The Possibility of an International Subculture
Subcultures traditionally represent alternative cultures and practices to the dominant culture of the established society. While they often construct themselves within and against the governing culture from which they are born, their comparatively smaller population size, their associations with emergent youth culture and the manifold novelties of the day, and their occasionally politically resistant and activist temperaments all serve to ensure that subcultures are constructed so as to be more than mere reproductions of the grander cultural forms, themes, and practices. If the dominant culture provides the semantic codes by which groups attempt to transmit and reproduce themselves, then subcultures represent a challenge to this symbolic order in their attempt to institute new grammars and meanings through which they interpret the world, and new practices through which they transform it.
Our present moment, however, is highly turbulent and complex, and can be characterized as a “postmodern adventure” in which traditional forms of culture and politics are being resurrected, imploded into and combined with entirely new cultural and political modes in a global media culture that is becoming increasingly dominated by the corporate forces of science, technology, and capital (see Best and Kellner 2001). To speak of post-subcultures, then, is to recognize that the emerging subcultures are taking place in a world that is saturated with proliferating technologies, media, and cultural awareness. Post-subcultures are constructed in new cultural spaces and with innovative forms, entering into novel global configurations by technological advances such as the Internet and multimedia which help produce alternative forms of culture and political activism.
Thus, whereas many traditional subcultures, like the Beat Generation, could aspire to the spirituality of “immediate” experience and intimate face-to-face communal relations, this is increasingly difficult for the post-subculture generation. Instead, the new subcultures that are arising around the evolving Internet and wireless technologies appear as wholly mediated and committed to the medium of network communication that they correctly recognize as their foundation, while reaching out to help shape the broader culture and polity of which they are a part.
However, as with previous generations of subcultures, Internet subcultures seek a certain immediacy of experience that strives to circumvent dominant codes in the attempt to access a wealth of global information quickly and directly, and then to appropriate and disseminate material further. The new subcultural immediacy, then, centers around flows of information and multimedia, and post-subcultures can be seen to be using the Internet as an environment that supports their attempts to gain and provide access to information and culture that exists beyond the means of control of the dominant order. In this fashion, subcultures associated with the Internet are involved in the revolutionary circulation and democratization of information and culture. In as much as this material is also part of the media-process by which people come to identify and define themselves, the emergent mediated post-subcultures are also involved in the attempt to allow people the freedom to re-define and construct themselves around the kind of alternative cultural forms, experiences, and practices.