Whenever anyone, anywhere, mentions anything, we must pretend to know about it. Data has become our currency. (And in the case of Bitcoin, a classic example of something that we all talk about but nobody actually seems to understand, I mean that literally.)…
We have outsourced our opinions to this loop of data that will allow us to hold steady at a dinner party, though while you and I are ostensibly talking about “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” what we are actually doing, since neither of us has seen it, is comparing social media feeds. Does anyone anywhere ever admit that he or she is completely lost in the conversation? No. We nod and say, “I’ve heard the name,” or “It sounds very familiar,” which usually means we are totally unfamiliar with the subject at hand.
Knowing about all of the latest Internet memes, videos, and headlines may just be the cultural capital of our times. On one hand, cultural capital is important. This is strikingly seen in the influence of Pierre Bourdieu in recent decades after Bourdieu argued different social classes have different cultural tastes and expressions. Want to move up in the world? You need to be able to operate in the cultural spheres of the upper classes. On the other hand, the writer of this article suggests this cultural capital may not be worth having. This Internet data based cultural capital emphasizes a broad and populist knowledge rather than a deep consideration of life’s important issues. If we are all at the whim of the latest Internet craze, we are all chasing ultimately unsatisfying data.
But, I think you can take this another direction than the long debate about what is proper cultural literacy. I recently heard an academic suggest we should ask one question about all of this: how much do we get wrapped up in these online crazes and controversies versus engaging in important relationships? Put in terms of this article, having all the data currency in the world doesn’t help if you have no one to really spend that currency with.