The Globalisation of Hip

August 15, 2008

“Hip” now moves faster and has more “sameness” thanks to globalisation

We can trot out cliches about globalisation like “the world is a global village” all day long, but in my opinion this current trend can be described as the “great leveler”. Globalisation has seen money move to places where the quickest profits can be made only to see it abandon those places once they found a more profitable location elsewhere. In the meantime, the world is becoming more similar from location to location as people consume the same products, are wearing the same clothes, and are exposed to the same culture.

Globalisation is also affecting Hipster culture as trends now move more quickly and with more force than they once did. Previously what was cool in New York wasn’t necessarily cool in Helsinki….but now what’s cool in Paris can be what’s cool in Buenos Aires in a matter of weeks. Tim Walker explores the globalisation of hip in: Meet the Global Scenster. Here’s an excerpt:

“Trends aren’t transmitted hierarchically, as they used to be,” explains Martin Raymond, co-founder of The Future Laboratory, a trend forecasting company. “They’re now transmitted laterally and collaboratively via the internet. You once had a series of gatekeepers in the adoption of a trend: the innovator, the early adopter, the late adopter, the early mainstream, the late mainstream, and finally the conservative. But now it goes straight from the innovator to the mainstream.”

The global scenester stays on top of what’s cool worldwide by reading such urban culture despatches as The Cool Hunter, a blog begun in Sydney four years ago by Bill Tikos, which reports on the hippest fashion, furniture, and design culture. The Cool Hunter has more than 600,000 unique visitors per month, who pore over the contents of its licensed offshoots in the US, UK, Turkey, Italy, China, and Japan. Its global audience allows Tikos to homogenise cool worldwide.

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Is Japan Today the Future of the West?

August 14, 2008

Tokyo Nightlife
Tokyo Night 8 – Frank Peter Lohoff (2007)

While the West struggles with its absence of meaningful culture and asks whether hipsters represent the end of western civilization, Japan may already be ahead of the curve in the realm of stagnation and decay.

Feelings of alienation and pessimism abound in Japan in spite of the “cool” cachet the Japanese have in the West thanks to the Harajuku Girls and films like Lost in Translation. The new youth see little hope for a better future and little meaning in the present. As hipsters of the west find irony to be an almost bankrupt currency after two decades of use, the Japanese have already graduated to retreating to virtual reality and suicide pacts.

Roland Kelts takes a deeper look at Japan and its cultural crisis in We Grew Up Too Comfortable to Take Risks:

The combined effect of this assault on the global consciousness is a vision of a contemporary Japan exploding with energy, inventiveness, color and light – qualities we generally ascribe to youthfulness: actually being young, or perpetually feeling that way. Many foreigners see in today’s Japan the face of the future.

But inside the country, specters of darker hues shadow the horizon: an aging population and a declining or stagnant birthrate; an expanding class of young, part-time workers (freeters) with checkered resumes and scant skills; and so-called NEETs (“Not in Employment, Education or Training”), with their CVs and skill sets suspended in mid-youth. Stories of pathological young shut-ins (hikikomori), who withdraw into their bedrooms and virtual worlds to avoid the real one, and internet suicide pacts, through which young loners meet one another online in order to kill themselves in the bricks-and-mortar world, have begun haunting headlines at home and abroad.

“There doesn’t seem to be much optimism,” says literary translator, author and University of Tokyo professor Motoyuki Shibata. Shibata’s current classes are made up of what he calls “the first generation in modern Japan to grow up without the sense that things would get better.”

“We’re the risk-averse generation,” a 20-year-old female student at the University of Tokyo explained to me. “We grew up too comfortable to take risks.”

Read the rest of the article at this link.

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Do Hipsters Represent the End of History?

August 12, 2008


Hipsters in Williamsburg, Brooklyn as the end of civilization

Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall Francis Fukuyama opined that the end of the Cold War also represented The End of History as liberal democracy was the only game left in town. Fukuyama later claimed that his thesis was incomplete. So if we’re not at the end of history, where are we?

The fine people at Adbusters are telling us hipsterism represents the end of Western Civilization. Doug Haddow explains:

Ever since the Allies bombed the Axis into submission, Western civilization has had a succession of counter-culture movements that have energetically challenged the status quo. Each successive decade of the post-war era has seen it smash social standards, riot and fight to revolutionize every aspect of music, art, government and civil society.

But after punk was plasticized and hip hop lost its impetus for social change, all of the formerly dominant streams of “counter-culture” have merged together. Now, one mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior has come to define the generally indefinable idea of the “Hipster.”

An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the “hipster” – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society.

Read the rest of the article

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