Wednesday, November 16, 2011

[INSIGHT] High/Low Culture, The Internet And The Perception Of Quality

As I have been rambling on and off about on Twitter, quality seems to be something more of an agreed perception of things, rather than a definite benchmark of something... right?

Let me move back a bit.

Point 1: many people are claiming that 'the end is near', due to the seemingly frequent amount of natural disasters, freak accidents, shootings, murder, war and other terrifying, doomsayer-supporting things. The fact is, since time immemorial, natural disasters do happen on an alarming scale - it's just that now, with internet and social media, every piece of news speeds around the world very quickly, and bad news travels fast. The earthquake in Japan pretty much got global attention in less than an hour, maximum, at least for those people connected to the internet. And with the amount of information going around, it's tempting to connect the dots and reach conclusions that may or may not be true. But thus, the speed that the internet spreads information and delivers it to us, has influenced our perception of the world.

Point 2: we used to live in a world with relatively centralized media. The newspapers, TV networks and radio stations were huge, and their curation and management of information to the world practically influenced everybody on the planet. News outlets would compete on breaking the same news; TV would play the same shows, and radios would play the same music, thus bringing "mainstream" to life. Today, media is decentralized - millions of blogs reside on the internet, competing for the same attention with established news websites. Social networks compound that with personal views of millions of people about virtually everything, and media curation, once the task of the centralized media, is gradually moving to the people themselves.

Point 3: With centralized media, curators 'defined' what music, movies or TV was 'good' or 'not good'. Today, good is relative; "mainstream" still exists but it is moved more by the consumers themselves.  Thousands of niche markets thrive on the internet.... or so we like to think so...

About Content

The thing is, our perception of what is "high quality" or "low quality"; what does it really signify other than our perception? Are we 'forced' to acknowledge a certain level of 'quality' by our peers, or the people we choose to associate us with? And what basis is our judgment made on something of 'high quality' or not? Is it something real and tangible, or is it an unspoken convention? Certainly a standard of quality is easily perceivable for physical products, but does this apply to products which fall under intellectual property?

If the perception of quality was a democracy, then the things said as 'high-quality' would be a fringe party, and the ruling party would be Kangen Band/ST 12 listeners. But yet, many claim the rise of Kangen Band, ST12 and similar bands as the 'decline of music'. Where is the decline, if not only a shift of interest of the "mainstream"? And, who's to say, that this so-called "mainstream" had not existed before? My guess is, with curated, centralized media, this trend did not show , but with the growth of the internet and evolution of RBT - cheap and accessible by anybody with a phone, as opposed to expensive CDs in equally expensive malls - the numbers show what the majority really likes. So is it really a 'decline', or simply a shift to something truer to reality?

So is "high quality" now not a standard, but simply a market segment?

The flipside to this is that because the internet has decentralized media, and personal views have become more important due to the rise in social media, everyone is bombarded to the point of information overload. Does this information overload lead to consumers becoming self-curators, or are they overwhelmed by it and so can only respond to basic, instinctive wants and needs? Or would "selective ignorance" propagate, where the person ignores everything that doesn't interest him/her or does not fit within their defined set of values or beliefs? Keeping an open mind becomes difficult if you have to receive all that information - your head would explode. Self-inflicted filters and curating systems have to be applied... and thus we become more segmented and fragmented, because of our inability to absorb anything beyond our subconscious curating...

Well, that explains a lot of things.

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