Geo Barcan:Toby Shoring: After Authenticity + The Disbeliever's Guide to Authenticity

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  1. After Authenticity : <"">
  • relationship between aesthetics and authenticity
    • One thing is certain: the authenticity aesthetic served as a cohesive for all of these developments. It tied the spectrum of consumable items, spaces, and identities into a single unified visual experience.
    • the idea of authenticity is a belief that originates in Romanticism, where the romantics believed in the expression, development and exploration of the self above everything else. Romanticism had a huge influence on existentialism, where the individual's thought and and independent ideas are what shape and give true value to a person. Both currents influenced American culture and the "century of the self".


  • "It seems reasonable to suggest that the cultural obsession with authenticity has evaporated entirely."
  • ⇒ In this text, Shorin traces the craze after authenticity from its peak moment reached through hipster culture, until its rapid decline, as see today. He considered authenticity to be a construct of and caused by capitalism and claims that nobody is authentic. Authenticity does not exist and we all fell into the trap of trying to reach this status.
  • What is authenticity? Of course there’s no such thing, but that hasn’t stopped anyone from believing in it. Nearly 80 years of anthropology research on authenticity-seeking behavior reveal authenticity to be one of the stickiest modern superstitions. The bulk of the early research is about tourism, an activity frequently motivated by a search for this mythical quality.
  • ⇒ Shorin considers authenticity to be a commodity, where tourist or people visiting for different purposes traveling to "exotic" countries hunt for "unique" souvenirs, something that could be more valuable than the mass-marketed objects sold at tourist shops. Hence, these travelers look for handmade, original, artful objects. In this sense, objects gain value by having an anti-capitalist status though which they are not being sold and made as most things are.
  • The parallel between hipster consumption of music and the African art fetish of 20th century anthropologists is striking. If authenticity is only a characteristic of “singularized” non-commodity items then hipsters are easily understood as an authenticity-seeking culture. This reframing makes sense of many classic hipster behaviors, such as thrifting. Naturally, a beat-up graphic t-shirt found at Goodwill is more authentic than any name-brand good.
  • ⇒ hipsterism was again, a statement against mass marketing, commodification which had its origins in the way people found and consumed music. hence, hipster only listened to obscure songs found on the internet, which they then rejected when the bands or tracks got a significant number of listeners or became mainstream.
  • The aggressive cynicism of hipster responses to popularity reveal how deeply the hipster identity was situated within the authenticity paradigm. Hipsters clearly experienced a loss of value whenever something they liked entered the realm of mainstream pop culture.
  • Ironic consumption of commodities is one way hipsters discriminated between the authentic and inauthentic.
  • ⇒ hipsterism later also manifested in the apparition of "vintage", "retro", "artisan", small-batch cafes and bistros, which sold over-priced coffees and food.
  • group identifications are resisted because they carry connotations of collective conformity, suggesting a concomitant loss of individuality that renders their members inauthentic” (Muggleton, 2000).
  • transition from hipster-as-music-snob to hipster-as-conscious-consume
  • Airbnb, wework [startup culture], the "maker movement" ⇒ etsy⇒ due to mass unemployment and the repercussions of 2008 financial crisis
  • Do what you love signs in shared work spaces ⇒ the idea that there is an authentic self ⇒ If you believe that a band or a brand can be authentic you probably believe in such a thing as an “authentic self” too.
  • → everyone is always looking for authenticity to prove themselves and render themselves as worthy to be listened to
  • Authenticity has expanded to the point that people don’t even believe in it anymore.
  • It turns out that the aesthetics of authenticity-less culture are less about acting basic and more about playing up the genericness of the commodity as an aesthetic category.
  • et now, as Dena Yago says, “you can like both Dimes and Doritos, sincerely and without irony.” If we no longer see brands and commodity capitalism as something to be resisted, we need more nuanced forms of critique that address how brands participate in society as creators and collaborators with real agency.