Each decade holds an iconic record of shared experience that illuminates and defines its ambient Zeitgeist—the evolutionary art, trends, morals, and human expression that ultimately give definition to movements, periods, and generational labels. In 2010, we crossed a milestone in history that reveals a decadal record of new-millennium culture. What trends in art, technology, and human behavior have ultimately defined the past decade of shared experience? Is there a natural process or synergy that has connected contemporary art, technology, and human behavior in new and profound ways?
Miximalism is a popular-culture exploration of the emergent patterns that gave rise to the pervasive change found in every mean and mode of our daily lives. Television news has evolved from simple talking heads into multichannel layers of data and animation that appear more like a video game than a newscast. Music has changed from single melodies into layered sampling, mashups, and remixes that sharpen the thirteenth-century notions of canons and fugues.
We are experiencing an exciting time of profound cultural change and dramatic realignment of core business models, technology, and fashions of artistic expression that have influenced and defined our world culture—and, more specifically, have transformed print, music, media arts, film, and television in ways we couldn’t imagine only a decade ago.
The world of publishing has changed more profoundly in the past ten years than in the previous 500 plus years since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Broadcast television reached its apogee and is hurtling downward at increasing speed and the music business is almost unrecognizable.
As chaotic as the change has been for companies, technologists, and artists, we the audience are also faced with profound change. The past ten years known as the new-millennial decade has spawned an explosion of new devices, digital venues, and art forms that frequently overwhelm our ability to consume them in any reasonable fashion. The disruptive technologies, new art forms, and new forms of consumption that empower artists and consumers have also created new challenges and questions ranging from copyright to preservation to behavioral health.
The Assyrians believed that the mythological phoenix arose anew from its own ashes as one entity is reborn into another. As one culture is destroyed, so the new culture is born of the ashes of the old. As challenging as the first millennial decade has been for established cultural art forms, new exciting ideas have emerged and sliced the cultural pie into smaller and smaller pieces. Television didn’t kill radio, and computer games are not going to kill the movies (but piracy may if big media doesn't embrace flattened release windows and ubiquitous distribution). For creators and consumers alike, a whole new world of expectation and engagement has taken hold and firmly established itself as the preeminent form of the new-millennial cultural experience.
There is a symbiotic, virtuous cycle that has emerged. Technology is driving significant behavioral changes in human multitasking and media engagement, as well as providing profound new tools and distribution methods for digital artists. The digital arts have driven profound developments in technology and yielded new forms of artistic expression that are bending the curve of popular culture. Audiences have new expectations for content engagement and have devoured new, innovative forms of technology and the practical application of scientific research.
Never before in the history of the world has the synergy of science, art, and behavioral change yielded such profound shifts to business, culture, and the lives and practices of the common person. What begin in earnest in the 1990s ultimately realized its disruptive and inspired potential in the 2000s.
Cell phones, the Internet, computer games, and multitasking behaviors began long before the year 2000. Multichannel art forms, such as collage or montage or the multitrack notion of a musical canon, date back generations. None of these things in and of itself defines the new-millennial identity. It is the profound amalgamation of devices, services, and content folded and baked into itself that gives us a hint at the underlying ethos present.
Your cell phone is now the digital equivalent of a Swiss army knife: It’s a music device, a camera, a GPS navigation device, a book, and an email and Internet application, as well as a phone. Your computer game system is now a movie player, Internet device, telepresence communication device, exercise equipment, and shopping application. The game content itself is no longer just a game—it’s now a movie, a theme song, a web portal, a social network, and any number of aftermarket branded items. Your car might well be hybrid; your PC is now a TV; your TV is now a web browser; your honey-crunch yogurt is probiotic; and, by the way, what happened to the newspaper?
As you bask on your microfiber-blend, hide-a-bed sofa beside the soft jellyfish glow of your transgenic Labradoodle it might occur to you that our couch-potato culture has been replaced by “couch-commander culture,” whose Pavlovian conditioning demands an ever-increasing, multichannel, ADHD lifestyle.
A quiet evening at home reveals your subconscious ability to parse the chirps and burps of your smart phone—unconsciously prioritizing the mobile-centric, text-message “bleeps” from the email-notification “dings.” “Ding!” directs our attention away from surfing the web, past the chat window, and into the email inbox. The laptop volume is muted, so the television fills the background ambience, and, out of the corner of our eye, the CNN text crawler “teaser” makes us grab for the DVR remote—hopefully without dropping our spork or spilling our Japanese-fusion Thai salad.
You know who you are.
Like the proverbial frog in a slowly heated pot of water, we’ve been cooked without a clue—welcome to our contemporary eclectic mashed and remixed culture delivered in a multichannel casserole of deliciousness. Pick up your spork and dig in!
As enjoyable as it is to poke fun at how the world has changed, it indeed has changed. We have changed; art has changed; business has changed; and the inimitable artistic change found in the new-millennial decade exists, as yet, without classification.
The purpose of this blog is to identify what specifically happened in the first millennial decade that gives it a unique characterization and identity and then to classify it as a defined cultural period that I call miximalism.