“The beauty of the world is the mouth of a labyrinth. The unwary individual who on entering takes a few steps is soon unable to find the opening. Worn out, with nothing to eat or drink, in the dark, separated from his dear ones, and from everything he loves and is accustomed to, he walks on without knowing anything or hoping anything, incapable even of discovering whether he is really going forward or merely turning round on the same spot. But this affliction is as nothing compared with the danger threatening him. For if he does not lose courage, if he goes on walking, it is absolutely certain that he will finally arrive at the center of the labyrinth. And there God is waiting to eat him. Later he will go out again, but he will be changed, he will have become different, after being eaten and digested by God. Afterward he will stay near the entrance so that he can gently push all those who come near into the opening.” - Simone Weil “The beauty of the world is the mouth of a labyrinth. The unwary individual who on entering takes a few steps is soon unable to find the opening. Worn out, with nothing to eat or drink, in the dark, separated from his dear ones, and from everything he loves and is accustomed to, he walks on without knowing anything or hoping anything, incapable even of discovering whether he is really going forward or merely turning round on the same spot. But this affliction is as nothing compared with the danger threatening him. For if he does not lose courage, if he goes on walking, it is absolutely certain that he will finally arrive at the center of the labyrinth. And there God is waiting to eat him. Later he will go out again, but he will be changed, he will have become different, after being eaten and digested by God. Afterward he will stay near the entrance so that he can gently push all those who come near into the opening.” - Simone Weil

Post Internet Ontology

Spectral Complacency and Algorithm Victimization

Text/Artwork: Bug
Let me start by saying I am a fan of Hyperpop music. As an early adopter of the PC Music pop superstars and a gleeful interest in their predecessors. Without thinking too hard, the infectious output of DIY machine pop has had most of us reciting lyrics stuck in our heads. At the time it seemed like the most punk thing too. Subvert the system by exploring and accentuating it. With no room for true social change or political reform, just embrace and become the thing itself. It came out of left field and was the last thing you’d assume would be an incendiary genre shift.

This of course makes perfect sense because overthrow is futile. We are stuck in a loop of Nihilistic decompression. To quote Descartes “I am like a prisoner who is enjoying an imaginary freedom while asleep; as he begins to suspect that he is asleep, he dreads being woken up, and goes along with the pleasant illusion as long as he can. In the same way, I happily slide back into my old opinions and dread being shaken out of them, for fear that my peaceful sleep may be followed by hard labor when I wake, and that I shall have to toil not in the light, but amid the inextricable darkness of the problems I have now raised.” Be the pop star you always obsessively admired from the comfort of your chintzy one-bedroom East London flat. When there is nothing too dangerous for the internet. The most dangerous option is to become the mainstream?

The DIY deconstructed pop movement has somehow transitioned from a referential exploration exploring mass consumption to an indulgence of the initial subject matter it was attempting to subvert. Most of the first wave pioneers that re-envisioned the genre are simply just hired on producers making mass digested pop. In their vein of course, but it has somehow found its way from bedroom internet subculture to mass culture. The new wave of hyper pop music is a concession in which the makers themselves are simply unaware of their complacency. Don’t get me wrong, the music itself is terrific. But the cultural implications of complete unaware passivity are worrisome. I desire and want more, but the desire is just for more desire. There is no belief structure that backs the desire. Consequently, this assumes itself as a feedback loop because your desires stabilize the system. There is no meaning to these songs. Just a series of singles you burn out 1000 times and never think of again. No longevity. Surely no legacy. It is living in the now, but the now is dismal. We are willingly making our interior thoughts into commodities. When we are force fed consumption impulsivity, this intuition becomes inevitable.

Is it an endless sea of dead-end jobs and a precarious future that leaves us in pop star fantasy? Anyone can do it. At least for a bit. Or pretend their way into a reality. To reference Scottish philosopher David Hume, we must accept that our philosophical arguments are founded more on aesthetics than on rationality. Quoting Nolan Gertz “this suggests that the flux is all there is, that he is nothing more than a “bundle of perceptions.” A narrative based on the idea that there must be a “self” who was the cause of this narrative, but having removed casualty as a foundation of knowledge, it cannot function as a foundation for knowledge, it cannot function on a foundation for identity either.” By creating a fictional self, we don’t have to feel. This creates a fantastical shield that protects us from our violent exterior world. Vulnerability is weakness, so let’s keep it catchy and relatable.

The music is as icy as the synths utilized. What I find problematic on a societal level is that the music itself makes us stuck in endless craving. We want more and more as fast as possible and then on to the next thing. Could this type of aesthetic digestion trickle into the way we treat our relationships? It solidifies the harsh realization that there is no future, there is only today. No one can commit to anything as there is always something else right around the corner. It’s like an endless tasting menu at a Michelin star restaurant that never leaves you satiated. Deception through the imagery of extravagant plating. As an early adopter and fan of the music, I am perplexed by how it has transformed itself. The left field genre reinterpretation was unique and interesting upon first introduction. However, you can only make a copy of a copy of a copy so many times before the print becomes charcoal black, a void-like tremor of the initial image. This music functions the same as when you compulsively check your Instagram, claustrophobic in its uneventful affect. This ubiquitous visibility causes you to see nothing. Something to keep you moving and not overthink things too much. The music at times feels like someone talking at you with no interest in dialogue or response. Just wanting to be heard with no inclination to learn something from the other.

Mirroring hyper-normalization in a larger political sense. Governments, financiers, and technological utopians have, since the 1970s, given up on the complex "real world" and built a simpler "fake world" run by corporations and kept stable by politicians. The glimmer of the underground hope has become fatalist as a result of the algorithm. The present is impossible and another catchy chorus hook will surely keep us complacent. Pop music has always provided such. What is disheartening is that in the past the machine sculpted the pop musician, they become a calculated image designed by the superstructure. The type of person in the past whose personality could be classified as counter culture are now the persons willingly choosing to create interchangeable tunes of vapidity. Only so many parodies of something can exist before it becomes rotten dead.

The DIY pop star phenomenon also seems directly related to streaming residuals. Why have a band (community) you have to split your cut four ways with? When you can do it yourself and get 12,000,000 plays in the process. Just a catchy hook, sonic synths, a sprinkle of something unusual and it’s charting among teen kids who just don’t quite fit in. This trend in music away from communal production mirrors the self-serving American autonomy ideals that are leaving us all anxious and depressed. Why do we need anyone? Culture has deceptively shown us otherwise. If you’re making music based on play counts and listener receptibility, how deep could the music possibly go. The music would surely never be a symbol of freedom.

Indeterminable financial pressures, a result of cost acceleration not matching up with income acceleration have caused a perceptual based shift in creative expression. Alongside the evolution of streaming service play residuals, artists have been put in a position where the only way to have a career as a musician is to churn out banger after banger. The algorithm goes so far as to choose what kind of music suits us. Personal taste and discovery hand-picked for us by backend playlist deals made behind the scenes by labels with connections. At a certain point you just become the empty shell of hardware you hold in the palm of your hand. You’ve become a commodity whose marketability is nonconformism, but the edge is in the uniform rather than the intention.

We want to feel better, but we keep doing the thing that makes us feel worse. The reason being, we don’t even know it’s happening to us. The overarching behavioral shift is fractalizing from the top of our governing world to the bottom of the subculture, if it even can be called that anymore. Do the kids know 100 gecs is just ska? Disgusting. It’s ok to listen to the music of course, it’s great. We are however ignoring the surrounding social implications that coincide.

Automatism through subconscious subservience. Caroline Busta writes “Now “selling out” is tying your online identity to your IRL life and real name. In part, this is because one of the biggest impediments to countercultural activity is the fact that the internet doesn’t suppress expression—it forces you to express and then holds you accountable for whatever you say for years. Gen Z has bypassed counterculture, finding it futile in the face of a hegemonic system that more clearly resembles a Hydra than the monolithic forces that legacy counterculture was rebelling against. The dress code the same as counter culture generations previous, but the political intention submissive and indulgent…Their responses might be more accurately understood as competitive-futurist than countercultural.” Like the genomes of the machine, this genre is becoming mechanical from its oversaturation, rather than creative.

We are so insidiously engrossed in a power defined algorithm system, that even a far-left leaning person’s creative decisions are a cacophony of ambivalent contradictions. Pop in a traditional sense has always been a “don’t overthink, keep them mushy” attitude. Perhaps the new normal is ambivalent submission. The AI learning systems have already accelerated past us with capital as the crux. The branches that connect how we digest culture are uniform, taste obsolete. The goal at this point is not to try and revolt, that boat has long sailed. Our only option is to be attentive, to educate ourselves and be conscious of how this is working against us and try to contrast that tide accordingly. Rather than recuperation, our best tool currently, is a community-based shield. As where there was a tremor of disruption ruminating under the surface, there now is cold air. Perhaps the dead have finally be silenced.