Postmodernism, Indie Media, and Popular Culture: The Updated, Expanded Digital Edition


In the textbook Practices of Looking, a portion of the book discusses postmodernism and its visual cultures, and addressing the postmodern subject. The authors discuss how it is difficult to determine a solid definition of what and when postmodernism began, but most say it is after 1968. Scientific skepticism, animation, and metanarratives are all factors that contribute to postmodernism, and display the shift from modernity to postmodernity. Part of this shift includes the skeptical embrace of science and technology after events such as the Holocaust or the nuclear bombing in Japan, showing society how science can be turned against human beings (Sturken & Cartwright, 311). This brings upon the concept of scientific skepticism, which is generally questioning the beliefs of scientific understanding, and ideas such as the scientific method. Skepticism is a widespread idea that some researchers claim is not concentrated enough on, and it should be a more evolved topic because of the role it plays in the shift to postmodernism. 

The authors in the textbook also explain how postmodernism speaks to new kinds of human subjects, and media specifically appeals to human subjects that know about codes and conventions of representation. Animation is a part of postmodern media that went through a shift based on the style, cultural, economic, and global aspects (Sturken & Cartwright, 316). A great example that shows animations shift in all of these aspects is the show the Simpsons, which started in the late 1980s. This show underwent an obvious shift with items such as characters, filming and animation techniques, and much more (Knox, 74). All aspects of animation have changed and are still changing and improving today. Postmodernism is also described as the questioning of master narratives, which are known as master theories or metanarratives, according the authors of the textbook. A master narrative is a framework that is attempting to explain society and the world, in a comprehensive way. Examples of metanarratives include religion, Marxism, psychoanalysis, and others with a main goal to explain all aspects of life (Sturken & Cartwright, 313). These master narratives are also all parts in explaining postmodernism. 

In the textbook, Practices of Looking, the authors discuss in detail the topics of reflexivity, and postmodern identity. In the section on reflexivity and postmodern identity, the authors also discuss the topics of performance art and the postmodern body. Reflexivity, performance art, and the postmodern body are all tied into postmodernism which is the core of what the chapter is about. Postmodernism is a difficult term to define, but essentially what it is begins with is losing sight of “the real” (Sturken & Cartwright 308). Sturken and Cartwright make it quite clear that we do not live in a postmodern world. Instead, they inform their readers that we are living in a world in which:
Aspects of postmodernity are in constant tension with aspects of modernity and premodern existence, a world that is both preindustrial and postindustrial, in which many of the qualities that characterized modernity have become conditions in postmodernity alongside and in relation to virtual technologies and the flows of capital, information, and media in the era of globalization. (Sturken & Cartwright 309)
Postmodernism as a difficult, complex concept to fully grasp, but understanding the topics of reflexivity, performance art, and the postmodern body will certainly help guide one’s comprehension of the subject.

Some of the topics that will be most heavily covered in this digital edition of the textbook include reflexivity, performance art, and the postmodern body. Reflexivity is essentially seriously reflecting on something and understanding it objectively to its core without any bias or personal opinions. Performance art is the combination of visual art of some kind with dramatic performance. Often times it is used as an outlet of expressing oneself in a different way. It is a step beyond simple two dimensional arts – it is a form of art in which one can use oneself as the art. The postmodern body is most easily understood as something that can be easily transformed according to one’s desires. By understanding the main concepts of each of these topics, one will be able to gain a more thorough comprehension of what postmodernism truly is. 

     Chapter 7-9 explore pastiche, parody, and remake, all of which are approaches to art during postmodernity.  Pastiche is combining aspects of various styles, to create a new piece.  There are many questions that arise when looking at works that pastiched from other artist’s work and styles. Are these current works original, and are the artists unique and creative on their own.  Postmodernism was a time after immense cultural evolution and enlightenment. During modernity there were so many new styles of expression art, in addition to the previous traditional works.  Pastiche is the collage and montage of all of these styles, because it was difficult to come up with new ways to create.  An obvious example of this new style in itself are McMansion as later described in chapter 7.
      Similarly, parody has a connection to history.  Like pastiche, parody links the past to the now (postmodernism).  Parodies play on the codes and conventions of the past.  Specifically in genre parody, the producers identify signifying codes that elicit a reaction for the viewer.  A parody is a play on these codes, to mimic or even mock a former work.  Remake is another form of pastiched art.  Remaking something that has been previously produce can come across as copying.  However, a remake is controversial and can change the opinions of viewers.  In all, pastiche, parody and remake are all concepts that incorporate elements of the past and bringing them into the postmodern era in a different form. 

In chapters 13-15, postmodernism involved with space, geography, and the built environment are discussed. Space can be broken down into two categories, simulations and nonplace. Both have aspects that call the individual to consider their form of travel and interactions with other people. Simulations are imitated processes of the real world. These imitations allow the individual to create a life in which they want based off of the life they have. Simulations can be seen through games like Second Life, which is an online world that allows the user to escape their current reality in favor of the one they have created.

Nonplace is a postmodern concept of space but differs from simulations because instead of creating their own the world, the individual is passing through places to get to another. A nonplace is an area or stop in which the individual must be in order to end up somewhere else. Examples of nonplaces include train stations, airports, rest stops, etc. However, it is important that the individual not blur the line between nonplaces and actual destinations, eventually having so much movement between areas that the nonplaces that over the areas of actual destination. These simulations and nonplaces allow for the individual to both perceive their lives how they wish them to be and allow people to see how constant movement affects them.

Postmodern geography became a trend and theoretical approach to human geography and eventually a critique against modernism. Postmodern geography looked at how the individual could see things in a new way and develop their own ideals on the subject. Eventually seeing how this new sight of things affected the individuals want to be in another area. Lastly, the built environment of postmodernism consisted of anything that defied the values of modernism. The architecture and design of buildings became less for functionality and more for the pleasure of the viewer. This built environment began to allow for more then just human activity within in an environment, but also visual stimulation and enjoyment. All three categories represent postmodernism and its effect on society as a whole.

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