Entering this course and hearing about what content we would be covering over this semester, my mind immediately went to a topic that I’ve both already researched but am also heavily interested in; online microcultures. While it may seem to share a lot of similarities with the notion of subcultures, there are many differences that make microcultures a distinguishable cultural entity. While subcultures are usually greater in size and hold a tentative link to a larger culture, microcultures are far more self contained communities. While they may have links to other cultural points, they are far too niche and removed from larger culture to really lump them together. Think of it as subcultures are extensions on a house, microcultures a shed in the backyard. While they are both on the same property, one you keep closer to the house for good reason.
In my previous research on the subject (which I will continue into this subject), is focused upon specific online microcultures of the new century. One’s that have adopted cyberspace not only as a platform but also as the thematic underpinning of their existence. These are groups of people that both revel in their technoscape but also constantly refer to it. My focus will specifically be on the “Vaporwave” subset as, in my opinion, it represents a specific point in contemporary culture in which we witnessed the biggest purely cyberculture yet. Not only this but it has direct ties to various other cultures which both influenced it (Seapunk, Cyberdelic, Witch House) and further influenced (Future Funk, Hard Vapor).
My favourite description of Vaporwave comes from sunbleach.net, a website devoted to it, which states that it, “encompasses the re-contextualization of easy listening, mall muzak, and early electronic music through the aesthetics of early computer culture, east Asian language/culture,2 and retro-futurist visualizations of the digital age. The majority of vaporwave [music] artists utilize selective sampling and curation in order to create their works, although there is a sizable population of artists who use partially or entirely original material in the production process.” It’s important to point out that the original material used in both music and other cultural byproducts of Vaporwave are digitally generated by computers. In this way it can be seen as the bastard child of cyberpunk in many ways. For starters, Vaporwave was started by regular people utilising nothing but computers to render these tech-utopias. The propagators of it are, as Dummy magazine puts it in this article, “sarcastic anti-capitalists revealing the lies and slippages of modern techno-culture and its representations, or as its willing facilitators, shivering with delight upon each new wave of delicious sound.”
Most of the artists creating vaporwave music do it under anonymising monikers, removing the traceable human quality and replacing it with these retro-futurist images of a 90’s tech dominated landscape. Furthermore, there is no real world representation of the genre. You wouldn’t ever meet one who would say they were a “vaporwaver” or a “netizen” or some such term. This is a microculture without geographical placement; occurring only in the space between end users. This is how I’d also like to research these microcultures. Being that they were birthed through the internet, it’s not too hard to trace a timeline back to their creation. You can find specific moments where the microcultures shifted, expanded, even broke into the mainstream in some cases.
While literature on these microcultures is mostly relegated to online publications, I can still look into journal articles about the notions of microcultures in order to better inform my research. From here, I can investigate the various platforms used by these microcultures to be created and expand from their roots. Some examples include Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Reddit, all websites that have largely existed for only around a decade. I have chosen to use prezi in order to present my findings as I feel it is the best way to trace out the web of microcultures that have sprung up and show how they all share links. Through prezi, I can also share video, music, and image material to best represent to the viewer the various cultural aspects of each community and how they contribute to the major themes and ideas present within.