The Digital Plenitude: The Decline of Elite Culture and the Rise of New Media
Author: Jay David Bolter
On June, 2, Republic Day, a statue of b-movie and advertising pop icon Bud Spencer was inaugurated in the Italian port city of Livorno to an applauding crowd. Bud Spencer was not a Livorno native but a star who achieved world fame alongside Terrence Hill and a childhood hero of Filippo Nogarin, the mayor of Livorno and member of the Five Star Movement. The initiative, promoted via Facebook, collected 18,000 Euro to realise a life-size sculpture resembling a toy from lunapark via crowdfunding campaign. The online art journal Artribune reported about this in an article where they also presented other cases, such as sculptures of favourite dogs, indicating that populist politics has taken over yet another realm of civic life, the public art.
I write from Italy, but the experience of an outright triumph of popular – if not populist – culture is not purely local at all. The Digital Plenitude by Jay David Bolter is dedicated to explaining this phenomenon from the perspective of the United States, where cultural antagonism between popular and elite have even prevailed over the traditional, class-based antagonism between poor and rich. Such is Bolter’s thesis where, in the preface, he claims that «unlike their European counterparts, what the American working class resents above all is not the economic divide between itself and the wealthiest 1% (.)… Instead, the American (white) working class both sees and resents the chasm in outlook and status that separates it from the educated elite – above all, anyone in the media or the academic world, anyone who works with words as their profession or vocation». (p. viii)
«Instead, the American (white) working class both sees and resents the chasm in outlook and status that separates it from the educated elite»
Culture of convergence
Bolter is also the author of Remediation: Understanding New Media (together with Richard Grusin, MIT 2000), one of the seminal texts on the practices of media within the culture of convergence made possible by digital technologies. As an expert and authority on contemporary media, he explained that the fragmentation of various hierarchies in the arts has been announced many times in many contexts, but our cultural moment feels …
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