“On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”
- Tyler Durden
One of my favorite bits from Jacob’s post on “seapunk” was this bit about keeping subcultures “sub”:
It is an impossibility for a subcultural style to be “owned”. Sub-culture exists when gazed at by mass-culture. The only way to ensure that your aesthetic is not going to become used by others is to never share it with anyone. Another approach is to protect your aesthetic with physical violence (see: gang colors). Otherwise, once you allow your presence to be seen, it can be consumed.
Most communities protect their culture through some form of obfuscation: hiding the meaning of their communication by making it hard to interpret.
This is a practice I’ve been studying for some time and some of it is incredible.
- Tum bl r an d L J u sers sep ar ate w ords thr ou gh o dd spacin g in o rde r to fo ol sea rc h en g i nes.
- Chinese users hide political messages in image attachments to seemingly benign posts on Weibo.
- General Pretraeus communicated solely through draft mode.
- 4chan scares away the faint of heart with porn.
- More technically astute groups communicate through obscure messaging systems.
If you want your subculture to go undetected, all of these techniques are moderately effective at keeping your activity away from people and their machines. Until they *want* to find you. Then they’ll find ways around the gates you throw up.
update #1:rickwebb replied to your link: The obfuscation of culture (how to hide your shit online)We see a lot of people posting whole posts in tags, so that they’re only visible in the dashboard and not their external-facing blogs, too.
update #2: Alex Leavitt points me to this First Monday piece by Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum, ‘Vernacular Resistance to Data Collection & Analysis: A Political Theory of Obfuscation’
This reminds me of the old text and l33t speak. But culture has been doing this forever. Jamaican’s adapted their speech to the heavily accent dialect they have today so they could speak freely around the plantation owners.
When was the last time a company making a wristwatch made news? I mean seriously, there’s no acknowledgement that this is even a smart-watch. Hee just calls it a watch. But it’s a safe bet it’s a smartwatch not a competitor to the Casio line of watches.
“We’ve been preparing the watch product for so long,” Lee Young Hee, executive vice president of Samsung’s mobile business, said during an interview in Seoul. “We are working very hard to get ready for it. We are preparing products for the future, and the watch is definitely one of them.”
What’s most interesting is how one prediction can come so close to being right, yet be completely misguided on an important detail. For example, in the imaginary 2013, computers compile “the family’s personalized newspaper, featuring articles on the subjects that interest them”… but then they print it out on a laser-jet printer to read it. Or how they predicted that the roads of L.A. would be full of “‘sports-utility’ vehicles” but defined that as a car “that can go from being a two-seat sports car to a beachbuggy—thanks to a plug-in module.” Or how they correctly surmised that banks would starting charging people to talk to tellers, forcing customers to do their banking online… where they video chat with a teller remotely. The whole issue is a fascinating read, even though it contains a lot of Los Angeles-specific, predictions that won’t mean as much to people who aren’t from the Southland. But here are what we found to be some of their better and not-so-better prophecies.
A very interesting experiment. I’ll be interested in watching how this goes long term, because this is something I could see myself doing.