Sea of Noise

Mon, 04 Oct 2004

Subcultures Connected

Michael says that some subcultures are so far outside the mainstream that they wouldn't exist without the Internet. That makes perfect sense to me in theory, but in practice I think it's an overstatement.

Sure, there are some subcultures, e.g. geocaching, that are hard to imagine having originated in their current form without the Internet, and it's certainly true that the Internet makes them easier to organize and participate in. But before there was an Internet, there were newsletters, phone trees, regular in-person meetings, radio shows (think "Hour of Slack"), and so forth to keep people tied together.

Ironically, one the longest-running in-person meetings I can think of are the first Friday meetings organized via the back pages of 2600. Flash mobs? Well, sure, cell phones and the Internet make these easier, but before that folks had group pagers. Lindy Hop? Sure, we might not have exchanges and some of the other big events without the Internet to make organizing them easy for volunteers, but the majority of new dancers still find us via dead-tree flyers, the same as always. Blogs? They're just a more convenient form of 'zines. Raves aren't always easy to hear about and find, but they were happening before more than a tiny fraction of ravers had an email address and before there was such a thing as a "web page".

There's nothing new under the sun.

The Internet is just a tool. It's a great tool. But it's not the 'net--it's the energy and dedication of the folks who love what they do--that drives a subculture.

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