The Problem With Hipsters…

// Posted by on 04/18/2014 (11:23 AM)

Haddow’s criticism of “hipsterdom” seems a bit unfounded to me. He complains that hipsters contribute no real cultural developments because they are too concerned with consuming what is “cool,” and borrowing most of their trends from previous generations, without ever really fully committing to the culture.

I feel like this state of culture is less a reflection of the motives of people, and more of a reflection of culture itself. Being in a modern society with such expansive and constant access to technology, it can be difficult for extreme cultural phenomena to gain steady footing. The internet provides such widespread access to all types of music, movies, television shows, literature, or any other form of consumable culture that these things are more likely to garner a smaller, yet intensely passionate following than a recognizable cultural impact. This may still have something to do with Haddow’s idea that hipsters are “too afraid to become it [culture] ourselves,” and are unable to commit; or it might have something to do with the shortened attention span that is often attributed as a symptom of technology; but no matter the reasoning, I think Haddow would be more accurate to criticize the culture itself, not the people who consume the culture.

That being said, Haddow seems to lump together the idea of change in general, with the idea of cultural developments. Shifts in culture are not the only changes we should be concerned with. While people like Haddow may think the hipster generation is lazy when it comes to culture, this has no bearing on their capability for social progress. Just because there might not be a strong shift or innovation within popular culture doesn’t mean there are no dynamic shifts in society in general. An article by Zeynep Tufekci sites “Indignados” in Spain, “Occupy” in the United States, Tahrir Square in Egypt, Syntagma Square in Greece, Gezi Park in Turkey and #Euromaidan in Ukraine as recent social movements that all stem from the use of modern technology as a means of coordination.

Tufekci’s article does go on to criticize the use of social media in social movements, though:

“However, this lowering of coordination costs, a fact generally considered to empower protest mobilizations, may have the seemingly paradoxical effect of contributing to political weakness in the latter stages, by allowing movements to grow without building needed structures and strengths, including capacities for negotiation, representation, and mobilization. Movements may grow quickly beyond their developed organizational capacity, a weakness that becomes critical as soon as a form of action other than street protests or occupation of a public space becomes relevant.”

Again, this could be contributed to the negative attributes of hipsters, Haddow’s idea that they cannot commit fully to anything beyond the cultural flavor of the week. But it could also be a flaw within social media and internet society as a whole.

Either way, I think the hate of hipsters in general is unwarranted. The arguments made against them are so focused on what hipsters consume on a cultural level, yet give little thought to what they are capable of producing on a greater social level, which seems like a very narrow perspective on their potential.

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