Nobrow

I've spent the evening reading John Seabrook's book Nobrow (2000). Seabrook has posted the New Yorker essay that led to the book. If Nobrow is a little too personal and untheorized to be useful, it nevertheless leads to the important observation that network culture has gone beyond postmodernism's delight in mixing high and low to a condition in which these are merely inflections within a homogeneous field. In this light, Pierre Bourdieu's analysis of taste as a marker of distinction seems thoroughly undone, the quaint product of a bygone age.

What's important today at a dinner of academics or museum curators? Knowing about "24" or what show is at the Met? What's more elite, Naples, Florida or Newport, Rhode Island? What's worth cultivating more, an obsession with 15th century Italian painting or 1970s New York Noise? Network Culture offers little in the way of guidance. Depending on which cluster you belong to, you decide what your taste should be.

That said, do look at Hal Foster's review of the book at the London Review of Books, Slumming with the Rappers at the Roxy for a more cautionary view.

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