Breaking the feedback loop

Certain media, subgenres, subcultures, etc. draw on certain emotions or states of mind. Take the Shakers, a celibate Christian sect that used to exist in the American Northeast: when non-Shakers want to get laid, they go out and get laid, or find a simulation thereof, but when Shakers want to get laid, they sublimate it into (prototypically) crafting a piece of furniture. Some other well-known examples exist within the space of musical subgenres: punk draws on anger, depressive black metal draws on depression, etc.; but an important difference between Shaker crafts and punk music is that Shaker furniture is not, and punk songs are, designed to bring about their own emotional sources in the minds of the viewer/listener. In the former case, a community exists that brings about and incentivizes the sublimation of a certain mental source into a certain type of product, but the product, because it doesn’t bring about its own mental source in the viewer, can’t catalyze a scene around that source; in the latter case, it can.

For an artist, craftsman, etc. to be able to sublimate an emotional source into a product, the source must be present. A punk musician who stops being angry, or a depressive black metal musician who stops being depressed, would likely end up drifting away from the scene, no longer able to relate to its idiom and the products within it, or to produce cultural artifacts in its expected mold.

The internet has made it much easier to form scenes, but it necessarily exerts systemic selection pressure upon them: those who have more time and inclination to use the internet can more easily form or influence a scene. Since time spent online funges against time spent in other pursuits, some of which are important for mental stability, internet scenes tend toward depressive mental sources; that is, the internet tends to generate scenes of depressed people who sublimate their depression into cultural artifacts that push their viewers toward depression. A radical political scene, for example, attracts depressives and produces arguments that the world is in such a state that hopeless, lethargic, fuming despair is the only rational response. Of course, radical political scenes aren’t the only things that do this…


Given this, it seems like it ought to be possible to subvert an idiom, to create artifacts within an idiom that draws on and promulgates a certain source such that the artifacts promulgate a different source while remaining recognizably within that idiom, socially if not stylistically, and thereby break the feedback loop that spreads/intensifies that source and allow its audience/the members of the scene an escape from it.

Imagine a hypothetical poetry student, who is drawn to poetry out of a sense of depression or alienation, and, upon reading more and more poetry, becomes more and more drawn to the vision of himself as a deep, depressive poetic-type, begins writing poetry in that mold, starts or joins a scene of like-minded people who all wrote and read deep, depressive poetry and, in so doing, becomes more and more committed to the concomitant vision—and then reads F. T. Marinetti, whose poetry, being about the glories of war, action, and speed, is aesthetically almost the exact opposite of the relevant mood, while still remaining within the poetic world our student is operating in. Maybe our hypothetical student abandons the depressive, poetic vision and goes out and buys a motorcycle. Or, for that matter, imagine a philosophy student who believes that the Great Questions are deeply important, and that it is therefore necessary for him to live up to the ascetic philosophical ideal of the ‘Life of the Mind’. What could happen when he reads Marinetti? Well, I don’t go in for that Life of the Mind shit anymore.

Two other examples of subversion that come to mind are transcendental black metal, which seems to be aware of, and even intend, its subversive quality, and the scene that coalesced around Mencius Moldbug, which in recent years has thrown off its depressive mindset and started focusing on taking practical steps to cultivate a better life.


7 responses to “Breaking the feedback loop

  1. Pingback: Breaking the feedback loop | Reaction Times

  2. Mark Yuray May 30, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    Donald Trump, serving in his capacity as national life coach since last year, has single-handedly turned the dissident Right memeplex from “it’s all over” to “WE’RE GOING TO MAKE [XYZ] GREAT AGAIN!”

    I mean we literally went from Doom Paul to CAN’T STUMP THE TRUMP in 4 years.

  3. Jefferson May 31, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    I think you’re over complicating the mechanism. Spandrell’s Status point system fits your description, is simpler, and is more flexible. If an artist gains status through the Arena (I’m making up terms) of Poetry, along the vector (soliciting better terms here as well) of despair, he can easily switch vectors to Joy of Cooking/War/family/etc. If he previously gained status through some hokey science fiction series about super heroes, but dabbled in other nerd vectors, stumbling across one that cuts across Arenas – say by cutting high fantasy with zombies (they’re so hot right now) and bleak ‘dark and gritty,’ trope reversals, and anti-heroes – well perhaps he can gain way more status without having to shave off his neck beard, not remove his Lenin cap. To maintain one’s thedish self identity while gaining status from those outside it is the ultimate universalist triumph.

    • geirón July 7, 2016 at 2:02 am

      as a scene participator, (since having grown an immense aristocratic distaste for scenes) or an ex-scene participator, if ye will, i´ve certainly noticed this: { To maintain one’s thedish self identity while gaining status from those outside it is the ultimate universalist triumph. }

      i´ve seen boys go from ‘local cultists’ to in-their-20´s international scene (up)star(t)s. some do it while remaining solemn and sacred, others were always communist-souled whores.

      while yet others are even more wyrd. ód.

  4. Valkea June 1, 2016 at 4:08 am

    Interesting blog you have here. If somebody is drawn to depressive poetry, that which you say can happen, but I think it is more likely that he moves along depressive lines, reads tragic novels, uses clothes which reflect his moods, listens sad music, furnishes his home with darker colors, etc. Actions are often mood congruent and emotion congruent. Depressed people generally have more realistic views than others, especially about themselves, but they can also develop negative biases and distortions about themselves, other people, future, etc. They have less optimistic and positive biases and distortions in their thinking than others. If depressed people are not so depressed that they sink into inaction, they are more open to change themselves, their living area, life directions, actions, etc. Depressed mood and emotions makes self-analyzing and reorientation more likely.

    Jefferson, if status would be universal explanation, nobody would be poor and bitter humanist or sociologist.

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