Eventually the Old Millennium reaches its end in 1997, when Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two students from the University on Stanford in California, register the domain name for Google, an innovative search engine intended to provide large quantities of information(Google,2016)2. Despite of the time required for a large Digitalization of countries, the birth of Google establishes the epochal revolution that we are witnessing so far.
However with the 2000s, we stop talking about youth cultures, and we focus on how they have been gradually fluidified in social life throughout the explosive impact derived from the use and abuse of the Internet tools. Especially after the World Trade Centres attacks in 2001, global individuals started witnessing human catastrophes along with the complicated feeling of instantaneity (at which we are still not used to) that has been mirrored by the collapse of chronological structure of time as a linear entity in favour of the ‘linking’ one, that is more abstract. Thus, we maintain that the way we approached the internet varied and currently varies in the behave of violent pessimisms or captivating optimisms.
According to Douglas Rushkoff, the 9/11 attacks have catapulted people in what he calls “presentist” era. As a matter of facts, the introduction of the IoT in our daily life has nothing but literally converted any aspect of human life. In his provoking book “Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now”, he provides us a set of examples in which we can verify how the fragmentation of time changed our values and habits. Rushkoff argues that is not only the introduction of technologic tools that changes the space we live in, rather it is the way we use them that deeply impacts on our mind. Whereas Tv shows, e-mails, drugs, video games make us lose the perception of future, we seem living in an eternal present where we have achieved the unthinkable super power of ‘simultaneity’.
In terms of fashion, he talks about two trends that are nourished by media and technologies evolution. One deals with plastic surgery in relation with Tv-shows:
“No wonder they have so many misunderstandings; they are missing out on that 94 percent of human communication that occurs non verbally.[…] The Housewives have no access to this dashboard of human expression. They have traded their ability to communicate and commune in the present moment for an altogether unconvincing illusion of timeless beauty. In attempting to stop the passage of time and extend the duration of youth, they have succeeded only in distancing themselves from the moment in which their real life are actually transpiring.”(Rushkoff, 2013:150)
Effectively, ever since 2002 Botox injections among people aged 20-40 years old have risen of 750%(Viganò, 2016), which means that people are more and more involved with the aim of altering their natural look in the attempt of escaping from aging. Since 2012, this trend is affecting also teen-agers(Martinson,2014), who identify with and deify Tv celebrities like Kim Kardashian, and faithfully copy her “Contouring” make-up technique. In addition, the scaring rise in numbers has to be seen as a consequence of digital visual communication, which has over-infected the relationship to the natural body on global stages.
Nowadays, there exist several Apps that have been thought as best makeover generators, but the way they are intended end up to influence us differently according to the situation. For instance, ‘You Cam Makeup’3 is one photo-editing application mostly used for retouching our skin imperfections and applying some virtual make up in real time, in order to post a perfect selfie.
Even though this particular app works on pictures and not videos, enhancements in virtual reality like “Spectacles”, the newest SnapChat (currently changing in Snap Inc) sunglasses, which ‘records videos from ‘the human perspective’(King,2016) will probably endorse such functions very soon and make us editing anything we see around, so as
“If it is real what you can smell, taste and see, then real is simply the signal interpreted by your brain”(Morpheus in Matrix, 1999).
If for reasonable motivations we should worry about the fact that virtual reality editing demonstrates that people are more and more unconfident with their real image (with ‘eternal youth’ risking to become a social illness), we have also consider that other initiatives like the ‘AI-based Live-Video Simulations’ ( http://modiface.com/news.php ) launched by ModiFace scientists in collaboration with an equip of dermatologists. In particular, this AI technology, works as an efficient mediator between consumers, who are looking for the best skin products, and dermatologists, who can make researches, study and therefore contribute to advancements in the medical area, which aim to help people maintain a youthful appeal, meant as a healthy physicality.
The second tendency is represented by Hipsters. They can be defined as follows:
“–the fashionably anti-fashion young adults […]- suffer from the reverse distortion. They appropriate the styles of previous generations and pack them into the present in order to generate a sense of timeless authenticity. Unlike grups, they are actually young, but operating under the tacit assumption that creativity and authenticity lie somewhere in the past. The may drink Pabst and wear Dickies – both brands with rich histories, such as brand history go.”(Rushkoff, 2013:152)
Over the sense of nostalgia that can be translated as a sort of initial ‘digital disorientation’, that of hipsters is such a subculture that deserves consideration due to the extraordinary overflow of followers that came along with the advent of streaming culture. In particular, differently from others, the hipsters aesthetics has adopted objects and behaviours rather than specific clothing (except for the following marketers standardization that put on sale such a woodcutter’s style). Generally, to define one person as hipster, they would need a Reflex (then iPhone), passion for photography and social platforms where sharing and showing their pictures (Flickr, Tumblr, Instagram), passion for traveling (better if with Herschel rucksacks) and love for indie rock music (the Strokes at Coachella, anyone?).
In few years and worldwide, the western youths manifested a contagious hipsteria that spread both horizontally and vertically.
Moreover, since with the Digitalization the 2000s witnessed the overturning of the concept of knowledge(Cameron,2015), it happened that the elders had to reconvert their traditional learning process, and ask younger people teach them how to “stay tuned”.
“Eventually, the time compression takes its toll, requiring some pretty intense mental gymnastics: “if you are 35 and wearing the same Converse All-stars to work that you wore to junior high, are you an old guy sadly aping the Strokes? Or are the young guys simply copying you? Wait, how old are the Strokes, anyway? Just as in the Star Trek episode, the realization of one’s adulthood comes on suddenly, painfully, and fatally, as the clock’s overwound mainspring suddenly releases, long overdue”(Rushkoff, 2013:152)
On the one hand, the 2008 crash stopped the global growth yet empowered austerity politics among countries, by causing social depression as well as distrust for future developments. Nevertheless this negative aura has been absorbed by the virtual communities, which in first analysis have seen the internet as a distracting diabolic tool through which people would have lost their ability to think autonomously.
On the other hand, Millennials reversed the trend. It has been their confidence with technology that calmed, recharged and helped the virtual society how to convert the networking fear in enthusiasm for any type of Social Platform.
From individualist isolation that was mostly associated with chat like Msn or blog like MySpace, we shifted to overpopulated platforms like Facebook and Instagram where we learned the power of sharing information.
“There is, alongside the world of monopolised information and surveillance created by corporations and governments, a different dynamic growing up around information: information as a social good, free at the point of use, incapable of being owned or exploited or priced.”(Mason, 2015)
Yet from a communication point of view, information can be shared only if people speak about the same language. Even though english is oversimplifying this process, writing digitally stays aseptic, and we miss the physicality with which we transmit our sensations each other. Hence, the most realistic and immediate tool by which expressing a meaning is, over thousands years of human history, the image. As the COO of Giphy Adam Leibsohn suggests in an article written for Wired Italia Summer 2016 “Time Machine” issue:
“[…]This article has a maximum length of two thousand words, but you will take about 10 minutes to read it (thank you anyway): the reason is that they are arranged linearly, so you will browse through them in order, one by one, one after the other. Different cognitive steps will be needed to process them. Instead, a gif does everything at the same time and uses the cognitive processes. Instead, a gif does everything simultaneously and uses the rapid processes in your brain. There is no need for any cognitive feedback. You see and understand. Instantly. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a gif is worth at least 100 thousand. What takes you 10 days to be written and 10 minutes to be read, requires less than 10 seconds to be understood as a gif” (Leibsohn, 2016:131-133)1
It emerged that the more the quantity of information are available on line, the less the time we have to figure them out. Therefore from selfies to food pictures, the desire of being present on the web made Instagram (and nowadays SnapChat) exceeding Facebook (we take a photo, we share it on Instagram, then we share it on Facebook, not the contrary). We can not deny that sometime we reached the peak of absurdity, and the 2016 Ikea spot illustrates well this obsession when stating “It’s a meal, not a competition”
As a consequence, we see things and people. We see them, we follow the ones we like most and eventually we imitate them. This is anything new in fashion, so as we are more bored than surprised when observe people around the world doing and liking as the same things as we do and love. Are we missing originality?
Absolutely not. The propensity of people towards common thinking (i.e. habits, tastes, opinions and so on) works as common ground for sanctioning our inner personality.
It has been said that the future will be about “gender fluidity”, but is not only that. Rather,
“[…] we are about to witness an ‘identity break’ with no precedents. And that of sexual identity, the so-called gender fluidity, was just a beginning, ‘the most glamourous and media-exploitable part of a wide phenomenon and that could have revolutionary consequences. This is because ethnicities, family roles, careers and generations are about to become fluid too.” (Piccinini,2016:81)2
We look the passage from the 2000s up to now as it was the moment a swimmer jumps and crashes the water.
Everything becomes fluid.
Action and reaction, imitation and change, acceleration. Drawing the spiral of fashion on Cartesian axes, the distance between the variables tends to weaken so significantly that it could break anytime, as a wire coiling on itself. And it is happening: we reach the eye of the storm.
During the last years, many trends spread out worldwide almost instantaneously. In particular, the most popular ones such as the nerds, hipsters, the vegan community or the genderless have been launched by young people, which have been gradually imitated by elders and the juniors too. This attitude towards fashion trends surely confirm the propulsion to simulation across people, but what is relevant here is that all these tendency share a lower common denominator that is given by the idea of “way of life”, which does not take in consideration gender nor age at all, but rather it is supported by those idealisms related to DIY as much as people’s heterogeneity.
Youth becomes a statement, a poetry, a heartbeat. It spreads out from fashion catwalks and dyed hair.
In 2015 much has been said about gender differences, which are blurring at faster rate. In effects, the more the convergence between sexes has become visible, the more the talk about sexuality crashes into a third dimension, in which clothing (but also the body construction) would speak for freedom of love despite the gender biological attributes: from the brightful transvestism of Glam Rockers in the Seventies to the neutral Genderless contemporary movement, fashion turns itself into the Court, called to express social verdicts.
In Fashion this has been clearly shown by the evolution and adoption of unisex apparel,where both men and women have been defending their sexual orientation from strict dress codes, which do not suit the needs neither the will of modern thinkers anymore. Especially in present days, we can perceive an intense harmony between fashion system and popular culture (i.e. J.W. Anderson collections, Grimes declarations, Selfridges A-gender shopping space opening in London, Jeanne d’Arc inspirational haircuts), where ‘the debate/conversation about gender has been transmuted, through good times and bad, in an intentional desire (obsession?) to achieve similarity between ephebic male and female bodies’(in Guerrini,2015), which can actually occur and last only in the childish stages of lifetime.
According to these considerations, we rather emphasize on the value of age perception as part of a timeless dimension, where youth becomes the necessary condition for ageless era coming truth.
1Author’s translation from Leibsohn, Una gif come il battito del cuore, summer 2016, original version: “ Questo articolo è lungo al massimo duemila parole ma impiegherete circa 10 minuti per leggerlo (grazie comunque): il motivo è che esse sono disposte in modo lineare quindi dovrete scorrerle in ordine, una per una, una dopo l’altra. Per processarle avrete bisogno di diversi passi cognitivi. Una gif invece fa tutto nello stesso momento e sfrutta i processi cognitivi. Una gif invece fa tutto nello stesso momento e sfrutta i processi rapidissimi nel vostro cervello. Non c’è bisogno di alcun feedback conoscitivo. Le vedi e le capisci. Istantaneamente. Se una foto vale mille parole, una gif ne vale almeno 100mila. Ciò che richiede 10 giorni per essere scritto e 10 minuti per essere letto, esige meno di 10 secondi per essere compreso sotto forma di gif.”
2Author’s translation from Piccinini “La Legge dei Fluidi”, 21/05/2016, anno 21°, N.989. Original version: “stiamo per assistere a una fuga dall’identità ‘senza precedenti’. E quella dell’identità sessuale, la cosiddetta gender fluidity era solo l’inizio, ‘ la parte più glamour e mediaticamente sfruttabile di un fenomeno allargato e che potrebbe avere conseguenze quasi rivoluzionarie. Perché a diventare fluide saranno sempre di più anche le etnie, i ruoli familiari, le carriere e perfino le generazioni”
1Quoting Franco Battiato song No Time No Space