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Anticipation IS Culture
I’ve been writing a lot more lately. Usually, for me, writing was a “when I feel it I do it”. And I put certain guardrails up, to make sure I wasn’t writing just to write.
But these past few issues have been far more about hitting the writing gym than feeling existential dread about releasing an idea. Although, that still exists in plenty.
Perhaps it’s the increased pace at Eternal, the shipping cadence that has me feeling a necessary matching of a personal shipping cadence. I wouldn’t be mad at this. I welcome it. I always wondered what it was like to create at feverish pace. As I see with some of peers, and especially with my non-official mentors like Virgil.
I love W. David Marx’s book “Status and Cultures”. It was the first book I finished in the year of our Lord 2023.
This quote tweet + tweet combo really unlocked a flurry of ramblings by me to my partner last night. And on this cool LA morning, I felt a proper need to get it down on the permanence of Substack pulp.
In America, our culture has become anticipation.
At some point, there was a switch, in which we became an edging culture. One rooted in “pre-”.
Depending on your craft the “pre-” isn’t much. At least in film, everything is nearly done before the “pre-” begins. What’s interesting is to the the shift happen in music.
PinkPantheress, GenZ icon, shows a compression of the “pre-” and construction of the very object. Taking a nearly testflight like approach to her music, utilizing the Tiktok algo to find hits. She would put a small snippet of a song under one of her videos. See the performance of the teaser and utilize that as the basis to release or not. The anticipation not being months of build up of a set 2hr+ film. But the choice to master a 1:34 track to Spotify.
With AI, I suspect we’ll be able to play with the compression of anticipation with software objects well. Teasing an idea on Twitter, seeing it’s response, putting that prompt in AI to generate just enough code for the resemblance of the thing → and that reaching consumer hands much faster. And this will spread from Github to even crazier just-in-time manufacturing at Shein.
Perhaps anticipation culture is the wedded partner of instant-gratification culture. It’s the only thing that allows us to microdose the gratification of the object before we actually have it. Constantly watching trailers, or runway shows, sneak peaks, etc.
All of these, poised in some economic fashion to extract or predict the value of the object and it’s surrounding machine.
I find this all lines up incredibly well to VC culture. The discussion is 90% weighted on the raise. The leap capital for the work that is anticipated. Justified, yes, by some perception of work and narrative already achieved. But deeply forward thinking. (This is also tied to the increase of scams in the industry, but that’s a whole other essay.)
Market potential is the thesis. The act of science for the VC. And like all science, we are SUPPOSED to have mostly failures. Or else we aren’t practicing a science at all. This is why power laws dominant in this field as well. You just need 1 breakthrough to return the whole fund. Hell in some cases like Coinbase, you can return the history of the firm!
Market potential, our beautiful imperfect science, is not market reality. We all know this. Objects are built, they go to market (or a lack of a market), and objects are forgotten. Software objects, the incredibly lightness of it, only really materialize in battle scars of the employees that released them. So easy for the server weight and sweated over codebases to remain as unconsidered as the objects themselves.
The anticipation is lost as its material reality fails to hold any long term attention. Even if it was the exact promise. We simply love the build up. The image of the thing.
I remember this feeling so vividly building early products of Eternal. The pastel world released during covid was the entire image. It was viral-ish for a weekend, the image achieved, and no further anticipation promised. It was a beautiful object more than a vessel that could be filled and filled and filled by looping forces. Each version you can actually track how the architecture of the product took this exact learning into account. This may be the invisible had of venture economics manifested into lived reality.
The new American product HAS to promise something else. Otherwise, what becomes of my anticipation. Films can’t promise much else, unless part of a larger universe or series. Marvel and DC take this to the extreme. Perhaps this is our most American artform. I would predict that more continued conversation will revolve around Succession in a couple weeks than Barbenheimer. There’s an invisible potential for anticipation in a series like that. A begging for an unforeseen announcement of just one more season or a character spin-off. That’s partially why TV as a cultural structure isn’t going anywhere, even though it’ll continue to change forms and platforms.
We lose much in general cultural format.
Time exists based on marketing campaigns. Gratification at the end of said campaign, must materialize through economic purchase power of the individual. What is the object’s purpose beyond the justification for the “pre-” economic machine which builds its anticipation, if it ceases its relevancy afterwords? What is one’s cultural participation without their ability the economically achieve the thing? This is just as dangerous to the spirit as endless consumption is to not fall behind in the time of rapidly changing internet reference points.
Again I come back to the CDJ. A cultural object that has remained in its general form (two turntables and a mixer), for decades.
Is the CDJ an object of permanent anticipation? Is that what makes it so permanent? The anticipation of remixability → environment effect that we globally congregate to feel…
The “pre-”, other than consuming behind the scenes content of an artist’s process, is all mental. As I participate as a dancer in the audience, I can only (if I care to) construct fiction of the worked anticipation of the overall performance. But 90%+ of the audience only cares about the anticipation of the next drop or track. The loop is built in.
To bring it all the way back to the tweet that launched this post. Anticipation is exhausting. It is built around uncertainty, and the quelling of said uncertainty by the fragments of the objects chosen to be presented. When all is said and done, the effect may not be what was built in the mental landscape of the edging consumer, let alone the financier.
Post this wave of AI, all cultural production feels like it’s deliberately adding to the reference pool. It’s a feeling I haven’t been able to shake. But maybe that’s been the invisibly truth of human effort for some time now.
Which brings the new question, the large anticipation that every American feels… “What’s coming next, and do I really care?”
I don’t do edits really, so excuse typos and things that don’t make sense.
Thanks so much for giving me your attention. I hope it was worth it, if not… unsubscribing will not hurt my feelings, and will give you back time you literally cannot have back.
Live in the light