Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Notes on metamodernism has relocated!

Dear reader,

Notes on metamodernism has relocated to WWW.METAMODERNISM.COM ! A new look, new writers (don't worry, the old ones are still in place as well), and lots and lots of new observations and ideas! We have conveniently transferred all our archives as well, so you can go back and forth in time at will. We hope you will keep following us! 

You can also follow us on facebook, where we will post links to larger articles as well as fleeting observations and brief thoughts, and where there is all the space for discussion. Do come and find us at

The editors.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Einheitsdenken nach der postmoderne

Notes on Metamodernism
Robin van den Akker & Timotheus Vermeulen
Paper addressed at Thinking in Unity Conference Ludwig Maximilian University Munchen, Germany, 12-13 November 2010

        The ecosystem is severely disrupted, the financial system is increasingly uncontrollable and the geopolitical structure has recently begun to appear as unstable as it has always been uneven. CEOs and Politicians express their ‘desire for change’ at every interview, voice a heartfelt ‘yes we can’ at each photo-op. Planners and architects increasingly replace their blueprints for environments with environmental ‘greenprints’. And new generations of artists increasingly abandon the aesthetic precepts of deconstruction, parataxis and pastiche in favor of aesth-ethical notions of reconstruction, myth and metaxis. These trends and tendencies can no longer be explained in terms of the postmodern. They express a (often guarded) hopefulness and (at times feigned) sincerity that hint at another structure of feeling, intimating another discourse. History, it seems, is moving rapidly beyond its all too hastily proclaimed end. As Linda Hutcheon put it: let’s face it: the postmodern is over.
In this paper, we will seek to outline, or sketch, the contours of this emerging structure of feeling. We will pay particular attention here to the material sphere of economics, the ethical sphere of politics, and the aesthetic sphere of the arts.
We will call this structure of feeling, or sensibility if you will, metamodernism. According to the Greek-English Lexicon the prefix ‘meta’ refers to such notions as ‘with’, ‘between’, and ‘beyond’. We will use these connotations of ‘meta’ in a similar, yet not indiscriminate fashion.  For we contend that metamodernism should be situated epistemologically with  modernism and postmodernism, ontologically between modernism and postmodernism,  and historically beyond modernism and postmodernism.
Some remarks, finally, on our approach. As the paper’s title, ‘Notes on metamodernism’, suggests, we intend what follows as a series of linked observations rather than a single line of thought. We seek to relate to one another a broad variety of trends and tendencies across current affairs and contemporary aesthetics that are otherwise incomprehensible (at least in terms of the postmodern vernacular), by understanding them in terms of an emergent sensibility we come to call metamodern. We do not seek to impose a predetermined system of thought on a rather particular range of cultural practices. Our description and interpretation of the metamodern sensibility is therefore essayistic rather than scientific, rhizomatic rather than linear, and open-ended instead of closed. It should be understood as an invitation for debate rather than an extending of a dogma...

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The door opens inwards (2)

Some weeks ago, Galerie Tanja Wagner curated the first exhibition explicitly linked to the metamodern. It would be an understatement to say that the exhibition was a success in terms of either popular appreciation or critical acclaim. Art glossy Monopol instantly put Wagner on the front page. Art-Magazin called her the ‘absolute Newcomerin’. Der Tagesspiegel spoke of Wagner as the future of the Berlin art scene. And Die Zeit put lavish praise on the five young artists.

Notes on metamodernism decided to have a look for themselves. Timotheus Vermeulen reports.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Limits of Postmodern Theory (from a gaming perspective)

From time to time, we receive an interesting mail in our mailbox. Michael McKenny's mail is one of those, so we will post it integrally, below. Michael analysed the limits of postmodern theory. He argues that postmodern theory is not sufficient for a proper understanding of the gaming experience. The following is an excerpt from his BA Thesis, aptly titled "Paradigm shifts" (2009). If you also have an insightful contribution to make to our blog in particular and our research program in general, send an email to: Meanwhile, enjoy the following post - the editors.

In this early part of the twenty first century, the medium of videogames appears to be growing into a level of maturity, as it moves out of the fringes of society and into the realms of popular culture. The evolution of new such forms of communicating a narrative to the masses has profound implications for society, as Marshall McLuhan speculates: “Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men [and women] communicate than by the content of the communication” (McLuhan and Fiore 1996: 8).

I would like to point out how it is tempting to look to the theories laid down through the postmodern discourse in order to conduct this analysis, yet I would also like to highlight the problems with this approach and why established modern theory cannot be rejected; that videogame analysis must be quintessentially metamodern.

Jean Baudrillard’s definition of simulation lends itself to the study of a medium whose very existence lies within digitally created renditions of fictional worlds. Yet the most important point to take from Baudrillard’s contribution to the discourse – from a videogame studies perspective – is the breakdown of established subject-object positions and, subsequently, the individual’s freedom to play with and to freely construct their identity. This in turn invokes Jean-Francois Lyotard’s championing of the rise of the individual’s little narratives, in opposition to society’s metanarratives dictating what its subject should believe.

Videogame players should be understood in terms of an evolution of the active spectator; not only do they negotiate the meaning, they also interact with the narrative, controlling the pacing and the editing. At times they even dictate the order in which the story is told, what dialogue is spoken and the gender and race of the protagonist(s). Despite all of these elements, which would point toward the liberating fervour of postmodernism’s little narratives along with the emergence of bottom up meaning creation, there still exists extensive sets of rules that are dictated by the writers and programmers involved in the game’s production.

This appears to be where the split in this emerging academic area arises: The study of videogames has been largely dominated by a debate between narratology and ludology; that is the debate surrounding whether videogames are an evolution of established narrative forms, or if they are a revolutionary rupture that demand an entirely new analytical model.

Ganzala Frasca epitomises the ludologist’s approach: “Video games imply an enormous paradigm shift for our culture because they represent the first complex simulational media for the masses” (2003: 224); whereas the approach taken by Jan Simons scrutinises the ‘freedom’ that the ludologists’ ‘simulation’ brings, proposing that narrative stories are confined by the author, only “as much as computer-generated simulations are constrained by the algorithms written by the designer of the model” (2007).

It is this space between the two that videogames currently occupy: testing existing notions of fixed narrative production along with the fixed subject-object positions prevalent throughout modernity, yet in many ways, not able to completely break away from them. Rather, these new forms of interactive narratives allow a certain amount of negotiated meaning creation through play and ludic experimentation, yet within a predefined set of rules. Videogames can therefore be viewed as part of a wider movement prevalent in new media, slowly wearing down the old top-down monocratic systems of meaning production, yet from a familiar position that is easy to engage with.

Frasca, G (2003) ‘Simulation versus narrative: Introduction to ludology’ in Mark J.P. Wolf and Bernard Perron (eds)
The Video Game Theory Reader. London: Routledge pp 221 - 236
McLuhan, M and Fiore, Q (1996) The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (Digitalized edition. 1st edition 1967). San Francisco: Hardwired
Simons, J (2007) ‘Narrative, games, and theory’ in Vol. 7 No. 1 (August) [online] available at accessed on 01.05.2009

Michael's biography:
"I Graduated from the University of Bolton in 2009 with a first class BA(hons) degree, joint between Film Studies and Business Studies. I am due to begin an MA in Film Studies at the University of Bradford, but have to wait until September 2011 for personal and financial circumstances to allow. I currently write for Film&Festivals Magazine, providing feature articles and film festival coverage. My particular areas of interest concern contemporary popular mythology; particularly how new technologies and accompanying cultural paradigm shifts are forcing us to revise (though not reject) previous interpretations of myth in popular culture."

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Domestic politics in metamodern times

'The 1990s', Charles Krauthammer once famously wrote, ‘have been a holiday from History.’ After the turmoil of the 1960s and, to a lesser extent, the 1970s and, to a much lesser extent, the 1980s, the 1990s were marked by relative (geo)political stability and economic prosperity, at least from a western perspective. The so-called 'peace' brought by the steady rise of Empire and the formation of the European Union, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall; and the so-called 'wealth’ brought by the deregulation of the financial system and the transition to a white-collar economy, the flexibilisation of the job market and a credit-driven consumerism all seemed to confirm Fukuyama’s thesis in The End of History and the Last Man (1989).
This was reflected in the realm of domestic politics. For it can be argued that the postmodern era led, slowly but surely, to the appeasement of political oppositions and the blunting of ideological contradictions, up to the point where the Left and the Right were barely distinguishable. Consider, for example, the continuation of Thatcher & Reagan’s 1980s rightwing Neoliberalism by Blair & Clinton’s 1990s leftwing Thirdway-ism, a development that was neatly summarised by Dutchman Wim Kok (former-Union-leader-cum-Prime-Minister and ‘spiritual father’ of the Third Way) as ‘shaking off the ideological feathers’. In the 1990s, all was quiet on the Western front. Or, so it seemed.
Meanwhile, however, History resumed its course. The 2000s were haunted by the specters of immigration and multiculturalism, terrorism and populism, climate crisis and credit crunch, the failed attempt to establish a Constitution for the European Union, the demise of American unilateralism and the rise of the BRICs. Looking back at the end of the decade it is easy to see that the realm of domestic politics altered accordingly, as the political centre eroded and political contradictions resurfaced. A few examples of recent trends and tendencies suffice, here, to demonstrate these developments...

Thursday, 14 October 2010

What meta means and does not mean

Over the last few months, there has been much discussion online as well as at parties, galleries and conferences, about the meaning of the prefix meta- in metamodernism. Now, of course, each and everyone is free to define, re-appropriate and use it in any one fashion. Metamodernism as a term - but not as a concept - is or has been associated with altermodernism, reflective modernism, reflexive modernism, and a counterstrategy within modernism. And it has been applied to developments and disciplines as diverse as economics, politics, architecture, data analysis, and the arts. But (or So) we feel compelled to once more establish what WE mean with the prefix meta - and, perhaps even more important, what we do not intend by it. In a previous post we described it as follows:
The prefix 'meta' has acquired something of a bad rep over the last few years. It has come to be understood primarily in terms of self-reflection - i.e. a text about a text, a picture about a picture, etc. But 'meta' originally intends something rather more colloquial. According to the Greek-English Lexicon the preposition and prefix ‘meta’(μετά) has several meanings and connotations. Most commonly it translates as 'after'. But it can also be used to denote qualitative 'changes' or to designate positions such as 'with' and 'between'. In Plato's Symposium, for example, the term metaxy designates an ontological betweenness (we will return to this in more detail in a later post). The Online Etymology Dictionary gives the following description:
prefix meaning 1. "after, behind," 2. "changed, altered," 3. "higher, beyond," from Gk. meta (prep.) "in the midst of, in common with, by means of, in pursuit or quest of," from PIE *me- "in the middle" (cf. Goth.miþ, O.E. mið "with, together with, among;" see mid). Notion of "changing places with" probably led to senses "change of place, order, or nature,"
When we use the term 'meta', we use it in similar yet not indiscriminate fashion. For the prefix 'meta-' allows us to situate metamodernism historically beyond; epistemologically with; and ontologically between the modern and the postmodern. It indicates a dynamic or movement between as well as a movement beyond. More generally, however, it points towards a changing cultural sensibility - or cultural metamorphosis, if you will - within western societies.
Thus, although meta has come to be associated with a particular reflective stance, a repeated rumination about what we are doing, why we are doing it and how we are doing it, it once intimated the movement with and between what we are doing and what we might be doing and what we might have been doing. When we use the prefix meta- we do NOT refer to the former meaning. Meta- for us, does NOT refer solely to reflectivity, although, inevitably, it does (and, since it passes through and surpasses the postmodern, cannot but) invoke it.

When we use the prefix meta- we refer to the latter intent. Meta, for us, signifies an oscillation, a swinging or swaying with and between future, present and past, here and there and somewhere; with and between ideals, mindsets, and positions. It is influenced by estimations of the past, imbued by experiences of the present, yet also inspired by expectations of the future. It takes into account and affect the here, but also the there, and what might or might not happen elsewhere. It is convinced it believes in one system or structure or sensibility, but also cannot persuade itself not to believe in its opposite. Indeed, if anything, meta intimates a constant repositioning. It repositions itself with and between neoliberalism and, well, keynesianism, the "right" and the "left", idealism and "pragmatism", the discursive and the material, the visible and the sayable. It repositions itself among and in the deconstructed isms and desolate ruins that rest from the postmodern and the modern, and reconstructs them in spite of their un-reconstructableness in order to create another modernity: then one, then the other, one again, and yet another. Bas Jan Ader's quest for the miraculous, Charles Avery's quest for an imaginative elsewhere, Mona Hatoum's search for another socio-personal identity, Sejla Kameric longing for another ethnic-personal epistemology, Mariechen Danz's longing for the pre-discursive, Ragnar Kjartansson's desire for what is always just beyond his reach…

Meta- does not refer to one particular system of thought or specific structure of feeling. It infers a plurality of them, and repositions itself with and between them. It is many, but also one. Encompassing, yet fragmented. Now, yet then. Here, but also there. 

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Russel Brand from mannerism to metamodernism?

A remarkable bit of television on the BBC last week. Embodiment of the postmodern Russell Brand no longer wants to be postmodern. He professes to yearn for something else, something beyond irony, eclecticism, mannerisms, and the cult of celebrity. Something "truthful". Religious freak, metamodernist, or hypocrite? You decide. Revelation around 14th Minute.