Atemporality, the iPhone Camera, and the Hipster

Over at Cyborgology, Nathan Jurgenson dissects the "Faux-Vintage Photo" to uncover how individuals today seek to occupy the near past.

Johansen suggests, quite correctly, that the familiar tools of network culture by which we mark our lives put us into a perpetual future past. Unable to find a temporal grounding today, hipsters seek it in the past. Johansen points to the popular photographic filters that give the low-resolution digital images produced by smartphones a vintage look. These, he concludes, allow individuals living to reframe their lives around moments that seem more authentic. 

This fits rather neatly within the schema of atemporality identified by Bruce Sterling (see more here and my take on it here). The hipstamatic photo is different than Warhol's approach. It's similar to Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills (note that when I found that link, under related items the MoMA store listed the "Lomo" camera, the physical counterpart to the software Johansen discusses… DIY!) but not quite the same. Where postmodernism was marked by allegory, network culture's use of the past is flatter, dispensing with the use of allegory or comment.

As Johansen points out, there is a perverse degree of temporality to this sort of cultural practice. After the neo-"authentic" cultural product is overexposed, it is unsalvageable. Thus, it is the nature of the hipster to destroy the things that he or she loves.

Midcentury modern is a great example. We are purchasing a house. Since it is modern and built in 1981, just a decade ago we would have gladly bought midcentury modern furniture. Now its much more difficult. Maybe an item or two but on the whole these "classics" have aged and simply no longer work. In part, of course, this is myself speaking. But I've also spoken to other friends as well. Overexposed, the authentic recedes into the past for good. The hipster kills whatever he or she loves too much. 

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