Thursday, 5 July 2012


We are all collectors. Curators of the private museums that comprise our lives and the tiny slice of culture we experience in our time. We keep our collection in our head, where it becomes a part of our personality. Our shared experiences form the groundwork of the ways we relate to each other - a common cultural vocabulary we can use to quickly and easily communicate complex ideas to each other. Often this is where it stops.

But part of social media is the ability to take your curatorial collection - your cultural conglomeration - and put it on the web for people to inspect. This is who I am by way of what I know and what I love. It's not complete, of course, because some things are so subconscious that we just assume everyone knows about them. Of course everyone saw The Matrix. They know who Neo is, regardless of whether they liked the movie. Just like everyone knows who Martha Stewart is, or George Clooney, or Snooki and Jersey Shore. We assume everyone knows these things (personally, I am only vaguely aware of Martha Stewart and I'm only 50% confident I could spot a Snooki in the wild).

Our reaction when these assumptions are overturned is usually confusion or ridicule. How could you not know about that? You must have been living in a cave! But if we are to understand each other, we need to be able to fill the gaps in each others cultural knowledge, to strengthen the foundations of our diplomatic relationships. The internet does bring the world closer together, but also, by the fact that the entire cultural milieu is online now, it strengthens our assumptions that everyone knows what we know, or it overwhelms us with so much information that we despair of ever knowing it all.

The good news is that we can't know it all, so it doesn't matter if you have gaps in your cultural knowledge. The bad news is that most people won't help you fill them in. You'll need to go looking for it if you want it in your personal museum, and to understand the people who talk in that language.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - To be part of a culture, you must explore it.
PPS - And, preferably, build on it.

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