Feeding On An Alternative Lifestyle

[This post may include spoilers from Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture and Feed]

“‘They take culture and sell it back to us in a glossy package, neglecting content but but pushing style until it fizzles out as nothing more than a passing fad.’ At that point it’s time for the culture vultures to move on.”  (p.173)
Notes from Underground:  Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture

Feed, M.T. Anderson is about a world where humans have a computer chip in their head which allows them to access the internet. They call it ‘The Feed’ which they can use to order purchases, learn of the latest trends and chat almost telepathically to their peers. Weirdly it seems a small step away from our own online world where we interact through an electronic middle man. The character, Titus’ inner monologue is constantly interrupted by the steady flow of advertisements based on his moods. Rather then following Titus’ interests and encouraging him to try different items,  The Feed decides what these people think they want. The trouble comes when his love interest, Violet’s feed begins to fail but before this she attempts to confuse the corporations by seeking out strange objects that don’t fit a personal profile. She says;

“They try to figure out who you are, and to make you conform to one of their types for easy marketing. It’s like a spiral: They keep making everything more basic, so we get less and less basic as people, more simpler. So the corps make everything more simpler.”

Notes From Underground, attempts to understand the point of zines as they did not seem to inspire a revolution among zinesters. It makes the point that part of being ‘alternative’ means having something to fight against. So if things were resolved you would no longer be alternative. The zines he analyses speak about the hypocrisy of large companies and the ruling class deciding we should ‘all be in this together,’ when most of the time we ‘the people’ are alone. Since the accumulation of money is held in high regard for our society, those who are instruments in other people’s personal gains are classed as losers. It is these ‘losers’ that apparently make up the zine world. The ‘hours not devoted to television, consumerism, or any of the socially prescribed ways of killing time’ are used to lovingly create strange pieces of work. So why spend so much time on something that may not matter?

“Because we are human, and we live on social systems. We cannot survive without them. And we always need communities like the zine community to exist, because the one mainstream, white bread, mass media system is never going to be enough for everyone.”
Notes from the Underground 

So what does one book have to do with the other? Well, I would imagine that Feed is the reality we don’t want to reach. Who wants to be easily defined and categorised? The artificial communication in the book leaves characters stunted and unable to be human; they are robotic with their emotions getting in the way.

[End Thoughts]

The values of the alternative culture should be different as there is more importance held in freedom of speech and thought. To analyse this culture or any other  by the ‘dominant’ culture is erroneous. For the mainstream to evaluate the usefulness of zines they would have to step away from the carefully structured world of media and try to understand the benefit one zine might have for a downtrodden individual, who a zine might reach. Perhaps it is not the goal of a  zinester to influence change in a world where society is rigid in who is allowed to have an impact on our environment. Maybe the goal, like the zine, is small. Reach one person who will evolve due to how powerful words are. Trying to uncover meaning from behind these cut and pasted wonders seem to destroy their true purpose; to remain meaningless.

An interesting link about conformity:
5 Reasons Why Anti conformity is Worse Than Conformity – Cracked.com

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