The Death Of Tangible Pop Culture


By: kathy iandoli

I feel sorry for you, kids. You live in a digital dietary world where the only items you can hold in your hands are electronic devices holding something else. It’s a sad life to live, but it’s the only one you know, really. See, back in the “olden days,” we had these things called vinyl, followed by 8-tracks, cassettes, and compact discs. Allow me to explain…

We live in a world where mobility has completely eclipsed the notion of sitting in one place for an undetermined amount of time. A symptom of that strong desire for mobility comes portability, where if you’re constantly in flux, you need to carry everything with you. Gone are the days where you sat comfortably in your home and played your favorite record on the ol’ victrola.

Okay, I’m not that old, nevermind. But seriously, there is an obsession with being able to carry a large amount of something – be it music, books, photos, or any other pertinent information – around in the event that you need/want it immediately. Most people don’t see this as a big deal; in fact, it’s a bonus for living a fast-paced life.

However, if you’re a creator of anything outside of technology, you suffer. And if you’re a fan of tangible Pop culture, you suffer even more.

Remember when albums had actual art and liner notes? Sometimes the art came from a famed photographer or artist, and the liner notes told these in depth stories about the makings of the project in addition to the lyrics. While there still is some degree of album art/liner notes happening (a photo and a thanks to God, usually), most half-ass it since the important part of the album is the part that lands on iTunes.

It’s even clowned to go above and beyond your album art these days too. When Wiz Khalifa attempted some quasi-artistic expression when he revealed the cover art for his upcoming O.N.I.F.C. it was like he committed this gigantic sin against humanity. Why? Because the opinion is that nobody cares anymore, so the littlest bit of extra is perceived as over the top. Let’s not even get into Kreayshawn’s 4000-album sale failure, where the only physical copies of Somethin’ About Kreay were found in Hot Topic, a store found in suburban malls only.

Box sets of albums sound silly to most people now (who walks around carrying a box!) Deluxe Editions only mean one more extra trip to the internet to find the bonus tracks, and who needs to get a tour t-shirt when you can make one on CaféPress?

Magazines have been reduced to 100-word pieces called blogs, and blogs have been reduced to 140-character pieces called tweets. It’s a vicious cycle really, and the only casualty is creativity.

There was a time when artists had collectible toys, even promotional items for album releases, but even those are gone… with the exception of Kid Robot selling something for $600 that somewhat reflects a part of a collection. Who will purchase these items if they’re so expensive? They’re too busy purchasing super expensive devices that become obsolete annually.

Sure this sounds like the ramblings of a disgruntled Gen-Xer who feels like books and toys and music have been reduced to a tab on a laptop. That’s not what this is, at all.

While there is a strong degree of merit to Erykah Badu’s mantra of being an “Analog girl in a digital world,” it’s more of a concern for documenting Pop culture. If we lose our tangibles, how will later generations know we even existed?

Think about this: there will be no millennial artifacts in the years to come as everything related to the generation following X has completely lived online. If that isn’t a scary thought then you must be George Jetson (Remember him? Go on YouTube. He’s not on TV anymore).

There is a light at the end of the firewall, though. Creators and collectors alike still find a way around this digital bubble and craft relics that can be salvaged in the years to come. It’s a comforting thought, and as long as that desire to collect and remember continues on, then all hope isn’t lost.

If you’re reading this and you’re worried, keep collecting. Don’t end up on an episode of hoarders, but keep the industry of tangibles alive for as long as it can possibly live. You’re outnumbered, but you’re not alone.

Thank goodness people still like dogs and cats, or else the household pet would be a Tamagotchi.

About Author

Kathy has an unhealthy obsession with Marc Jacobs, Mercedes, and Moleskine. When she isn't writing about rappers or British Folktronica, she's drinking unsweetened iced tea in the New York metro area.

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