Art is Communication

I talked about this a bit in my video “Humanizing the Digital” as well as “Writers who hate writing,” but I thought I would also write it down here, since different types of media create different effects and have different emphases. AI (popular shorthand for large language model) is a disruptive technology. My focus is on art since I am an artist, but it potentially affects other professions, from marketing to engineering. These arguments only apply to the arts directly, and I will leave other thoughts for the experts in their respective fields. Let me start with the main argument…

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Antichrist Superstar – Retro Review

Marilyn Manson’s biggest crime was being boring, at least musically, and nothing encapsulates the emptiness of the band and the eponymous figure’s music better than 1996’s “controversial” second album (on the appropriate Nothing Records label owned by recording giant Interscope) Antichrist Superstar. Amid the self-perpetuating legendarium that is 1990s music media’s promotion of Manson the actual content of the music is often forgotten. I revisited this album recently with fresh ears, having not heard anything other than the occasional radio play of “The Beautiful People” since the 1990s and I must say my initial reaction to it from way back when…

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Self-Mythologizing

A Twitter mutual threw out a great term, “Self-mythologizing,” in relation to baby boomers and their relationship to certain 1960s icons, such as Janis Joplin: For the record, I think Janis Joplin is the most overrated singer of all time, but she represents a perfect data point for the collective myth that baby boomers tell about themselves and the years between 1967 and 1970. Growing up in the 1980s and 90s, I saw no shortage of references to Woodstock, supposedly the most important music festival of all time. There were entire documentaries about, aired regularly, history channel specials, and dozens…

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The Corporate Period in the Arts, part 8

Ideological Capture and its Cure Within the corporate system, counter-cultural ideological capture requires that a few conditions be met. First, the company in question must be large enough to have a bureaucracy with a highly distributed power structure. Small publishers can’t be converted because owners and presidents have too much direct knowledge of the employees and too much direct control over the final product. A large conglomerate with a strong HR department and many independently empowered units with many managers is ideal. Second, the market must have enough total conglomeration that competition is either weak or also in the process…

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Beyond Profits, The Corporate Period in the Arts, part 7

Some interesting effects occur when a company grows large and powerful or even hegemonic in a given market. You can expect it to exploit the lack of competition and raise prices for consumers, and perhaps also exploit labor with low wages if it is the sole employer in a given labor specialty or geographic location. This inverse is called a monopsony, a single-buyer situation. However, for the purposes of the arts, the corporation becomes not just an economic force but a cultural force, and that draws certain people to it as well as allows for an approach to production that…

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The Corporate Period in the Arts, part 6

Unavoidable Conglomeration Books from major publishers have suffered stagnation and decline since the 1990s, but contrary to popular belief, this is not because schools are failing to teach kids to read. The hegemonic nature of the corporate system has a specific weakness that is also its strength, which is the concentrated power of management. Since trends are subject to the whims of a small number of people, all one needs to do to shift trends and culture is capture the management positions of the corporation, and that’s what happened in the literary world. It actually began decades before 1997, when…

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The Corporate Period in the Arts, part 5 – The Corporate IP Death Cycle

The Corporate I.P. Death Cycle The decline of creative industries has given rise to what I call the “Corporate I.P. Death Cycle,” wherein corporations routinely resurrect their nostalgic franchise properties to return them to relevance and profitability. I.P., in this case, means “Intellectual Property” and composes the copyrighted works and rights to derivative works, as well as trademarks. Like real property, intellectual property is expected to generate a return in the form of rents or other products for sale. A movie or similar entertainment product is not viewed by the corporation that produced it as a work of art existing…

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The Corporate Period in the Arts, part 4 – Cultural Ground Zero

Cultural Ground Zero If you aren’t familiar with the concept of cultural ground zero (a term I owe to authors JD Cowan and Brian Niemeier), it is the idea that the major entertainment industries reached a zenith, and after this, quality began to decrease, and all trends lost their forward momentum. The exact year is 1997, in case you were wondering, though the video game industry continued to progress for another ten years on the back of new technology and industry growth, reaching its own ground zero in 2007. For most media, 1997 was the last year consumers could reasonably…

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The Corporate Period in the Arts, part 3

Popular Art “Popular culture” as a term is nearly a tautology; it follows that if we share a common culture, the elements that make up that shared culture are popular. In use, “pop culture” refers to the art that, in the free market, gains ascendency to the point where knowledge of it becomes part of the common culture. This idea only has meaning in contrast to other origins of culture—constructs such as “high culture,” “fine art,” “literary fiction,” and my favorite tautology, “art music.” These later ideas are defined primarily by not being popular culture and, therefore, in an unfortunate…

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The Corporate Period in the Arts, part 2

Hyperdrive Media The model which defines the corporate period could not function without two important factors. First, the model requires the ability to legally collectivize resources and use them as if they belonged to a single person. This is the concept of the corporation, with “corporate” meaning body, as in the company acts like a person and can own property like a person without being “a” person. The other critical ingredient is mass media, which allows the distribution of a media product to large numbers of people while maintaining a low cost to the end consumer. The technological revolutions of…

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