Compassion for freaks who buy the t-shirt

I just finished reading Douglas Rushkoff’s old book, Playing The Future, about how people are adapting to the digital age and how it isn’t the end of the world (I gave it 3/5 on Amazon). He points out the conflict between rebel attitudes in subcultures like skateboarding and snowboarding (the book came out in 1996) and the masses of commercial logos and general expense of those sports. Buying commercial products to display your outsider status.

I have noted this commercialism in a lot of subcultures that for me are about DIY or revolutionary acts— geeks buy gadgets, crafters buy stash, sex activists buy toys, environmentalists buy organic, hipsters buy everything, even vagina-body-image nerds have products they promote.

This sometimes gets me down. What is wrong with people that they can’t rise above shopping? Two little quotes that I’ve been saving up are helping me appreciate rebel shoppers.

If your popular revolution demands that its adherents eschew popular culture it’s not going to be very popular.

Cory Doctorow in conversation with RU Sirius

The fallacy is to think that social networks are just made up of people. They’re not; social networks consist of people who are connected by a shared object.

Jyri Engeström on ‘object-centred sociality’, after Karin Knorr Cetina

To me, activities and ideas can be excellent objects to share with friends, but it is starting to make sense that people are eager for more and more stuff to share with their outsider pals. Why just knit together when you can fetishize handspun yarn as well? Maybe sometimes that’s just friendly, not so much evidence of weird addiction.

One thought on “Compassion for freaks who buy the t-shirt

  1. International Buy Nothing Day has always driven me nuts, probably more than is reasonable. The parts that make me cranky are that it is just one day, instead of an ongoing goal, and that there is no focus on not selling things that day. Not selling for a day is a real economic sacrifice, and a way bigger action, I think. I’m more and more bothered by the way production is ignored in discussions about consumer culture. (I have a long way to go towards my goals about compassion, huh?)

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