Is it Time for Hippie Modernism Again?
Turn on, tune in, drop out, but read on about how Hippies and Hippie Modernism might rise again.
Before Hipsters, there were Hippies. Whereas Hipsters in our age live a gentrifying, alternative lifestyle, Hippies dug into a whole counterculture of rebellion in search of a utopian “Age of Aquarius.” A new exhibition at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, titled Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia revisits the search of the ‘60s and asks if it has any meaning for 2015 and beyond. In an era where Whole Foods replaces Whole Earth, can we make the ideals of the Hippie generation sing again and “let the sunshine in”?
What exactly is “hippie modernism”? Andrew Blauvelt, the exhibition curator, explains in his preface to the catalog: “Hippie modernism marks the tension between the modern characterized as universal, timeless, rational, and progressive, and its countercultural other, which adopts a more local, timely, emotive and often irreverent, and radical disposition.” In other words, hippie modernism takes modernism’s composed futurist hope and applies it to the present, losing none of those dreams while passionately thumbing its nose at the establishment status quo. Blauvelt sees the late 1960s as “a momentary reconciliation of these seemingly opposed values as a way of resolving the impasse that faced postwar cultural modernity.” Unfortunately, that “reconciliation” of the hippie years ran into the conservatism of the post-Watergate 1970s and Reaganite 1980s. Fortunately, however, that hippie modernist reconciliation might rise again today.
Blauvelt arranges the show along the lines of ‘60s guru Timothy Leary’s famous directive to “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.” It’s as good as any start for the dizzying assemblage of experimental furniture, alternative living structures, immersive environments, media installations, alternative magazines, experimental books, printed ephemera, and archival films. In Turn On, Hippie Modernism hopes to blow your mind by examining the hippie fascination with expanding individual consciousness and the struggle to visualize it in images such as Ira Cohen’s 1968 photograph of Jimi Hendrix taken in a mylar chamber to distort and bend reality like a drug trip.
Once you’re “experienced,” you move on to Tune In, which tackles the social consciousness of the hippie movement in the face of global war and pollution. In the final section, Drop Out, Blauvelt examines how hippies “dropped out” of mainstream society to form their own social structures that blurred boundaries between art and life, specifically the politics ruling over their lives. Starting with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters’ 1964 cross-country acid trip (that got things going) and ending with the 1973-1974 OPEC oil crisis (that stopped the long, strange trip of Western progress), Hippie Modernism packs a lot of ideas into a small window, like the time period itself.
Although hippie modernism’s most striking form — psychedelic art — has won attention from its beginnings, it hasn’t always won respect. Blauvelt counters that “psychedelia follows Impressionism, not chronologically but philosophically, as the artist depicts an altered sense of reality and the objects and spaces within it.” If Impressionism belongs at the beginning of modern art, then ‘60s-style psychedelia belongs right beside it. With that in mind, much of the puzzling art of the period snaps into conception clarity. For example, Haus-Rucker-Co’s Environment Transformer/Flyhead Helmet (shown above), one of the many bubble-related (sometimes inflatable) designs of theirs, transforms from an elaborate joke into a symbol of a new way of seeing. Esther Choi sees these bubbles as “a more nuanced and pliant framework for resistance” in keeping with the peace and love times and the hoped-for “Pneu world.” “Operating like a meme,” Choi argues, “the inflatable’s elastic configuration could absorb a range of intents, associations, and purposes evolving and self-replicating virally across genres, periods, and geographies.” Inside the bubble of hippie modernism, the whole world could unite as one.
For many, hippie imagery consists mainly of the trippy concert posters crammed to the borders with text and symbolic imagery. In their essay “Agency and Urgency: The Medium and Its Message,” Lorraine Wild and David Karwan argue for a method behind that hippie madness. They see hippie modernism’s graphic design as content-driven into content-overdrive and “focused primarily on the urgency of their communication (and not, for the most part, on contemporary professional graphic design).” Underground graphic artists shunned by the “professionals” found themselves with too much to say in too little room and broke all the rules in the name of message. (The exhibition catalog designers copied this aesthetic in their choice of font, paper, etc., to convey its jam-packed messages.) Corita Kent’s yellow submarine (shown above) belongs to this order. Kent, a Catholic nun, took the Beatles’ song and turned it into an “infographic” of love full of text that makes you scurry visually about the page. “The revolution could not be boiled down to a corporate-style logo or a simplified presentation,” Wild and Karwan conclude. “The ideas were multivalent, hypothetical, experimental, and the visual ‘argument’ of underground graphics signifies all that tumult.”
Much of the 1960s debates raged over freedom, usually individual freedoms versus the “freedom” of the free market. As Craig J. Peariso points out, Hippies saw freedom as “something like an ethos” rather than a commodity that could be traded or, dangerously, assimilated. A theater group calling itself the “Diggers” staged “The Death of Hippie” when they felt the idea of the hippie had become too mainstream and just another pose of mass culture marketing. Another theater group, The Cockettes (shown above), took those freedoms even further, asserting the freedom of sexual orientation. The Cockettes “unapologetic amateurism, their emphasis on fun over profit, and their persistent rejection of the boundaries of normative genders and sexualities made them seem like the perfect distillation of the various countercultural forces and ideas that had come together in the Bay Area at the end of the 1960s,” Peariso writes. If one image captures hippie modernism at its purest, The Cockettes might be it.
But can we recover that fun, hopeful, boundary-busting hippie modernism today? When Sheila Levrant de Bretteville made Women in Design: The Next Decade (shown above) in 1975, she probably envisioned greater progress four decades later. Perhaps the greatest attribute of hippie modernism, and the one we need most now, is the hippie power of imagination, of thinking of the unthought. Felicity D. Scott points out that some of the earliest computer visionaries of the 1970s were the longhair hippies fighting to wrest control of early computer technology from the military-industrial complex to put it into the hands of the people.
“Countercultural engagements with computer research and communications media during the early 1970s were often motivated by a utopian faith that science and technology heralded a better and more united world,” Scott writes. Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia holds that we can find that faith once again. Social media can once again be more “social” than “media,” in the spirit of GlobalCitizen.org and like-minded, “hippie” movements. Hippie Modernism strikes you with stunning utopian images of the past, but should also inspire you to dream up your own utopias for the present. “That such radical social change did not come to pass at that time does not equate to ultimate failure or an affirmation of the neoconservative backlash that followed,” Blauvelt writes in defense of the often belittled hippie, “anymore than winning a battle constitutes winning the war.” Hippie Modernism calls us to pick up the hippie “freak” flag and let it fly once more.
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
A recent study gives new meaning to the saying "fake it 'til you make it."
- The study involves four experiments that measured individuals' socioeconomic status, overconfidence and actual performance.
- Results consistently showed that high-class people tend to overestimate their abilities.
- However, this overconfidence was misinterpreted as genuine competence in one study, suggesting overestimating your abilities can have social advantages.
Is this proof of a dramatic shift?
- Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
- Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
- A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses
Dramatic and misleading
Image: Reddit / SICResearch
The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.
Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.
The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.
Let's zoom in:
- It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
- By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
- Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
- In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
- Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
- By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.
Image source: Reddit / SICResearch
This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?
- "The end is near."
- "The idiocracy grows."
- "(It's) like a spreading disease."
- "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
- "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
- "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
- "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
- "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."
Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:
- "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
- "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
- "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
- "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."
"Old people learning to Google"
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)
But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:
- "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
- "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
- "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
- "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."
A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.
The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.
One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.
Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.
It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.
CNN, Fox and MSNBC
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison
For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):
- Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
- MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
- CNN: 706,000 (-9%)
And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
If you thought your mother was pushy in her pursuit of grandchildren, wait until you learn about bonobo mothers.
- Mother bonobos have been observed to help their sons find and copulate with mates.
- The mothers accomplish this by leading sons to mates, interfering with other males trying to copulate with females, and helping sons rise in the social hierarchy of the group.
- Why do mother bonobos do this? The "grandmother hypothesis" might hold part of the answer.
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