Discover more from Future Watch: an anthropological pov
004 Culture Problem: decline of the water cooler
the decline of tent poles and water coolers
The [Beijing games] won the gold medal for Least-Watched Games in Olympic history, averaging just 11.4 million viewers a night. Just a notch above the Oscars at this point! Another tentpole slips away. (Richard Rushfield, The Ankler)
Yes, but what about baseball?
The 2021 World Series will go down in the books as the second least-watched MLB title tilt in the modern Nielsen era, trailing only last season's asterisk-freighted event. Yahoo Sports.
There is no shortage of things we care about passionately: video games, politics, gardening, HGTV, Manga, food, fashion, tattoos, cottage core, Elon Musk, travel, sneakers, parenting, cancel culture, pickle ball, true crime, memes, Greta Thunberg, biohacking, hip hop, Cummins diesels, escape rooms, activism, wellness and of course birding.
The trouble is this is too many things.
What are the chances we’re going to find a common topic at the water cooler?
Smaller and smaller.
The point here is not to say that we are “bowling along.” This is the sentimental tosh intellectuals use to tell us how miserable we are.
I am sure we will manage as individuals. (That’s what the internet is for, finding that tiny niche of people who really care about the 1938 Yankees.)
I am less sure we will manage as a collectivity.
Edward Sapir, god of American anthropology, said,
While we often speak of society as though it were a static structure defined by tradition, it is, in the more intimate sense, nothing of the kind, but a highly intricate network of partial or complete understandings…
He went further. It’s not just a network that matters, he said, but that chatter at the water cooler.
[A society] is being reanimated or creatively reaffirmed from day to day by particular acts of a communicative nature which obtain among individuals participating in it.
And that sounds like trouble. We are a fragile network that appears to be shutting itself off from the daily renewal on which all societies and cultures depend.
Is there a solution here? Is there a way to create common conversation out of all of our heterogeneity?
Comments welcome. Solutions to follow.
Post 001: Failure to Launch and our inability to deliver young men to adulthood
Post 002: the decline of “vibe shifts” and our ability to build a new consensus
Post 004: the decline of common topics, constant chatter, and the affirmation of an American “we.'“
Post 003: our gift for fluidity.