Ben Huh: I Can Haz Oppositional Culture

By May 04, 2010
Keywords : Future of Retail

The internet allows users to subvert the norms of official culture in profound ways, says icanhazcheezburger founder Ben Huh, speaking at today’s Web 2.0 Expo. “I’m talking about being one with internet culture, which is

different than popular culture” says Huh, who also founded FAIL Blog and Very Demotivational said. Together, these sites get 19k user submissions daily.

There is a fundamental difference between powerful processing and cheap computing, Huh says. Powerful computing, as used in scientific endeavors, shows how we use computer power to change humanity and push reality's envelope.

But in creating powerful computing, we also created cheap computing, which affects humanity in a very different way.

“Not only did cheap computing change the economy, not only did it change the way people interact,” Huh says, "it changed culture in a very different way than popular culture.”

The creation of culture is not what the internet was designed for.

“When you create a product, the intended consequences of these products are vastly more powerful than your intent,” Huh says. In the case of the web, what was created was an oppositional culture.

“The opposite of internet culture is popular culture,” Huh says. “Pop culture is top-down culture making. That’s what mainstream culture’s all about. Create a product and own it. But we have a culture called hacking. Now we have people who are trying to hack culture to make new meaning, take what exists in pop culture, twist it around, and give it a new meaning.”

Unlike pop culture, which is top-down, one-way, branded and corporately owned, internet culture belongs to everyone who has participated in it. It is subversive.

“It is out there to bend the meaning of what people with power say,” Huh said.

What keeps internet culture in the avant-garde is that mainstream users still use it only as a tool, not as a medium for the creation or transmutation of cultural signifiers.

“The tech community views the world in a different way,” Huh said. “The internet means we can create culture,” Huh said. “It is no longer a tool, but a way to create meaning. Until people stop seeing the internet as a tool, but one with which they can create culture, this new vision of culture will not succeed with the masses.”

But when that happens, all your knowledge production are belong to us.

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