April 06, 2005
I've been reading the post about omega culture by Derek, and it struck me: what happens if we propogate beta culture?
I'm probably thinking of this in the wrong terms, but while I was in San Diego I kept running into the conversation about English programs that aren't reading literature anymore. They have no object for their theoretical analysis. I'm thinking that the alpha represents the literature and the beta culture represents the theory. What happens if we theorize without anything to apply it to? Do our ideas lose a certain materiality? Do we cease to have texts?
In Lynch's piece about idea contagions, he writes about Amish memes in several places, but each of these seems tied to a concrete idea. The taboo against modern farm machines (which is somewhat misleading), is a concrete taboo. It has a specific object. Likewise, memes about values are about the actual values (separatist or Luddite, or Islamic beliefs). What is passed on is a glimpse of the alpha, but not necessarily the beta that I interpreted from Urban's discussion of Pygmalion, for example.
I suppose what I'm getting at is a different angle on an idea Derek pulled from Brown and Duguil, that "documents do not merely carry information, they help make it, structure it, and validate it. More intriguing, perhaps, documents also help structure society, enabling social groups to form, develop, and maintain a sense of shared identity" (189). There is a sort of materiality in both the alpha and the beta, but the beta seems fairly removed.
Posted by trobryan at April 6, 2005 09:15 PM