marketing. He has also been a performer for a sketch comedy group, a music and film journalist, and a speech and joke writer for Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. He wrote for the original release of the CD-ROM game "You Don't Know Jack", named a Bon Jovi album (albeit their worst seller), did hand modeling for a magic trick on Siegfried and Roy's website, and wrote horoscope scripts for Britney Spears.