Frayed Rope; The Expiration of Post Modernism

(Below is the launch of a work-in-progress on the expiration of Post-Modernism and the emergence of new sub-eras. I’ll be working on this thesis over the next year. Let me know if you’d like to work on this with me, have suggestions, comments and thoughts.)

Frayed Rope

The expiry of Post Modernism is a frayed rope. The end of Post Modernism is intertwined with new threads. Long tentacles of the old and new eras are mixed so tight it’s hard to see each separately. Academics might call the whole mess Post Modernism, but that’s not specific enough to help clarify what our era is up to.

Post Modernism’s momentum is tailing, if not already slowed to sleep. The other long threads of the new era are overtaking the composition of the rope. The West’s bubble is leaking, the East’s bubble is billowing. In the next decade new academics, probably writing in English, will seek to determine the power-impact of Eastern culture on world culture.

The three new eras within the frayed end are:

  • – Dispartition
  • – Post-Dispartition
  • – The Multiplex

The Three, in General

Dispartition: Era of newly formed, cliquish, subgenres magnetized around labels and preferences.

Post-Dispartition: Re-forming of larger coalitions, a melding of the subgenres, in natural balance/reaction against even greater polarization and alienation.

Multiplex: A relinquishing of static labeling and grouping, a constant reforming of preferences informed by greater cross-cultural communications.

Beginnings (& Ends)

Dispartition: Started with Ken Kesey’s famous quote, “You’re either on or off the bus.” He’s defining inclusion/exclusion; you  are either part of the counter-culture or you’re not (from The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968)). This era ended with President Bush’s “With us or against us” post-9/11 speech (September 20th). You’re either good or bad.

While Kesey’s “start” of the era was launched as part of the “undertone,” the early popularization of the trend (where it surfaced) was illustrated by the breakdown of the Bretton Woods international monetary system (Nixon Shock) when the dollar became the sole reserve currency. The US is now on it’s own; capital can now easily flow across borders.

Post-Dispartition: Began soon after President Bush’s 9/20 speech. The yes/no rigor of the statement fomented a counter-movement, a balance. This balancing can be illustrated by Barak Obama’s speech in 2004 at the DNC, “In a tolerant America your name is not a barrier to success…my story is part of the larger American story…” thus pinpointing a larger umbrella to group like-minded thinkers while seeking to break down labels.

Multiplex: Began with the rise of decentralized peer-to-peer file distribution programs and was re-emphasized twice, earlier at the burst of the dotcom bubble, more recently during the housing market bubble burst. With slippery footing, what is a culture to do? Permanence is tossed-out; IP ownership becomes a cultural palette. Home is transitory, identity is fluid, and the dollar (and the Western economy) has lost its value.

Cultural examples of the three eras as seen through visual events:

Post-Modern: Photographer Jamie Livingston takes one Polaroid a day of what he sees for 17 years. The external, as seen through the lens of his life, allows a voyeuristic peek into his life. The rawness of the images is free from modernist constraints. He kept these images stored away in envelopes, a secret, and were not shared with the public until his death.

Dispartition: Richard Avedon chose to erase the context of his images by dropping a white backdrop behind his subjects, separating the individual from the greater external meaning and emphasizing the internal; the person. Holding to a clarity and style of the imagery, the subject becomes isolated. These images are mass produced for sale and advertising.

Post-Dispartition: A handful of patient folks, such as Noah and Madandcrazychild, take a rough, modestly oriented, in-situ, self-portrait every day for a year and combines them all into an animations. The year of images are boiled down into less than 6 minutes of video. These animations are posted online, freely, and are viewed by millions. The idea spawns “you-too” services such as “mugshot,”

Rolling Multiplex: Sarah Palin’s speech in response to the recent violence in Arizona is edited into a video collage of her breaths only. The entire meaning is deleted, re-purposed into new meaning, and shared freely online.

Anpther Example:

A quick filter to illustrate how each era would “see” a cultural event: The Double Rainbow video.

Post-Modern: The video is “discovered” by Jimmy Kimmel, and posted to his twitter account. The video becomes “property” of the discoverer who claims responsibility over the video’s inherent power.

Dispartition: HuffPo’s headline, “Hilarious Hiker Guy FREAKS OUT Over Full Double Rainbow” immediately seeks to compartmentalize the person as the “other” and not from the same ilk as the author. The meaning of the video is realized through the separation of the subject and the viewer.

Post-Dispartition: The author of the video notes within an interview the inclusive universal nature of his reaction, “I knew when I shot the vid that it was special, it was a reaction to the Holy Spirit and people would react to my
reaction, it’s as expected. Spirit is speaking through me, people are connecting to Spirit through me, they have a sense of recognition of the power of the Universe. I love it!”

Multiplex: Many creative people make rough/quick parodies and remixes (internet meme) through their own vision. They post these to YouTube, the locus of where the video originated. The meaning is usurped for new gains, new loose meanings, without concern for longevity.


My next focus will be on better defining these eras with examples from across the cultural spectrum.


  • I’m glad I checked in on this topic. I wish that more people were more aware of the particulars of modernism as they seek to understand post-modernism. I think people more frequently mistake the term with contemporary which allows for the context of the day, rather than of a past moment.

    It coincides with a gradual trend of relativism to me, which seems to converge nicely with the ‘sample generation’. One where nostalgia is a shallow river instead of an unironic quicksand. I applaud a general diminishing of sarcasm and the rising awareness of reality, context, and culture.

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