Tuesday, November 17, 2009

China and Facebook and Criticism, oh my!

Despite my growing disenchantment with NPR's music website, it's still a great way to kill time. I just read a story that was interesting, but reveals why my disenchantment has grown. The article is about the growing punk scene in China, and there are some nice quotes (including one that reveals a bit of how Chinese popular musicians consume American popular music, from Bob Dylan and Woody Gutherie (!) to the Ramones), but the article does not consider what seems to me the obvious ramification of the article: China has a growing punk scene?!? Does the author understand the political and social ramifications of this? The Chinese government clearly does not, else they would have nipped this in the bud. The article also does a terrible job of contextualizing the scene, saying China has "the fastest growing" everything else, making it seem that punk music is the predominant style and that those darn Chinese beat us to the punch yet again. However, by their own admission, the musicians realize they are 20-30 years out of date. Can you really have "the fastest growing" scene of a trend that stopped dominating 20-30 years ago?

I also wanted to talk a bit about facebook. I've joined the dreaded menace, as that's how the Music and the Written Word Conference is organizing travel and lodging arrangments, which makes a good deal of sense. I want to comment on two things. The first is what facebook is doing to the concept of friendship. I have about 25 facebook friends, which is roughly the number I would consider to be my friends in the "real world." Yet, I see these people who have 400 or 700 or 1000+ "friends," and know by their own admission they don't even KNOW some of those people, much less have a "friendship" in the traditional sense of the word with them. Maybe its symptomatic of our growing isolationism (ironically* because of a technology designed to keep us closer together), an issue others smarter than I have touched on and that I won't rehash. But, those who use facebook would do well to consider its effects on their perceptions and labels of "friends."

Labels are my second point of criticism. I spent a lot of time procrastinating reading peoples' "info" yesterday. It was telling, as with facebook, we can label ourselves, in effect construct our identities, as we WANT to be seen and percieved. Granted, that tells one almost as much as the actual "info" itself, and is a suprisingly revelatory feature. However, I think this too is symptomatic of our technological age, as we spend time carefully constructing these somewhat virtual identities for ourselves, yet sparse time realizing them in a non-virtual world. Just some things to think about.

* This is not *actually* ironic.

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