November 7th, 2006


Trendy freethinking

The part of Kreuzberg where the Falckensteinstrasse meets Schlesischesstrasse (I honestly defy anyone, German or not, to pronounce that word, it has me slathering like an alkie every time I try) has recently become trendy. Three trendy new shops have opened up on the Falckensteinstrasse -- a bookshop called -- trendily! -- Gap, an Asian goods store called 7th Sense selling baskets, lampshades, tea, and other trendy Asian stuff, and a clothes shop too trendy to have a name or even open when its owners don't feel like it.

Thanks to the wonders of photography, the ultra-trendiness of this neighbourhood (or kiez, as we trendy Berliners say) can now flap around the world like a snobby woodpigeon, putting less trendy places to shame. And, like an arrogant badger, I can tell you that in Gap's used vinyl section I today bought three records so untrendy they're trendy: a selection of communist cabaret songs with titles like "A Letter From Friedrich Engels", some baroque dance music played on a church organ, and a record of renaissance lute music which, trendily, I am playing at 16RPM instead of the recommended 33, just to exaggerate the odd crackly sound of the trendy, trendy vinyl.

Which is appropriate enough, since my new Wired piece is about the fall and rise of vinyl. The article, entitled Snap, Crackle and Pop, puts forward the idea that, exempted from the irksome duty of representing the world, a medium is free to celebrate -- even fetishize -- its own errors and limitations. But that this is a mere consolation prize; power never comes from representing only yourself, it comes from representing others. This has serious consequences for anyone basing claims to power on being a culture, because being a culture is all about being situated -- in other words, celebrating limitations and errors (even if you don't call them that).

This is what my lecture in Birmingham on November 17th is going to be about, so hurry, hurry, book your ticket now! Or if you want to hear an even better lecture, totally free, listen to this recent one by Brian Eno, part of BBC Radio 3's Freethinking Festival.