Aside

It’s not personal.

“I’m a traffic cop. It’s a job. Somebody’s got to do it. I don’t even represent myself when I’m working. If I was representing myself, I’d let everyone off with a warning. I represent a system. Did I design the system? No. I just enforce it. It’s not for me to decide the system. We elect the people who decide the system. When I write a ticket, everyone tells me a reason that they don’t deserve it. If I gave a warning to everyone with a reason, I wouldn’t give any tickets, and the system wouldn’t work. I don’t get any joy by giving a ticket. And I’m not upset if you beat it in court. It’s not personal. It’s my job.”

Police Officer, Humans of New York caption

Old one, just stuck out in my notes.

Solastalgia in the 2020s

a/n: I don’t think the idea is fully fleshed-out yet, but I can always add and revise.

TL;DR

  • According to Sterling, the twenty-teens are defined by Dark Euphoria, a cultural temperament of exhilarating unthinkableness. This is the topic of the preceding post.
  • The tone of Sterling’s speeches in the past couple of years has moved on from anxiety to exhaustion.
  • Solastalgia is the feeling of dislocation without having gone anywhere, as a result of damage (natural or artificial) to your ecosystem.
  • Cultures can learn and adapt, which is why Sterling is a short-term declinist but not a doomsayer, fitting in the “Stagnated Future” category in this old taxonomy I used a few years ago.

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Dark Euphoria in the 2010s

Bruce Sterling has a knack for coining/adopting rich phrases to describe cultural sensibilities. I watched some of his recent (2017) talks, and I wanted to record some notes on them to share. I figured a good place to start would be on his earlier talks on the current cultural moment.

Bruce Sterling’s talks on “Dark Euphoria” span from roughly 2009 to 2012 or so. During this era,  he coined some unique categories about our cultural moment and the activity of the Stacks (Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Amazon), and while I won’t go into the Stacks bit here, a Youtube search on his name will bring up hours of engaging rambling.

I start with some concepts he has been tossing around for about a decade now, to set the scene, with some personal annotation and some tie-in to some great Ribbonfarm addenda. In a sequel post I’ll share notes on his more recent talk.

Transcript of Reboot 11 speech by Bruce Sterling, 25-6-2009

 

TL;DR

  • According to Sterling, the twenty-teens are defined by Dark Euphoria, a cultural temperament of exhilarating unthinkableness.
    • I associate this temperament with the opening of a torrent of alternative narratives that undermine the authority of our traditional information gatekeepers, h/t Martin Gurri‘s book.
  • Sterling defines four broad demographics, the two larger narratives about the “Shock of the Old” (Crisis Capitalism among the old+global rich, and Development without Progress among the emerging semi-poor) and two new generational demographics under Dark Euphoria: Gothic High-Tech and Favela Chic. 
    • I tie these ideas to a thread from Ribbonfarm about life scripts that spoke to me, and a thread from Gurri about the Nihilist, which I think is still an underrated archetype.
  • Within this cultural sensibility, it is worthwhile to examine our relationship with our work, with our government, and with our belongings.

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