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John Seabrook

Related: culture - nobrow - marketing

Nobrow: The Culture of Marketing, The Marketing of Culture (2000) - John Seabrook
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Interview with John Seabrook

Q: How has Nobrow changed the definition of "taste."

A: I think the whole notion of good taste--this necessarily elite substance only a relative few could possess--has pretty much disappeared. These days anyone can get good taste from Martha Stewart. You can buy it from Ikea or Restoration Hardware. At the same time, formerly bad taste--pro wrestling, pornography, Donald Trump--has become acceptable to the mainstream. So at both ends, the importance of taste has been devalued, at least "taste" in the old sense of something refined. Also, we're too decentralized as a culture for good taste to carry the meaning it used to carry.

When people ask themselves if they want to wear a shirt, or buy a certain object for their homes, do they ask themselves a question like, "Is this product in good taste?" I don't think so, not usually. They ask themselves something more like "What does this shirt or chair say about me?" Cultural preferences once based on matters of taste are now based on identity. This change is a major theme in Nobrow. -- John Seabrook, Nobrow: The Culture of Marketing, The Marketing of Culture


Like Seabrook, I consider myself an egalitarian when it comes to identifying what is art. Following in the footsteps of Raymond Williams and (especially) Camille Paglia, for me it is all art—from Charlie's Angels and porno to the Sistine Chapel. However, an important qualification is required when making this assertion: It may be all art, but it is not all good. I use the word art in the same sense as Paglia (see Paglia's Sex, Art and American Culture), in much the same way as the word "person" is used. Person—or human being—is a broad category that includes both Charles Manson and the Dalai Lama. Likewise, in art some works are more interesting than others—richer, more rewarding, more complex. --Mitch Hampton via http://www.organicanews.com/news/article.cfm?story_id=161 [May 2006]

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