In “An Introduction to Mediology,” Martin Irvine writes, “Technology is what culture produces: technology is culture, the product of culture, embedded in culture, not an autonomous force or agency outside of culture.” (Irvine, 3) Typically, a culture becomes a culture through practices that members of a society participate in or share. Cultures are often united by common ideologies and shared experiences. When Irvine declares that technology is culture, he is absolutely correct. This statement also means that we are now experiencing technology as culture and the experiences we would traditionally have through interactions with other people are now replaced by interactions with devices.Take for example the problem that Eric Wilson mentions in his Times article, that bloggers are beating out publications by posting images of a show before the last model even exits the runway. This becomes even more apparent through apps like Snapchat and Periscope, which capture footage runway shows as it is happening. Even if a publication sent a videographer to a show and scheduled them to shoot, edit and publish the content by the end of the day it wouldn't beat the pace set by bloggers. This convenience that Irvine implies by claiming that technology is culture becomes commonplace and expected and also creates a phenomenon known as FOMO (fear of missing out). FOMO is an experience especially common to millennials and this ability to document events both solves the problem of FOMO and enhances it. On one hand, a user can watch the event on a cell phone and it can almost feel as though they are there. On the other hand, seeing images that they're not a part of or not posting images themselves can lead to the feeling of being left out.
Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer begin their piece, "The Culture Industry: The Enlightenment of Mass Deception," with the line "Culture today is infecting everything with sameness." (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1) The truth is, a lot of fashion blogs look exactly the same. What is the key to making a blog stand out? I recently answered this question in an interview I did with Brooklyn-based clothing brand Social Decay and find that the blogs that I am most often drawn to are the ones that really give me a look into someone's world and let me feel like I'm a part of it for a few minutes. There are websites such as Independent Fashion Bloggers that give bloggers access to resources that will help them with search engine optimization, taking the best Instagram photos and blog advertising. Some of this advice is simply to draw traffic but some pieces are all about personalization and helping bloggers find their own voices.
(Source: Retro Flame)
I could picture Karl Marx having a mixed reaction to the concept of fashion bloggers. On one hand, bloggers are subverting the traditional economic system by giving themselves a voice and a platform and creating their own products and getting paid for their own work. However, from a Marxist perspective, bloggers represent an individual selling him/herself as a product. This idea can be confirmed when listening to bloggers discuss what they post on Instagram or how they may not collaborate with a brand if it doesn't align with their own personal image. Bloggers themselves don't have to pay, and in fact receive income from the capitalist economy but the benefit for everyone else is that they don't have to pay to see it. Because of social media platforms and blogging platforms, these sites are accessible to anyone who has access to a computer or smart phone. It just becomes a matter of whether or not people want to buy the products that bloggers are selling.
This also raises the question of authenticity that Walter Benjamin touches on. Through all of the filters and the editing, can we be sure that bloggers really stand behind the products they're promoting? Similarly, fashion shows can be compared to theater performances that Benjamin discusses. Benjamin argues that a reproduction (taping, photos, etc.) can never take the place of a live performance. He compares live performance to filmmaking and writes, "The sequence of positional views which the editor composes from the material supplied him constitutes the completed film. It comprises certain factors of movement which are in reality those of the camera, not to mention special camera angles, close-ups, etc...the film actor lacks the opportunity of the stage actor to adjust to the audience during his performance, since he does not present his performance to the audience in person. This permits the audience to take the position of a critic, without experiencing any personal contact with the actor." (Benjamin, 8) This explains the limitations of viewing a show on film (or on a smart device via Snapchat or Instagram) compared to having a phenomenological encounter. The last sentence also leads into a discussion of how users treat online content. From behind a screen it is easy to pass judgment and to pass judgments with a feeling of anonymity, hence cyberbullying. But for every glamorous, perfectly staged photo there are about a hundred unedited ones sitting on someone's memory card.
Miss America 2015 winner Kira Kazantsev supporting the #NoMakeUpSelfie Anti-Bullying Campaign (Source: cosmopolitan.com)
Norbert Wiener makes what is possibly the most convincing and most optimistic statement about technology and culture. He writes, "The machine appears now, not as a source of power, but as a source of control and a source of communication. We communicate with the machine and the machine communicates with us." (Wiener, 71) By suggesting that humans and machines can work in tandem together, it in theory gives us the power to communicate with each other through and with machines. Since social media is extremely democratic, by communicating with machines, we ultimately have the control. Marx would argue that people who have more money have more control, but through combined interests, the masses can regain power.