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Contemporary Youth and the Postmodern Adventure - page 8 / 16

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By the 1990s, forms of postmodern culture were thus a central part of youth culture. The style of MTV has influenced media culture as a whole which absorbs and pastiches anything and everything, turning oppositional cultural forms such as hip hop and grunge into seductive hooks for fashion and advertising. The postmodern media and consumer culture is alluring, fragmented, and superficial, inviting its audiences to enter the postmodern game of consumption, style, and identity through the construction of look and image. Postmodern cultural forms are becoming dominant -- at least for youth -- with genre implosion a recurrent feature of contemporary film and TV, as are pastiche, sampling, hyperirony, and other features of postmodern culture. Novel forms of electronic music such as techno and rave clubs also produce cultural artifacts where youth can intensely experience postmodern culture, as they indulge in designer drugs, chemical and herbal ecstasy, and psychotropic drinks. Thus, for contemporary youth, postmodernism is not merely an avant-garde aesthetic, or academic topic, but is the form and texture of their everyday lives.

Most crucially perhaps, the experiences of the Internet has brought postmodern culture into the homes and lives of contemporary youth. Hooking into the World Wide Web, individuals can access myriad forms of culture, engage in discussions, create their own cultural forums and sites, establish relationships and create novel identities and social relations in a unique cyberspace (see Turkle 1995). Internet culture is on the whole more fragmented, diverse, and interactive than previous media culture and as sight and sound become more integral parts of the Internet experience individuals will increasingly live in a space significantly different from previous print and media culture. Being propelled into a new cultural matrix is thus an integral part of the postmodern adventure with unforeseen results. Contemporary youth constitutes the first cybergeneration, the first group enculturated into media and computer culture from the beginning, playing computer and video games, accessing a wealth of TV channels, plugging into the Internet, and creating communities, social relations, artifacts, and identities in an entirely original cultural space for which the term postmodern stands as a semiotic marker.

Youth culture is thus today intersected by media and computer technologies, and the current generation has grown up in postmodern culture. Media culture has indeed extended and prolonged youth culture as ‘60s rockers like Mick Jagger and Tina Turner continue to strut their stuff, and youth becomes an ever more obsessive ideal in U.S. culture with enhanced plastic surgery and sophisticated medicine. Yet in opposition to the dominant media and consumer culture, resistant youth subcultures have emerged which provide autonomous spaces where they can define themselves, creating their own identities and communities. Youth subcultures can be merely cultures of consumption where young people come together to consume cultural products, like rock music, that binds them together as a community. Yet youth subcultures can also be countercultures in which youth define themselves against the dominant culture, such as in

punk, goth, grrrl, or hip-hop culture.10

Youth subcultures can comprise an entire way of life,

involving clothes, styles, attitudes, and practices, and be all-involving ways of living. Youth subcultures contain potential spaces of resistance, though these can take various forms ranging from narcissistic and apolitical to anarchist and punk cultures to activist environmental, animal rights, and Vegan groups to rightwing skin-heads and Islamic Jihadists. Thus, although there

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