The 21st Century's Crisis: Standardization

Standardized technology "deadens a lot of amazing stuff," but it also allows people to customize their sensory landscape in new ways.
  • Transcript


Question: Is the proliferation of digital media threatening individuality?
DJ Spooky:  Yeah, I mean I think we’re really the crisis of 21st century culture is standardization.  On one hand that’s a crisis precisely because it really flatlines and just deadens a lot of amazing stuff. But on the other hand as the next couple of years kick in you’re going to be seeing what I like to call mass customization, where everyone can have you know their phone or their iPad or whatever—but they’re going to pull it into their own orbit in their own way. And they’re pulling material that is out there in the world as their own vocabulary.  I didn’t make this phone, you know, but I’ve customized and transformed it. So I’m always intrigued with saying that nothing stays the same in this era.  In the 20th century, you know, someone like, you know, Ford would say you know what, you can have any color car you want as long as it’s black, you know. And they had the whole sense of humor about the production line all making the Model T Ford car there was the exact same machine rolling off the line.  Now that was amazing because it was high-tech at that time, but for the 21st century where we can just retrofit and reboot anything, why stick to one thing?  I mean just always transform and change everything.  That’s the DJ model as well.  So by customizing and transforming it adds new life to I think the way we function right now.  When I say the way we function I’m talking about going down the street, walking around... everyone has a little computer, which is essentially is a cell phone.  Most people, I’m sorry.  There is a class division here, but even in economically, you know, low income and so on most people have some kind of communications device. And I think it’s transformed the way the world works right now and this is just the beginning. So within the next five to seven years you’ll be seeing probably a massive revolution in getting rid of sameness and just having this wildly creative and inventive era.

Recorded on April 8, 2010