Publisher’s Letter: Where Have You Gone Kelly Clarkson?

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gordonkayeBy Gordon Kaye, Editor/Publisher, GDUSA. This ‘Letter From The Publisher’ first appeared in the 2016 March/April edition of Graphic Design USA magazine.

For the past couple of years I have been whining about lack of shared experiences in our fragmented and atomized media world. My point was recently reinforced when our 2016 People To Watch coterie, in response to a poll, collectively named 92 favorite bands, 62 favorite books, 61 favorite movies and 38 favorite shows – and no two designers liked the same thing in any category. Any category.

There are a couple of ways to look at this. On one level it is liberating – yay, we are all free to be you and me! – and on another level absolutely terrifying – the social fabric is tearing and we are all going to hell! I vote for hell. We live in a hyper-individualistic culture where media, politics, values, tastes and styles are diverse, personalized, micro-targeted, customized, unfiltered, unedited, uncurated — and all the above are amplified by an increasingly sophisticated technological delivery system. Much is gained but something is lost in terms of shared events, shared values, shared facts, shared norms, shared expertise, shared investiture. (My daughter Sasha helped produce a documentary accompanying the series finale of American Idol in which cultural critics note that gone are the days when the entire country tuned into a blockbuster to unite behind singer Kelly Clarkson.)

In this bleak election season, everyone wants to blame some one for the lack of civility and consensus in our discourse. But I think the results of our GDUSA quickie poll present an illuminating clue, and a broader framework for discussion, as to why we are so unrooted and polarized. I would not go so far as to say that the technology of ultimate personalization is the sole cause of our anomie, but it sure is not helping.