The Offline is the New Pastoral


Thomas Cole: The Course of the Empire - Pastoral State

I just came across an interesting piece by Navneet Alang, which attempts to put Paul's experiment in living 'offline' into the wider context in which it belongs:

Miller’s desire to escape the pernicious influences of the newfangled is hardly new. In fact, there’s a case to be made that imagining an unsullied alternate space that exists "just over there" is endemic to, and maybe even constitutive of, modern Western culture itself. It is a phenomenon perhaps crystallized by the Romantic poets and their fascination with the pastoral, the pristine countryside not yet ruined by the industrial revolution.

Alang connects it to contemporary ideas about seeking authenticity in products and lifestyles, something some people will dismiss as 'hipster' but that is common to much of our culture right now:

What makes things complicated is that in the 21st century, the long tradition of craving authenticity has become strangely caught up in the things people once said were inauthentic: consumerism, conspicuous consumption, and of course, capitalism.

Alang isn't dismissive of this, but suggests that we need to be more critical of these ideas, without necessarily rejecting them as foolish romanticism: would be too easy and too neat to simply condemn the trend—to screw up one’s face and say "look at all those silly authenticity seekers, craving some mythical thing that doesn’t exist." Rather, what the phenomenon needs is the doubled vision of a sympathetic heart and sharp-edged critical faculty.

Anyway, read the whole piece here:

Please, share your thoughts on it, I'm curious if others agree with this argument or want to offer another perspective.

Oh, and its great to see the little corner of the web that is The Verge getting discussed elsewhere in serious ways.