Weber’s ‘steel-hard cage of modernity’ (stahlhartes Gehäuse) seems out of sight today. The very metaphor of steel, so dear to the times of industrialization, seems hopelessly out of date in the age of optic fibre, silicone and flexibility. It is as if the call to change the world has mutated into the program to change communications, and respectively, at the centre of this second modernity we no longer find the dirty, noisy, majestic steel-plant, but something dreamlike the kindergarten-style offices of Google.
To turn away from the real world and concentrate on its representation, on networks, ratings, data bases, avatars, and the like - this tends to bring us back the wonderful. Rigorous taxonomy is replaced by clouds of tags that change their shape whenever you look at them from a different angle; the simplicity of plan and progress - by the infinite task of reflexive self-monitoring; ideological purity – by emotional complexity. The old coordinates no longer seem operational in this new, gaseous stage of culture. There is no ‘high’ vs. ‘popular’, as there is no legitimate distinction between expertise and amateurism; creation and consumption tend to become indistinguishable, and the separation line between public and private interests is constantly challenged and redefined. That all has become culture seems to be the logical result of moving the centre of interest from the outer world towards culture itself.
The present texts have been selected from the three last issues of Seminar_BG in an attempt to reflect on the cultural situation through the media lens. Over-production of information, brought about by the expansion of commercial agents, was boosted in the last years even further by the ascent of the interactive Web 2.0. There are no institutions ready to harness the unprecedented flow of cultural content. We do not know who is an author, what is original, and to what extent interaction develops or destroys the work of art. Even traditional figures as doctors or religious leaders find themselves challenged; modern constructs like the nation and political representation – re-enchanted.
The varied research perspectives towards the wonderful world of media-cultures might leave the reader with the question: what if we were in some new, wired cage of the second modernity?