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robertogreco : k-hole   5

After Authenticity
"Meanwhile, years of semantic slippage had happened without me noticing. Suddenly the surging interest in fashion, the dad hats, the stupid pin companies, the lack of sellouts, it all made sense. Authenticity has expanded to the point that people don’t even believe in it anymore. And why should we? Our friends work at SSENSE, they work at Need Supply. They are starting dystopian lifestyle brands. Should we judge them for just getting by? A Generation-Z-focused trend report I read last year clumsily posed that “the concept of authenticity is increasingly deemed inauthentic.” It goes further than that. What we are witnessing is the disappearance of authenticity as a cultural need altogether.

Under authenticity, the value of a thing decreases as the number of people to whom it is meaningful increases. This is clearly no longer the case. Take memes for example. “Meme” circa 2005 meant lolcats, the Y U NO guy and grimy neckbeards on 4chan. Within 10 years “meme” transitioned from this one specific subculture to a generic medium in which collective participation is seen as amplifying rather than detracting from value.

In a strange turn of events, the mass media technologies built out during the heady authenticity days have had a huge part in facilitating this new mass media culture. The hashtag, like, upvote, and retweet are UX patterns that systematize endorsement and quantify shared value. The meme stock market jokers are more right than they know; memes are information commodities. But unlike indie music 10 years ago the value of a meme is based on its publicly shared recognition. From mix CDs to nationwide Spotify playlists. With information effortlessly transferable at zero marginal cost and social platforms that blast content to the top of everyone’s feed, it’s difficult to for an ethics based on scarcity to sustain itself.

K-HOLE and Box1824 captured the new landscape in their breakthrough 2014 report “Youth Mode.” They described an era of “mass indie” where the search for meaning is premised on differentiation and uniqueness, and proposed a solution in “Normcore.” Humorously, nearly everyone mistook Normcore for being about bland fashion choices rather than the greater cultural shift toward accepting shared meanings. It turns out that the aesthetics of authenticity-less culture are less about acting basic and more about playing up the genericness of the commodity as an aesthetic category. LOT2046’s delightfully industrial-supply-chain-default aesthetics are the most beautiful and powerful rendering of this. But almost everyone is capitalizing on the same basic trend, from Vetements and Virgil Abloh (enormous logos placed for visibility in Instagram photos are now the norm in fashion) to the horribly corporate Brandless. Even the names of boring basics companies like “Common Threads” and “Universal Standard” reflect the the popularity of genericness, writes Alanna Okunn at Racked. Put it this way: Supreme bricks can only sell in an era where it’s totally fine to like commodities.

Crucially, this doesn’t mean that people don’t continue to seek individuation. As I’ve argued elsewhere exclusivity is fundamental to any meaning-amplifying strategy. Nor is this to delegitimize some of the recognizable advancements popularized alongside the first wave of mass authenticity aesthetics. Farmer’s markets, the permaculture movement, and the trend of supporting local businesses are valuable cultural innovations and are here to stay.

Nevertheless, now that authenticity is obsolete it’s become difficult to remember why we were suspicious of brands and commodities to begin with. Maintaining criticality is a fundamental challenge in this new era of trust. Unfortunately, much of what we know about being critical is based on authenticity ethics. Carles blamed the Contemporary Conformist phenomenon on a culture industry hard-set on mining “youth culture dollars.” This very common yet extraordinarily reductive argument, which makes out commodity capitalism to be an all-powerful, intrinsically evil force, is typical of authenticity believers. It assumes a one-way influence of a brand’s actions on consumers, as do the field of semiotics and the hopeless, authenticity-craving philosophies of Baudrillard and Debord.

Yet now, as Dena Yago says, “you can like both Dimes and Doritos, sincerely and without irony.” If we no longer see brands and commodity capitalism as something to be resisted, we need more nuanced forms of critique that address how brands participate in society as creators and collaborators with real agency. Interest in working with brands, creating brands, and being brands is at an all-time high. Brands and commodities therefore need to be considered and critiqued on the basis of the specific cultural and economic contributions they make to society. People co-create their identities with brands just as they do with religions, communities, and other other systems of meaning. This constructivist view is incompatible with popular forms of postmodern critique but it also opens up new critical opportunities. We live in a time where brands are expected to not just reflect our values but act on them. Trust in business can no longer be based on visual signals of authenticity, only on proof of work."
tobyshorin  2018  authenticity  culture  anthropology  hispters  sellouts  sellingout  commercialism  kanyewest  yeezy  yeezysupply  consumerism  commercialization  commodification  personalbranding  branding  capitalism  shepardfairey  obeygiant  tourism  sarahperry  identity  critique  ethics  mainstream  rjaymagill  popculture  aesthetics  commentary  conformism  scale  scalability  venkateshrao  premiummediocre  brooklyn  airbnb  wework  local  handmade  artisinal  economics  toms  redwings  davidmuggleton  josephpine  jamesgilmore  exclusivity  denayago  systems  sytemsofmeaning  meaning  commodities  k-hole 
april 2018 by robertogreco
hautepop | I've been thinking seriously lately about getting...
"Right.

First thing you need to know is that K-Hole aren’t a real trends agency but rather conceptual art. Or, um, well, they weren’t a real trends agency. Now they might be. It’s kind of complicated.

But basically whilst they’re awesome, they are also very special snowflake and not actually a firm you can join.

In this post I’ll outline how you can actually build a career in this space from a mostly-London perspective.

Many thanks to Scott Smith of Changeist who has provided 90% of the intel. (Though I’m not sure you can work for him either, he’s very boutique.)

1. Trend forecasting is often not called trend forecasting

‘Trends’ and ‘cool hunting’ were buzzwords in the 1990s, but the rise of the internet made knowing what denim brands were hot in Tokyo less of a leverageable advantage.

“Innovation” is the present buzzword - “innovation agencies” and “innovation consultancies” are one place you find this type of work. “Brand consultancies” and “brand strategy” firms are another - and the cool (expensive) end of qualitative market research (or “consumer research”) a third.

2. Accept that what you’re doing is capitalism

Companies don’t hire you because you are especially zeitgeisty. They hire you because you can guide them to make more money - either by making products that are more relevant to consumers’ lives, or communicating (marketing) those products more effectively.

“Here is a cool thing going on in culture” is not valuable business advice. “You should do X because of Y cool thing going on in culture, and you’ll achieve result Z” is.

Accept that what you’re doing is business consultancy and read up on competitive advantage, branding, positioning and so on. Ultimately it’s knowing this stuff that makes you better at trends consultancy - not just developing some terrifically expensive intuition about brands… *cough Cayce Pollard*

2a. You can still make K-Hole style conceptual art about capitalism and brands

You just won’t be doing it as your main job. Or getting paid for it - a girl can’t eat Fast Company articles or Tumblr likes, more’s the pity.

In fact, making pretty decent money in this industry and then going freelance as a consultant is probably one of the best ways to clear time & space for making art - and arguably much more viable than traditional art routes of MFAs, teaching jobs, writing and so on.

Go talk to Benedict Singleton (a design strategist) as one example."
trendspotting  capitalism  futurism  k-hole  jayowens  2015  brands  business  trendforecasting 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Insights: K-HOLE, New York — Insights: K-HOLE, New York — Channel — Walker Art Center
"K-HOLE exists in multiple states at once: it is both a publication and a collective; it is both an artistic practice and a consulting firm; it is both critical and unapologetically earnest. Its five members come from backgrounds as varied as brand strategy, fine art, web development, and fashion, and together they have released a series of fascinating PDF publications modeled upon corporate trend forecasting reports. These documents appropriate the visuals of PowerPoint, stock photography, and advertising and exploit the inherent poetry in the purposefully vague aphorisms of corporate brand-speak. Ultimately, K-HOLE aspires to utilize the language of trend forecasting to discuss sociopolitical topics in depth, exploring the capitalist landscape of advertising and marketing in a critical but un-ironic way.

In the process, the group frequently coins new terms to articulate their ideas, such as “Youth Mode”: a term used to describe the prevalent attitude of youth culture that has been emancipated from any particular generation; the “Brand Anxiety Matrix”: a tool designed to help readers understand their conflicted relationships with the numerous brands that clutter their mental space on a daily basis; and “Normcore”: a term originally used to describe the desire not to differentiate oneself, which has since been mispopularized (by New York magazine) to describe the more specific act of dressing neutrally to avoid standing out. (In 2014, “Normcore” was named a runner-up by Oxford University Press for “Neologism of the Year.”)

Since publishing K-HOLE, the collective has taken on a number of unique projects that reflect the manifold nature of their practice, from a consulting gig with a private equity firm to a collaboration with a fashion label resulting in their own line of deodorant. K-HOLE has been covered by a wide range of publications, including the New York Times, Fast Company, Wired UK, and Mousse.

Part of Insights 2015 Design Lecture Series."

[direct link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GkMPN5f5cQ ]
k-hole  consumption  online  internet  communication  burnout  normcore  legibility  illegibility  simplicity  technology  mobile  phones  smartphones  trends  fashion  art  design  branding  brands  socialmedia  groupchat  texting  oversharing  absence  checkingout  aesthetics  lifestyle  airplanemode  privilege  specialness  generations  marketing  trendspotting  coping  messaging  control  socialcapital  gregfong  denayago  personalbranding  visibility  invisibility  identity  punk  prolasticity  patagonia  patience  anxietymatrix  chaos  order  anxiety  normality  abnormality  youth  millennials  individuality  box1824  hansulrichobrist  alternative  indie  culture  opposition  massindie  williamsburg  simoncastets  digitalnatives  capitalism  mainstream  semiotics  subcultures  isolation  2015  walkerartcenter  maxingout  establishment  difference  89plus  basicness  evasion  blandness  actingbasic  empathy  indifference  eccentricity  blankness  tolerance  rebellion  signalling  status  coolness  aspiration  connections  relationships  presentationofself  understanding  territorialism  sociology  ne 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Fotos de la biografía - Christopher Glazek | Facebook
"I can't be the first to point this out, Fiona Duncan, but doesn't your NYMag piece confuse #Normcore with #ActingBasic, a separate K-Hole concept? Dressing neutral and normy so you don't stand out is #ActingBasic. #Normcore means you pursue every activity like you're a fanatic of the form. It doesn't really make sense to identify Normcore as a fashion trend--the point of normcore is that you could dress like a NASCAR mascot for a big race and then switch to raver-wear for a long druggy night at the club. It's about infinitely flexible, sunny appropriation. As K-hole puts it, “You might not understand the rules of football, but you can still get a thrill from the roar of the crowd at the World Cup. Normcore moves away from a coolness that relies on difference to a post-authenticity coolness that opts in to sameness. BUT INSTEAD OF APPROPRIATING AN AESTHETICIZED VERSION OF THE MAINSTREAM [i.e. Acting Basic], IT JUST COPS TO THE SITUATION AT HAND." I'm raising this because Acting Basic, while certainly a recognizable trend, isn't that new or exciting of a concept. Normcore, on the other hand--the real version--is genuinely new and consequential. Normcore describes personalities, not clothes. Its icon is not Preston Chaunsumlit, it's James Franco.

Acting Basic, a temptation to which the best of us sometimes succumb, is snotty and superseded--the bad old days of downtown cool. Normcore is what comes after: fresh, pozzy, net-native, living every day as a tourist, unbothered by the politics of appropriation--and probably a little naive about politics in general. It really is a profound and illuminating concept, but it's sad to think that during its viral moment it's been reinterpreted into something pedestrian and regressive."
normcore  2014  tourism  adaptability  assimilation  appropriation  netnative  authenticity  coolness  sameness  culture  christopherglazek  k-hole  openmindedness 
july 2014 by robertogreco
I Drank a Cup of Hot Coffee That Was Overnighted Across the Country - Robinson Meyer - The Atlantic
"Normcore moves away from a coolness that relies on difference to a post-authenticity coolness that opts in to sameness. But instead of appropriating an aestheticized version of the mainstream, it just cops to the situation at hand. To be truly Normcore, you need to understand that there’s no such thing as normal. […]

Normcore seeks the freedom that comes with non-exclusivity. It finds liberation in being nothing special, and realizes that adaptability leads to belonging."

[quote from: http://khole.net/issues/youth-mode/ ]
k-hole  normcore  liberation  freedom  adaptability  flexibility  nomadism  nomads  appropriation  codeswitching  authenticity  mainstream  exclusivity  youth  generations  internet  specialness  openmindedness 
july 2014 by robertogreco

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